Don't Mess With Success?

While no company makes a product expecting it not to sell, I remember reps from Toshiba telling me in a meeting about how surprised they were by the original Portege R700's success. The slim form factor, matte plastic shell, and chiclet keyboard were a major departure from their other notebooks, but the success with the design seemed to have struck such a chord that Toshiba took design cues from the R700 and adapted them part and parcel to the Tecra R800 series.

Progress in the industry can be slow, though, and while I've seen some of the pretty radical changes Toshiba has planned for the back-to-school season this year, the Portege R835's shell hasn't really changed much from its predecessor. You could go back and take a look at Vivek's thoughts on the R700's design and apply most of the same information to the R835.

The difference, though, is that his review unit was north of $1,600. The one we have on hand is just $849, and what's unacceptable at a premium price can merely feel like a compromise at a more mainstream cost. Gone from our unit are the fingerprint reader, matte display, and ExpressCard slot; the one concession we get back is the USB 3.0 port, which is welcome enough.

My feelings do echo Vivek's regarding the keyboard, though. While the touchpad and touchpad buttons are perfectly fine and even pleasant enough to use, I'm not a fan of this keyboard. The slightly shorter keys Toshiba employs for this keyboard (and for the one on their ultrabook, the Portege Z830) feel just different enough in size to throw off my typing, and the action of the keys themselves is on the mushy side. I'm also not sure why Toshiba persists in using a glossy finish on their "premium" keyboards; the matte keyboards they use on lesser notebooks are actually more comfortable and practical in my opinion. To their credit, Toshiba continues to use a generally fantastic key layout, with dedicated document navigation keys and arrow keys that are all the same size.


With all that in mind, the relative absence of gloss elsewhere on the notebook is much appreciated. The matte black plastic with brushed aluminum pattern looks slightly chintzy, but generally it's the kind of minimalistic aesthetic that I personally enjoy. The placement of expansion ports is smart, and access panels on the bottom allow the end user to quickly and easily replace the memory and 2.5" drive. Something else you're not liable to see in an ultrabook (besides the optical drive) is present here, too: a user-replaceable battery.

I'm not necessarily wowed by the Portege R835 as a whole, but I'm not underwhelmed by it either. Toshiba's designers seem to have tried to make the most of the limited real estate the form factor provides, and while nicer build materials would've probably helped they also would've been liable to drive the total system cost up.

Introducing the Toshiba Portege R835 System Performance
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  • damianrobertjones - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    "I think you guys pay too much attention to the high end. Maybe you should start doing reviews on more mainstream models that people actually BUY"

    +1. The site might get a whole new flood of people paying a visit. I don;t know five people that would even THINK about spending over £600 on a laptop as it's ALL around the basement price.
  • SongEmu - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    If you're in the market for a super cheap notebook, you're probably not an Anandtech regular. And even if you are, you're not reading reviews on your craptop. You're typically ticking off check boxes, i.e.:
    dual core proc
    DVD drive
    HDD > 120 GB
    X inch monitor.

    There is nothing exciting under $600. not for notebooks.
  • ScottHavens - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I saw the resolution was only 1366x768 on a 13.3" display and just skipped the rest.
  • ScottHavens - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I gave in and read the rest of the review; I see that my complaint has been addressed by the author. When will it get addressed by the manufacturers?
  • rudolphna - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Such snobs people are anymore. So this is basically the same thing as my previous post, but did you not realize that 99% of laptops sold to actual normal consumers are 1366x768, both in 14" and 15.6" versions? At the price point, maybe you should not complain. And seriously? 768 in a 13.3" screen isn't good enough? My my my.
  • welshy992 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    768p in a 15.6 inch screen is really bad. You can't do anything useful with that. The resolution is so cramped. You can't even open an entire word document or a web page without always having to scroll. Did you not realize that 99% of laptops sold USED to have a higher vertical resolution than 768p?

    If all you do on your laptop is Facebook, watch movies, and play games, then yes 768p in a 15.6 inch form factor is fine. For spreadsheets, coding, word docs, or any other form of content creation it is not worth it. I'd rather chain myself to a desk with an external monitor like I'm doing right now.
  • Coup27 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    rudolphna this is quite clearly a enthusiasts website by enthusiasts. The people who walk into bestbuy and buy a $400 laptop with a 1366x768 TN LCD with a 5,400rpm HDD and think it's great because they have no knowledge to say otherwise. These people will also not be reading Anandtech. I don't want Anandtech to read like a BBC Technology review or equivilent.

    I also disagree with you on another point. Long before SSDs we had to accept the performance from a 5400rpm HDD. Now, it's quite clear that this performance for any user who knows how to use a laptop to its potential, is crap.
  • rudolphna - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Well considering that I AM an enthusiast, and I have a desktop using Anandtech recommended components (2500k, P8Z68-V Pro, Crucial M4, Fractal Design Define R3 etc) I understand the point of view. However there are enthusiasts like me, that don't need or want a high end laptop.

    My aforementioned laptop IS 768p, and I can do everything you just mentioned, perfectly fine. Sure I have to scroll. That's not really a big deal to me. Well, except coding.

    Anandtech does reviews of low end PSUs, and laptops with A6s, etc. But they do the most expensive ones they can find. Anandtech may be an enthusiast site, but it wouldn't hurt to do a mainstream review every now and again.

    YES the SSD is fast. But for what I need my laptop to do, I don't NEED one. Nor do 99% of people who buy laptops who the most intensive thing they will do is facebook games. If you keep your laptop clean and running light, as I do, I have no problems with a standard 5,400RPM drive. Granted, I'm pretty sure that Western Digitals 5400RPM drives are faster than Toshiba and Hitachis, but that' s beside the point.
  • steven75 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    If you're happy with a junky, poor performing laptop, more power to you. But don't expect most enthusiasts to agree with you. It's odd that you think they will.
  • TrackSmart - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I respectfully disagree. I personally don't need to see lots of reviews of the cookie-cutter $400 laptops you describe. Maybe one or two examples per year, just to set the benchmark for what you get for that price point. If one of them breaks the mold in an important way, then yes, review it. But otherwise, why bother? I can describe most of them to you already.

    That's not snobbery. I also agree that these $400 laptops it will do everything that the average person needs to do. But they occupy a part of the market where there profits are so low that there is little room for differentiation between models.

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