Toshiba Portege R830 (PT321A-01L002) ultraportable laptop

Toshiba Portege R830 review: A 13.3in ultraportable with great features, strong build quality and excellent battery life

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Toshiba Portege R830 (PT321A-01L002)
  • Toshiba Portege R830 (PT321A-01L002)
  • Toshiba Portege R830 (PT321A-01L002)
  • Toshiba Portege R830 (PT321A-01L002)
  • Expert Rating

    4.00 / 5

Pros

  • Excellent performance and battery life
  • Good build quality
  • Plenty of built-in features

Cons

  • Keyboard not backlit
  • Screen not great
  • Long charging time

Bottom Line

Toshiba's Portege R830 is a great choice for business users who want something that's easily mobile, yet fully-featured and fast. It's not perfect -- it could use a better screen, a backlit keyboard and a quicker charging time -- but it's very well built and it looks good, too.

Would you buy this?

The Toshiba Portege was one of the first ultraportable laptops on the market to still offer a full feature-set despite its small dimensions and light weight. With the Portege R830 (PT321A-01L002), that tradition of fitting lots of stuff into a small frame continues, and not only that, it also features a full-voltage, Second Generation Intel Core i5 CPU. Indeed, there are many positives about this 13.3in, 1.4kg laptop, chief among them being exceptional performance, but there are also some negatives, such as the screen, which isn't the most vibrant we've seen.

Design and specifications

Between the Toshiba Portege R830, the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 and the Samsung Notebook Series 9, the Toshiba looks most like a run-of-the-mill laptop. It doesn't have a distinct shape or Gorilla Glass like the Lenovo; it doesn't have the slim frame and svelte look of the Samsung. Nevertheless, it's still a good looking laptop and it has many features that cover the needs of both business and home users.

A matte screen is present on the R830, but it's not great. It looks very dull and can be harsh on the eyes if you leave it too bright while using the notebook in the dark. Its viewing angles are also narrow and this means you'll regularly be adjusting its angles or your seating position to view it properly. Unlike the older, 12.1in Portege R600, the screen is not of the transreflective type, which could harness sunlight instead of using the backlight to make the screen brighter. It's just a regular LED-backlit LCD screen, albeit a very thin one (only around 7mm thick) — the move away from transreflective screens started with the Portege R700.

Also starting with the R700 was the move to full-voltage CPUs rather than ultra-low voltage models. One thing that was immediately noticeable in the R700 model we reviewed was how hot the unit's base got after being under load. Part of that was also due to the use of a 7200rpm hard drive. In the Portege R830, the heat is not as bad, and in fact it only gets slightly warm after running under a full load for a couple of hours. This is due to the use of a Second Generation (Sandy Bridge) Intel Core i5-2520M CPU and a solid state drive (a 128GB Toshiba THNSNC128GMLJ). Like most laptops though, if you use the R830 on your lap and block its vents, it will warm up a lot more (and a lot quicker) than it would if used it on a flat surface.

A fan is present to extract warm air from the chassis, and it's the only noise that emanates from the laptop. It runs very fast when the system is under a full load; it makes a whirring sound that is fairly loud and it can get annoying in a quiet room. It's louder than the ThinkPad X1, although the X1 does have a slightly wider chassis. The fan doesn't run loudly when the Portege is used to just type up documents or watch movies, and it's practically silent when the system is idle. It kicks in when you use Web pages that have Flash elements, run any games or encode media files.

Performance

Along with the Core i5-2520M CPU and solid state drive, the R830's configuration includes 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM and integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics. This configuration produced wonderful speed in our tests: in the Blender 3D rendering test is recorded a time of 40sec; in the iTunes MP3 encoding test it produced a time of 46sec; in the AutoGordianKnot test, in which we turn a DVD file into a 1.5GB Xvid file, it recorded a time of 48min. Its Blender 3D and iTunes times are exactly the same as the times recorded by the Lenovo ThinkPad X1, which also uses the Core i5-2520M CPU, but the Toshiba was one minute faster in the AutoGordianKnot test.

The Toshiba also proved to be faster in 3Dmark06, where it produced a score of 3792 — the Lenovo, using the same integrated graphics, scored 2549 in this test. The Toshiba's solid state drive did produce a slightly slower result than the solid state drive in the Lenovo, recording a transfer rate of 66.25 megabytes per second (MBps) in our tests, compared to 73.10MBps for the Lenovo. The drive is not easily replaceable as the chassis doesn't have a regular 2.5in bay with a typical SATA connection. Instead, the solid state drive has a 1.8in form factor and is connected to the motherboard via a ribbon cable.

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