So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
Toshiba Portege Z10t hybrid Ultrabook
Toshiba's Portege Z10t offers plenty of performance in a tablet that weighs only just over 800g
- Full HD
- Feels light and easy to use as a tablet
- Backlit keyboard
- Good range of ports
- Short battery life
- Keyboard dock stopped working at random times
- Can be a little noisy
Toshiba's Portege Z10t offers plenty of performance in a slim and very light form factor. It's a hybrid Ultrabook that ships with a keyboard dock, and as far as hybrid docks go, it's one of the better ones. The keys feel good and are backlit, and there are full-sized ports that you can take advantage of. Unfortunately, battery life is short, and the dock stopped working at random times during our tests.
Price$ 1,499.00 (AUD)
Toshiba's Portege Z10t is a dual-purpose business device that aims to supply better-than-average notebook capabilities. Primarily, it's an 11.6in, Full HD tablet, but it also comes with a keyboard dock so that you can easily use it for long typing sessions. This dock supplies not only a keyboard, but also a few more ports, and it's so thin it allows the Z10t to be classed as an Ultrabook.
Using it as a tablet
Toshiba has furnished the Portege Z10t with a fast configuration within its slim chassis, and this includes an Intel Core i5-3339Y CPU (third generation), along with 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 128GB solid state drive (SSD). It can be used as a regular computer for office tasks and relatively heavy processing, and as far as dual-purpose devices are concerned, it's one of the most capable we've seen to date.
The tablet itself has a screen with a Full HD resolution, good contrast and wide viewing angles (it's an in-plane switching panel), and it's capacitive touch performance during our tests was accurate. Some icons and menu items can be hard to press due to their size, but Toshiba's pre-installed Desktop Assist utility allows you to enlarge the text and icons at the expense of the overall viewing area.
The Portege Z10t that we reviewed didn't come with a stylus, but there is a version available that comes with a digitiser pen. Instead, we used it with a stylus from Belkin and it performed just fine for recording handwriting, even though we couldn't write while resting a palm on the screen. If you want a tablet for handwriting tasks, then you're better off going for the version with the digitiser pen.
Around the edges of the tablet, you get a couple of useful ports, including USB 3.0, and an SD card slot. If you're a photographer who wants to look at photos on a bigger screen while on the road, then this is ideal. Reflections will be a problem, as they are on almost all glossy screens, but the brightness level is high enough to combat them in an office environment at least. There is the usual array of tablet-specific buttons (volume, rotation lock and power), two cameras, and a built-in Micro HDMI port for which you'll need an adapter if you plan on using it.
Networking is taken care of by an Atheros AR9485WB-EG wireless module, which supplies only single-band Wi-Fi, and you get Bluetooth so that you can easily hook up to an external speaker system, for example. A Gigabit Ethernet port is present on the keyboard dock for wired networking. You can also get a version of the Z10t that has a built-in mobile broadband module (ours came with a Telstra 4G account), and this makes it even more convenient for working remotely. Some quick speed tests in our North Sydney office showed download speeds up to 7 megabits per second (Mbps), with uploads up to 16Mbps from the Telstra 4G network.
Physically, the tablet feels good to hold thanks to a textured back that provides a little bit of grip. It's light, and reasonably solid. There is some flex in the back panel, though, which is by design, so the tablet doesn't feel as rigid as some others on the market. There is an air vent at the top that's required for keeping the Core i5 CPU cool. Considering the use of this CPU, and what's basically a notebook configuration, it's impressive that Toshiba has been able to make such a thin and light device. The tablet on its own is about 14mm thick (it's thinner at the edges and thicker towards the middle) and 807g. With the base attached, it's about 21mm at its thickest point and has an overall weight of 1.38kg.
The only real negative aspect of this tablet is that its battery life isn't as long as what a typical Ultrabook provides (3.5hr is the average in our tests), or even close to what a tablet should provide. This is the trade-off when you want something with plenty of speed, a Full HD screen, and a very thin and light form factor; there just isn't room for a big battery. In our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness, and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the tablet lasted 3hr 7min. This is over an hour shorter than the time recorded by the Acer Aspire P3 tablet/Ultrabook, for example, which uses the same CPU in a similar configuration, although that tablet doesn't have a Full HD screen. The Lenovo ThinkPad Helix, which has a slightly more powerful configuration and a Full HD screen, also got an hour more than the Toshiba in this test.
The keyboard dock
It's disappointing that the keyboard dock doesn't have its own battery to supplement the tablet, but again, this is to keep the weight and profile of the Portege Z10t to a minimum (it's lighter overall than the Lenovo Helix). The dock is very slim at the front (about 5mm), and only gets thick at the back where the tablet mount and the extra ports are located. It supplies VGA, HDMI, Ethernet, and one more USB 2.0 port (the USB 3.0 port on the tablet is still usable when the tablet is docked).
The keyboard is backlit, which is a useful feature for those of us who like to work into the night, and the typing experience is a good one thanks to keys that are relatively big, soft, and responsive. They also have an adequate amount of travel considering the 5mm thickness of the base. The middle of the base has an extra support foot, which keeps the tray solid when used on a hard, flat surface.
As for layout, some of the keys are squished a little, such as the left Shift and Tab keys, and the bottom row of keys. The Space bar is a decent size, the arrow keys have some room around them, the Backspace key is large, and the Delete key is in the right spot (albeit quite small). The location of the Page Down key immediately above the right arrow key is a little annoying, and we ended up pressing it inadvertently a few times. Apart from that, though, it's a worthy keyboard for a hybrid Ultrabook. Only the Lenovo Thinkpad Helix is better as far as key travel and quality-of-press are concerned.
