The Toshiba Portege Z835 is No Sliver Queen

Ignoring my godawful joke of a headline, the Toshiba Portege Z835 is initially fairly impressive to behold. Toshiba uses a brushed aluminum aesthetic for almost the entire notebook, with a matching gray plastic bottom cover. Physically, the main body of the notebook doesn't flex at all; good news given the stunningly thin 0.63" profile. It really does look like a sliver, with only a bit of tapering around the top of the lid and the front of the body to keep it from looking boxy.

Unfortunately, while the body feels pretty firm, the Z835 absolutely gives up the ghost with the screen, lid, and hinges. The screen and lid are extremely thin, and the hinges are pretty wobbly. There's a tremendous amount of flex with the screen, enough to give me real pause. Screens on laptops are always a little flexy, but on the Z835 I feel like even my dire tyrannosaurus rex arms could snap it in half. The bezel also seems unusually wide on all sides, which is a bit of a disappointment after seeing the incredibly slender one used on Dell's XPS 14z.

Other reviews have complained about the keyboard quality, but this isn't the worst keyboard I've seen from Toshiba, much less the industry. Toshiba's chiclet layout is usually pretty smart, but the one on the Z835 and its cousin, the R830, is literally an inch from greatness. Seriously, an inch on the y-axis: the keys are simply too short. When I look at the shell of the Z835, I can't help but feel like the keys could've been lengthened just a little bit. Travel also for the most part feels fine, but the keys are also fairly mushy. I don't think the keyboard is a lost cause, but it definitely needs to be revised. Layout is fine, just fix the overall size and quality. The chassis has room for both.

Thankfully the touchpad is extremely smooth and easy to use, and at least has a dedicated surface as opposed to being just part of the shell. The buttons feel a bit mushy and are made of the same cheap looking silver plastic as on the hinges, but they're definitely usable and this is far from the worst touchpad I've used. I have no problem navigating with it.

Finally, the bottom panel is held on by an embarassment of screws, and it bows a bit if you push on it. Even after removing all the screws I still couldn't remove the panel for fear of damaging the Z835, so if you're going to buy it, you'd better buy the configuration you want. There's a single vent for a fan that bubbles out a bit, but honestly I found the Z835 ran extremely cool anyhow.

Ultimately the Z835 looks pretty good and I'd dispute other reviews that call it out as looking too chintzy or cheap. The problem is that in places it does feel cheaper than you'd like, and I just don't like how much the top and bottom panels flex, especially the lid. Intel's $1,000 price point for ultrabooks is pretty pie-in-the-sky, and the sacrifices Toshiba had to make to beat it are evidence of that.

Introducing the Toshiba Portege Z835 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • Meegulthwarp - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    1st page, 3rd paragraph. Is Turbo Boosy the drunk abusive cousin of Turbo Boost? Cuz I rather quite like the name.
  • ciparis - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    That's what I get for editing in the engine. Though I'm not sure how I hit the "y" instead of "t" given I have a split keyboard. Probably being bad and typing with one hand or something.
  • Neptunian - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    192:1 contrast ratio and 40% of AdobeRGB ? Even my 12 year old eizo has better display quality.

    Also I don't get their obsession with the hideous sticker spammed all over the keyboard. Why is it only Apple that gets it?
  • gorash - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    They probably get paid some money to put stickers on there.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Apple doesn't do co-branding, ever. If you buy a Mac, it's all about Apple and you don't need to know whether it has an Intel or Motorola CPU, an ATI or NVIDIA GPU, or any other details. You also shouldn't know whether the SSD is a decent quality Samsung a much slower and lower quality Toshiba. And for all of that, you get to pay a price premium.

    At least Apple knows how to select a good quality LCD and build everything well, but again, that's part of the price premium. The interesting thing is that Intel defines a price to qualify as an ultrabook, and everyone cuts corners to get there and thus kills the screen quality. And in this instance, build quality as well.
  • Kougar - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    I am definitely sure "Turbo Boosy" exacerbates the issue!

    Not a bad ultrabook (if one can get past that cheap display), but I like the battery life on the Zenbook UX31 better. I'd can't stress enough that I'm willing to have a heavier machine if it meant more battery capacity... one criteria most ultrabooks aren't meeting. Regular laptops which have the room, or in some cases the battery capacity just fail to meet any of the criteria an ultrabook excels in.

    Notebook vendors are still swinging and missing that niche market...
  • frozentundra123456 - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Honestly, I would prefer the dm1z at half the price. Saw it in best buy a long time ago, but it appears to have disappeared off the shelves.

    And it seems there is a dearth of netbook size devices using the E350, which seems an ideal chip for a small portable. At least in retail stores around here, what I see is Atom netbooks and E350 15.6 in laptops. Seems a mismatch for both. Why would anyone want atom over the E350 in a netbook, and if I am going to get a 15.6 in "full size" laptop, I either want Llano for the graphics and decent CPU performance, or an Intel i3 or i5 for better CPU performance.
  • MrSpadge - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Go for the Thinkpad X121e instead. With TPFanControl it's nicely quiet and the only negative point is the horrible touchpad (can't really click with it). Otherwise it's almost perfect for such a small machine (can't expect a good screen at that price point).

  • 86waterpumper - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Since some think that 1600 is too large a resolution for 13 inch, and alot seem to agree that what most of them have now is pretty lame, why can't more of these ultrabooks have the same screen as the mackbook air, which has a 1440 x 900 resolution?

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