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
Comments Locked


View All Comments

  • TrackSmart - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    I have a Toshiba R705. Basically the same laptop, right down to the cooling system design. When running heavy-duty processes (30min of straight number crunching) my CPU core temperatures usually stay in the mid-70s. That's more than 25C below the recommended thermal limit for my processor (105C).

    I can't imagine any normal usage case, even heavy duty usage, where I would ever get near 105C. I'm guessing the cooling design is okay for all 'normal' usage scenarios, even heavy-duty usage.

    That being said, I think that putting all of the intake vents on the bottom of the system is a really dumb idea. If you stream movies with the bottom of the laptop on a bed or sofa - look out! It's going to get toasty in there...
  • jigglywiggly - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    please keep talking about lcd quality, I bought my sager np8130 (p151hm1) when you guys spoke about the LCD, it was fairly good and it was great performance for the price and dual link dvi for my 120hz display
  • hexanerax - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    How difficult is it to write a PPI agnostic app? ( to those not in the know,all elements of the UI should appear exactly the same physical size on all monitor resolutions meaning a high ppi display UI looks awesome and this low res junk that manufacturers are hawking will end).
    Hi res support has to be coded into the os and done right. I have enough problems with un-clickable buttons and unreadable text due to poor dpi scaling in some poorly written apps. Getting correct PPI information from the panel and scaling display elements to actual physical dimensions would be great, allowing users to really see the difference and cough up the extra dough if inclined.
    Writing this on a great 1900 x 1200 17" LCD on my Dell Precision M6300 ( never upgraded due to the 16:9 fetish in most product lines.
  • hexanerax - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    $ for $ , an SSD will translate to better user experience than a higher clocked processor for most normal usage scenarios. For those looking for a fast, low priced system, adding a 40 GB SSD and going for a lower clocked cpu or lesser cores will be a better option than a 500 GB 5400 RPM HDD with a high frequency processor. Enthusiast or not an SSD is no longer an option. I can understand using a Mechanical drive for critical data considering the issues that SSDs have had in the past but if you are buying a budget laptop, how critical is the data you are storing? Think cloud storage + SSD for the best experience. Buy an external HDD.
    On a system with a Corsair Force F120.
  • jabber - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    I don't need more than two USB ports (to be honest I can get by with one).

    I don't need a Firewire port.

    I don't really need a HDMI or D-Sub port either.

    I can go without Bluetooth.

    That should be nearly enough to get a decent screen instead.

    Yeah so one or two USB ports, a gigabit ethernet port and the power port are all I need.
  • Mumrik - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    I'm out...
  • Pylon757 - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Judging from the last picture on the 2nd page, the body appears to be magnesium alloy, not plastic. Mag alloy feels a lot like plastic (especially when painted) since its thermal conductivity is extremely poor and thus doesn't feel cold to the touch (unlike say, aluminum found on Apple's devices)
  • hexanerax - Sunday, April 1, 2012 - link

    Just for the record :-

    It probably feels less cold because it is conducting heat from the system outwards.

    The paint probably has more to do with this feeling than the thermal conductivity of the metal. Aluminum is generally left unpainted ( polished, brushed ) or anodize in color which leaves the thermal properties unchanged.
  • Mygaffer - Sunday, April 1, 2012 - link

    The last time many consumers have seen a monitor with decent image quality was when they were using a CRT.

    If more consumers could see a side by side of your average TN panel and some of the amazing IPS and PVA panels out there a lot more people would seek out the better monitors. Right now people just don't know any better.

    I use two monitors at home, the Dell 3007wfp-HC and a Yamakasi Catleap Q270 (27" S-IPS, same panel as the Apple Cinema display). Both are S-IPS panels, both are very high resolution, and both are amazing. To go back to some lower resolution TN panel now would make me want to claw out my eyes.

    Luckily my HP laptop has a very good TN panel in it that even has good viewing angles. One thing that will have to improve a little bit for the high resolution displays to be a good fit for everyone will be better font scaling. Windows 7 has fairly decent support for it and modern browsers also allow some control but it still needs to be improved.
  • ThreeDee912 - Sunday, April 1, 2012 - link

    For better or worse, ultrabooks are coming down in price, and are still using crappy panels.

    Except for Delta E, and compared to the high-end Sony, it seems like the MacBook Air line from last year still beats most of the panels in these new Ultrabooks:

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now