Slim, Light And Mighty Ultrabooks Supertest (Part 1) : Toshiba Portege Z830

4/15/2013 2:43:16 PM

Want a powerful laptop that’s barely-there, without being a MacBook Air? Try an Ultrabook

What’s new?

Thin, light laptops used to be overpriced and under­powered. Not any more. Meet the new breed of instant-on Ultrabooks that have potent innards to match Apple’s Air and a design flair all of their own.

What we tested...

Toshiba Portege Z830

To stand out for being lightweight even in this field takes some doing, and Tosh’s latest manages just that. But its price tag is anything but insubstantial...

Dell XPS 13

The XPS 13’s blend of carbon fiber and matte metal makes it sound more like a steering wheel than a PC - but will it drive us to distraction?

Samsung Series 5 NP530U3B

Samsung has previously impressed us with its premium Series 9 Ultrabook, but its Series 5 is more of a budget offering. Will the low price win us over?

Lenovo IdeaPad U300s

MacBook Air a bit porky for you? This Lenovo is a full 2mm thinner, has a premium all-metal build and won’t break the bank. Sounds like a contender.

HP Envy 14 Spectre

If a premium laptop made of glass sounds intriguing, just wait until you see it. Only problem is, there’s plenty of it to see compared to its rivals.

What to look


All Ultrabooks are relatively small, but there’s a big difference between an 11in and 15in model. If a larger display is important to you, you’ll have to accept a heftier frame.

Battery life

Even the lightest laptop is of no use if the battery needs charging every half an hour. But again, more juice means more weight.


Cheap displays might keep the price down, but picture quality can make the difference between a fashion statement and a genuinely useful machine.


Most Ultrabooks have solid state drives (SSDs) for near-instant start-up and low power consumption - but they cost more and won’t satisfy media junkies.

Jargon buster


Solid State Storage. A hard drive that uses flash rather than a magnetic platter to store data. Robust, fast, expensive.

Cache drive

A small SSD that holds only the most regularly accessed files. Can speed up performance.

Intel Core i5/i7

The two varieties of processor used in these Ultrabooks. Unlike on a desktop PC, there is little difference in performance between them.

Intel Graphics HD 3000

All the Ultrabooks here use a graphics processor built into the CPU. It's good for watching video, but not so hot for gaming.

Toshiba Portege Z830

Price: $1,770


Toshiba Portege Z830

Toshiba Portege Z830

If all you want from an Ultrabook is a barely-there weight, look no further than the Z830. This 13-incher weighs just 40g more than an 11in MacBook Air, and is lighter than any other machine on these pages by at least a quarter-pounder with cheese.

Of course, most people want a little more from their laptop than that. To keep the weight down, Toshiba has gone with a thin plastic design that - unsurprisingly - feels more fragile than its rivals. There’s a bit of flex in the keyboard, and the screen has a tendency to flap around if you’re a heavy-­fingered typist. The design is also a bit lackluster, with its squared-off corners and business-like looks.

It’s pricey, too, but you do at least get a lot for your money. There’s an astonishing array of ports included around the ultra-thin edges - USB3.0, Ethernet, SD card slot, HDMI and even space for a 3G SIM card. How Toshiba found room for them all is a mystery.

As with so many Ultrabooks, though, what puts us off is the screen. With low resolution, poor viewing angles and pale colors, it’s hard to imagine staring at this all day without wanting to tear it from its hinges, and given the Tosh’s high price, that’s just not good enough.

Throughout our test the Tosh ran almost silently, and the fan only really kicked in when the automated virus scan began. One more reason to hate malware writers...

Although this one's pricier than most Ultrabooks here, cheaper, lower-spec versions of the Z830 with­out the model's security features are available.

The Z830 has small, well- spread-out keys, rather than the bunched-up tiles most Ultrabooks have. With decent resistance and a fair amount of travel in them, it's a joy to type on.

Metal mouse

Metal mouse

Metal mouse

The trackpad is a big disappointment: it feels too cramped, while separate right and left click buttons, a fingerprint reader and bezel feel like a major waste of space.

Narrow boat

Narrow boat

Narrow boat

Despite the Z830's slim frame, there's still room for USB3.0, an SD card reader and separate headphone and mic connections, plus a battery that yields six hours of use.

Tech specs

·         Display: 13.3in; 1366x768

·         CPU: Core i5 2557M @ 1.7GHz

·         Graphics: Intel HD 3000

·         RAM: 6GB

·         Storage: 128GB SSD

·         Connectivity: USB 3.0 (x1); USB 2.0 (x2); Wi-Fi; Ethernet; 3G; SD; VGA; HDMI; 3.5mm socket; Mic

·         Dimension (W x H x D): 316 x 15.9 x 227 mm

·         Weight: 1.12 kg


·         Lightest on test

·         Connections


·         Flimsy build

·         Cramped trackpad

·         Average design

·         Poor screen

·         Price


·         Ratings: 3/5

·         It's light and stuffed with ports, but at this price we'd expect classier looks and a better screen


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