Toshiba Portege Z930 Ultrabook (model PT235A-00V00D01)
Toshiba Portege Z930 review: a business-oriented Ultrabook with good features, an impressively light weight and thin chassis
- Core i7 CPU
- Fast SSD
- Built-in HDMI, VGA, Ethernet
- Battery life
- Screen's viewing angles
- Touchpad could be better
- No keyboard backlight
- Only one USB 3.0 port
Toshiba's thin-and-light Portege Z930 ships with business features such as a vPro chipset, biometrics and integrated 3G, in addition to a useful range of built-in ports. It could use a better screen, touchpad and keyboard, but its overall usability is still quite good and it's a fine Ultrabook to travel with on a daily basis.
Price$ 2,526.00 (AUD)
The Toshiba Portege Z930 (model PT235A-00V00D01) is a 13.3in Ultrabook designed specifically for business users. It carries features such as a vPro chipset, a fingerprint reader, a matte screen and integrated mobile broadband support, yet it's still a lightweight machine — it's only about 1.1kg. It's an Ultrabook that addresses management, security and mobility needs and it also doesn't make too many compromises when it comes to connectivity. The feel of the keyboard and the angles of the screen could be better, but the user-friendliness of the unit isn't too bad overall, despite the chassis being so thin and light.
Specifications and performance
On the inside, the Portege Z930 packs a third generation Intel Core i7-3667U CPU, which runs at a standard speed of 2GHz, with two cores plus Hyper-Threading, and integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics. There is 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM and a 256GB solid state drive (SSD) installed, too (a Toshiba THNSN256GMCP model). All this amounts to a configuration that can supply lots of speed for running office applications, media tasks and multitasking. In our Blender 3D rendering test, a time of 39sec was recorded, while in our iTunes MP3 encoding test, a time of 45sec was achieved. Both times are the fastest we've seen from an Ultrabook in these tests to date, which isn't surprising given that this Portege also features the fastest CPU we've seen in an Ultrabook to date.
Heavier tasks also fared well. In our AutoGordianKnot DVD-to-Xvid conversion test, the Portege recorded a time of 49min, which is one minute faster than the ASUS Zenbook Prime and Sony VAIO T Series Ultrabooks that use the slightly slower 1.9GHz Core i7-3517U CPU. The graphics performance of the Portege was also expectedly faster, recording 5591 in 3DMark06, which is over 400 marks faster than the ASUS and over 1500 marks faster than the Sony.
The biggest surprise in our performance tests of the Portege Z930 came from its 256GB SSD, which recorded a massive 508.4 megabytes per second (MBps) in the CrystalDiskMark read test, and 245.8MBps in the write test. The read speed in this test is the fastest we've seen from an Ultrabook so far, although the write speed still falls a little short of the 256GB SSDs in the Zenbook Prime and Dell XPS 13 Ultrabooks. In our own file duplication tests, the SSD lived up to the fast CrystalDiskMark speeds, recording 137MBps, which is much faster than the ASUS, but slower than the Dell.
We found the overall responsiveness of the Portege Z930 to be excellent during regular usage, despite Toshiba having installed so many programs by default. Boot up time with the Toshiba factory image was only 17sec, while resume time from standby was less than 2sec. A lot of pop-ups pestered us while we used the laptop though, from programs such as Clickfree backup, Splashtop Streamer and a trial of Norton Internet Security, which will go away once you configure them — alternatively, you could just uninstall them. Microsoft Office Starter is also installed, as is the Google Chrome Web browser.
Battery life is generally an area where Toshiba laptops don't always fare well in our tests, but the Portege Z930 beat the odds. In our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the battery lasted exactly four hours. This is about half an hour better than the Dell XPS 13 and ASUS Zenbook Prime Ultrabooks, which have Core i7 CPUs (the Dell we tested had a second gen Sandy Bridge while the Zen had a third gen Ivy Bridge), but still not as good as the Sony VAIO T Series, which is another third gen Core i7-based Ultrabook and currently the longest-lasting model we've tested. During regular usage (Web browsing, document creation and watching the odd YouTube video), the Portege Z930 lasted about five and half hours — that was with a low brightness setting.
