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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  • TegiriNenashi - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

  • Sunburn74 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Honestly dude, I don't care. My laptop is for browsing and for word documents. I can get my pixel fixation at home. 1366x768 is fine up until around 14inch screens for most laptops.
  • snuuggles - Monday, April 2, 2012 - link

    Glad you have a toy. Some people have to get actual work done, so they need more than 768 height.
  • arthur449 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I just helped my sister choose a laptop to replace her 7 year old Dell laptop.

    Based on my discussion with her for what she needs, I established the following minimum requirements:
    1) 8GB memory--Because some people like to leave, at a minimum, 5 weeks of browser tabs open.
    2) 7200rpm HDD--7200rpm drives are at least better than the 5400rpm garbage they're cramming in every laptop these days.
    3) >1366x768 screen resolution.
    4) <$750

    Surprisingly, that eliminated HP entirely (my go-to brand, as popular brands tend to have problems that can be Google'd), and almost everything on Newegg. This led me to the following revelation: despite all the competition in the inexpensive laptop market currently, there's really not much in the way of meaningful choices for consumers. >95% of $400 - 700 laptops are going to have 720p, 5400rpm, or 4GB (or mismatched 6GB) of memory.

    I'd love to have a balanced model to recommend for friends and family.

    (We eventually settled on the Dell Inspiron 17R.)
  • Impulses - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    The display is really your biggest limiting factor... The state of displays on laptops these days is a very sad affair. The $500-800 market is way over saturated and anyone that actually wants to pay more for some premium features doesn't really have a lot of choices without some massive compromises (or having to spend 3x as much).

    That is why Anandtech reviews a lot of high end systems... There's very little interest amongst the reader base in having them highlight the minimal differences amongst all the budget models (this is addressed at the guy campaigning for more cheap laptop reviews).

    If you fall in that camp just read one of their yearly laptop round-up or recommendation articles, they do a good job steering you in the right direction... Or go read PC World, Laptop Mag, etc.
  • montanio - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I was in the market recently for a laptop replacement for my parents. I eventually found some deals on a VAIO SE (15.5") that are 1080p with very good viewing angles for $800 (Amazon) which is a good deal considering it doesn't require shipping/tax. Official website has similar configurations but tax makes it unattractive. I added a Samsung 830 128gb to it, bought a USB3 enclosure for the old 640gb drive, and added a 4GB stick for less than $200. I added a external sheet battery to double the battery life as well since that was one of the main selling points for the series ($90) Grand total is <1100, which isn't bad considering the quality of the screen is excellent. Weight is <2.0kg without the sheet battery, pretty slim, feels a bit fragile though. Its a bit over what you said, but laptop markets are all about compromises, typically with more severe trade offs the more "cheap" you box yourself into. Sometimes its worth the little bit more you put out, the point of diminishing returns depends on the brand/model.

    Screen resolution is pretty important... I've always hated working on my 13" screen's 1366x768... Typing is okay, but if you need to reference things for example from a webpage, or have to edit your work later (especially documents with graphics) then its really a pain. 900p screens seem very attractive though, unfortunately the quality on them aren't exactly the best from looking at current laptops.
  • arthur449 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Both of your suggestions are helpful, and if I were buying the laptop for myself, I'd definitely be adding the memory and replacing the HDD with an SSD myself (as vendor markup on those items is amusing). And if it were mine, I wouldn't mind the additional complexity of having a discrete/switchable GPU and a 15" or 14" screen, as this would be my secondary or tertiary computing system.

    Unfortunately, if I end up doing that for her (she lives out of state) and something goes wrong with the rest of the hardware during the warranty period: we're in a difficult situation.

    I loved being able to instantly recommend the HP dm1z last year when people were asking about a recommendation for a cheap and small travel laptop. Great battery life, superior keyboard, and it came with a comparatively zippy 320GB 7200rpm hard drive. There's no magic bullet system available like that for families with one (laptop) computer that only needs to occasionally move from room to room depending on whether they're studying, researching, or writing lengthy dissertations in comments sections of
  • Gunbuster - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    1366x768 screen; stopped reading.

    I'm so sick of these low res screens.
  • quitesufficient - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    As soon as I see 1366x768
  • snuuggles - Sunday, April 1, 2012 - link


    That is quite literally what I just did.

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