Right under the space bar you will find a small touchpad that has touch buttons rather than physical left- and right-click buttons, and they can be hard to get used to. The LG Z360 Ultrabook that we reviewed recently has a similar touchpad, and we found that one to be more usable, mainly because the Toshiba's is so small (80x34mm not including the button area). Luckily, there is also a TrackPoint device (Toshiba calls is Accupoint) that does have physical buttons, and these can be used instead. The touchpad supports multi-finger gestures such as two-finger scrolling and three-finger flicking, and also Windows 8 swipe-in gestures. For the most part, though, we used the touchscreen to tap on things and select them, rather than using the touchpad.
We noticed something annoying about the keyboard dock: it sometimes stopped working and we had to undock the tablet and then re-dock it in order for the dock to be detected again. It's a problem that we couldn't replicate when we wanted to, it just happened out of the blue. The dock would still be listed in the Device Manager, it just would not work unless we re-initialised it. It did it when we ran under AC power and battery power, and when the device was stationary.
There is an eject button for the dock at the top-right corner, but we never used it. To remove the dock from the tablet, you have to slide the locking mechanism and then lift the tablet. It's a little awkward to release the dock while separating the tablet, and you need to establish a technique for it. It should be noted that the dock doesn't give the Portege Z10t a feel that's identical to a laptop. As a laptop, it's a top-heavy unit that doesn't tilt back more than a few degrees past 90 (it would tip if it did), and it can't easily be used while resting on your lap (in addition to balance issues, it would just feel uncomfortable). It's a hybrid that's designed mainly for tabletop usage.
Because it's a powerful tablet, it does tend to make a bit of noise. The fan is located at the top near the extraction vent and you can really hear it when the CPU is put under a load — and even during some idle times. This could be annoying while working in a quiet space or giving presentations in a small room. The performance of the Portege is good, though. It recorded 1min 5sec in our Blender 3D rendering test, 1min 16sec in the iTunes MP3 encoding test, and 30min in the HandBrake MP4 encoding test. All of these results are better than what the Acer P3 produced with the same configuration.
Graphics were tested with the latest version of 3DMark, in which the Portege got 21218 in Ice Storm, 2558 in Cloud Gate, and 357 in Fire Strike. These are all higher numbers than the Acer, too, and they show that the Intel HD 4000 graphics in the tablet can be used to run simple 3D graphics. The performance results for the SSD were also impressive, with CrystalDiskMark reporting a rate of 482.8 megabytes per second (MBps) while reading, and 451.6MBps while writing. The latter result is what impresses us most. We found the overall performance of the tablet to be quick, and part of this can be attributed to the fast SSD performance.
The Portege Z10t has many positives that should make it appealing to those of you who are after a hybrid tablet device. As a tablet, it's a pleasure to use because of its vibrant and high-resolution screen, in addition to its very light weight and responsive performance. The keyboard dock supplies a good enough typing experience to make this device usable as a notebook, but it's not comfortable enough for lap usage. We think you should consider the Portege Z10t as a tablet that will perform well on the road, and which can then be docked easily when in the office or in a meeting room. Its battery life is quite short, though, and this is its one significant drawback (along with the connectivity issue that we experienced with the dock, which might be limited to our test model).
There are different configurations of the Portege Z10t available, with the most affordable Core i5 version (the PT131A-015002) costing $1499, and the top-end model (the PT132A-00F00T) costing $1925. The top model has a little more speed than the model we reviewed here, as well as more storage space (256GB), and it comes with mobile broadband module by default. The mid-range model (the PT132A-00600T) is the most appealing for us, as it comes with a Core i5-3439Y CPU, dual-band Wi-Fi, and a digitiser pen for $1650. This is the one we recommend unless you absolutely require built-in 4G mobile broadband.
All feature TPM 1.2 and ship with Windows 8 Pro. They all come with a 3-year warranty with complimentary courier pick-up and return service.
Note: while our model came with mobile broadband, Toshiba didn't list it on its Web site with the CPU that we tested. The $1499 price for this product is without the mobile broadband module.
Related Windows 8 laptop reviews:
• Apple MacBook Air (2013)
• LG Z360 Full HD Ultrabook
• ASUS N750JV 17.3in notebook
• Acer Aspire V7 ultra-thin notebook
• Toshiba Satellite P50t-A013 touchscreen notebook
• Panasonic Toughbook CF-AX2 convertible Ultrabook
• Acer Aspire R7 convertible notebook
• HP Envy 17 notebook
• LG Tab-Book Z160 hybrid tablet
• Sony VAIO Pro 13 Ultrabook
• Sony VAIO S Series notebook
• Toshiba KIRA Ultrabook
• Gigabyte U2442F Extreme Ultrabook
• Toshiba Satellite P870 notebook
• Medion Akoya E6232 (MD 99222) notebook
• Dell Inspiron 17R notebook
• Acer Aspire V5 touchscreen laptop
• Toshiba Satellite P840 touchscreen notebook
• MSI GT70 Dragon Edition gaming notebook
• ASUS VivoBook S400C touchscreen Ultrabook
• Samsung Ativ Smart PC 500T hybrid tablet
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• Sony VAIO Duo 11 Windows 8 tablet
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• Samsung Ativ Smart PC Pro 700T (XE700T1C-A02AU)
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• Toshiba Satellite L850 Windows 8 laptop
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• Toshiba Satellite U920T hybrid Ultrabook
• Dell XPS 12 convertible Ultrabook
• ASUS Vivo Book F202 touchscreen notebook
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Alternative Windows tablet product reviews
• Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet 2
• Dell Latitude 10 tablet
• HP ElitePad 900 G1 tablet
• Lenovo ThinkPad Helix convertible Ultrabook
• Microsoft Surface Pro tablet
• ASUS Vivo Tab RT Windows Tablet
• Microsoft Surface RT
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