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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  • SoundsGood - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    >> why can't more of these ultrabooks have the same screen as the mackbook air, which has a 1440 x 900 resolution?

    I totally agree. That would be a great option.
  • peterfares - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    People who say the resolution is too large don't realize that Windows has the ability to scale. Just adjust the DPI to make everything bigger. When you increase the resolution and the DPI, things remain the same physical size but are made up of more pixels making them very clear. I used Sony's 1080p 13" Vaio Z at the Microsoft store with 150% scaling, and it looked amazing!
  • solipsism - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    "I could be completely blind and out of my depth here, but I just don't see the market an ultrabook serves"

    A recent report put the MBAs, only in 11" and 13" sizes, at 28% of all Mac notebook shipments. This is a category the average consumer cares about. Unfortunately for the non-Apple OEMS there customers expect a sweet spot about $300 less than the least expensive MBA. That's the problem when you spend years racing to the bottom, not one trusts when your products even if they are quality.

    It was years ago that Apple had more than 90% of the $1000 and up market so these companies need to make less expensive machines or rebrand themselves to show they are a premium company. They can start by removing crap like Intel Inside, MS Windows, Dell and HP stickers off their machines.
  • Torrijos - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    While this review is dandy, it would be nice to run the benchmarks on the MacBook Air running Windows, to have a baseline.

    Also, while more ports are always cool I kind of disagree with the disinterest towards Thunderbolt technology. Living with a laptop as a main computer, connecting the multitude of cables at home to dock it to external displays and storage unit gets old pretty quickly so the vision of a single cable connecting a TB display (with keyboard and mouse on the USBs) and a fast mass storage unit chained seems like a dream (but I'll be still waiting for USB3 on the display before I make a jump).
    It's a usage model that no other brand offers right now.
  • peterfares - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Have you heard of docks? They aren't yet available on Ultrabook models I don't believe, but they're even better than Thunderbolt. You just place your computer on the dock, you don't even have to line up and insert the thunderbolt and power cords.
  • Jamezrp - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    4th paragraph from the bottom, end of the second sentence. Not a big deal...I laughed because it sounds like a cheesy, corny cute name to give Intel's Turbo Boost.
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Just a typo from the editor; actually, Dustin called it "turbo core" so I tried to fix it and apparently hit the wrong key for the "t". Not sure which is worse, though. :p
  • fpink3 - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    D Sklavos says: "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."

    "Just fix the ..quality"? Who is D Sklavos talking to? Let me know how the keyboard will perform if I bought the product.
  • Death666Angel - Wednesday, November 16, 2011 - link

    Great review as always, but I was wondering if you could make comparison photos of products where size is a big feature. Stick a coke cola can or a DVD case next to it and then photograph. It would make it easier to judge the size. :-)
  • EthanW - Thursday, November 17, 2011 - link

    Is it just me, or does this look scarily similar to the Portege R200?

    As seen here:

    Good to see they had the sense to stick with proper trackpad buttons. :D

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