When under a full processing load, the Toshiba's fan kicked into high gear. It sounded a little unsettling as it ramped up. Depending on the workload you are running, and the ambient sound level of your environment, it could get annoying. Because it's such a thin laptop with a small fan and a relatively small vent to push air through, the noise is understandable; it's not as loud as some other Ultrabooks we've seen, such as the Fujitsu U772 and HP Envy Spectre XT. The good thing is that the dynamic control is very active and the fan will quickly slow down as soon as the processing load eases. During regular usage, such as Web browsing, watching videos and document creation, for example, the laptop remained mostly quiet and the fan was only heard seldomly.
A 13.3in matte screen resides in the Portege's aluminium lid (which is only 4mm thick on its own) and it has a native resolution of 1366x768, which is standard for a 13.3in Ultrabook, and a little disappointing for those of us who like to work with more pixels on above-standard screens. It has decent brightness and can be viewed easily in an office environment thanks to its non-reflective finish, but its viewing angles are quite narrow. We found ourselves tilting the screen quite often in order to get better colours and contrast. It's not a screen on which you can easily view photos, intricate graphs and movies, for example, without adjusting the angle, but it's fine for documents.
The keyboard has chiclet-style keys, which are well laid out and easy to hit, but they don't have much travel. They feel shallow, although they are reasonably soft. Eventually, we got used to them and found the keyboard to be good overall during long typing sessions. There is a column of Page, End and Home keys to the right of the Enter and Backspace keys, and there is a nice separation between the left and right arrow keys so that you can easily feel for them (however, the up and down arrows are close together). It's not a backlit keyboard though, and as users who often work at night, this is a drawback for us.
You get a Synaptics touchpad for navigation, which is 85x50cm and it supports multi-finger gestures. We had no problems using two-finger scrolling and three-finger flicking gestures, and the accuracy of the pad was good overall. We found its texture to be a little sticky though and would prefer the surface to be a little smoother. We aren't fans of the left- and right-cick buttons, which are set in a frame that makes them hard to feel for and a little difficult to press. Nestled in between them is the fingerprint reader.
The very light weight (1.1kg) and thin nature of the of the Portege Z930 (it's 16mm thick — 18mm thick when you take into account the rubber feet on the base) makes it one of the easiest notebooks on the Australian market to carry on a day-to-day basis — and it can comfortably be carried with one hand while you walk around the office, too. Not only that, it feels sturdy enough, it looks elegant and its power adapter is only 92mm long and 42mm wide (although the power cable is thick and requires attention while packing). But despite the thin and light design, the Portege Z930 features a good array of ports.
The right side is sparse with only one USB 3.0 port and the slot for the SIM card (there is also a cable lock facility on this side), and the left side is equally sparse, featuring only separate headphone and microphone ports and an SD card slot. The majority of the ports have been placed on the spine, and this is where you can find the full-sized HDMI port, Gigabit Ethernet, VGA, power and two more USB ports. Unfortunately, these two ports are only USB 2.0. We think this is a drawback, but we generally have more than one high-speed device that we plug in while we work. For many business users, the regular-speed ports may not be an inconvenience. In terms of layout, we like the location of the network port and video ports on the rear, as it keeps the cables out of the way.
Other features of the Portege Z930 include a built-in webcam, Blueooth and dual-band, 802.11n Wi-Fi (Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6235). The integrated 3G module is an Ericsson H5321gw, and we had no problems using our standard iiNet SIM card, which runs on the Optus network. The SIM slot on the right side can be opened relatively easily if you have adequate fingernails. Once we inserted our SIM card and then enabled the 3G module (via the Function-F8 key combination), a 3G network was available for us to connect to through Windows 7. The only thing we had to do was enter the correct APN for our account.
With good speed, a useful array of ports, integrated 3G and, of course, a slim and light chassis, it's hard to put down the Toshiba Portege Z930. It's a lovely Ultrabook to commute with on a daily basis and despite the thin profile, its keyboard isn't too bad to type on for long periods of time (once you get the hang of the shallow keys). The only problems are the screen, which can require lots of tilting to get the contrast right, the touchpad, which can feel a little sticky at times, and the lack of a backlight for the keyboard. We'd also like it if less software was installed by default. For what you pay, a better screen and a backlight would definitely be nice additions. That said, if you work during the day, you won't need the backlight, and while you're in the office, you can always plug in to a better screen.
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