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

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?

Build quality and user comfort

Because it's so light, the build quality of the Portege R830 feels weak at first, but after you scrutinise it you realise that it's actually a strongly-built notebook. Its chassis is made out of magnesium alloy, so it's very sturdy. There is some give in the palm rest when you press down hard on it, but you really have to apply a lot of force to cause damage; even when pressing down with an abnormal amount of pressure on the side where the optical drive and SD card slot are installed, we didn't end up breaking anything.

The screen is surprisingly strong, too, considering how thin it is. We applied plenty of torsional movement to it and only small puddles appeared on the screen. The only thing that's unsettling about the build quality is the fact that we can see the wires that connect the chassis to the screen. These are visible in the little gap between the chassis and the hinges. We wish they weren't.

Strip show: see inside the Portege R600.

The chiclet keyboard is spill resistant and it feels solid, but its keys could use a little more travel and better responsiveness. We're also disappointed that the keyboard isn't backlit, which puts it a step behind the ultraportable offerings from Lenovo and Samsung. All up, it's not a great keyboard, but we didn't end up making more typos than usual while using it.

The touchpad is a good size (85x51mm) and it worked very well in our tests. It feels smooth, responsive, and it supports gestures. It allowed us to easily scroll, pinch and rotate using two fingers, and also to flick back and forth using three fingers. We're not fans of its left- and right-click buttons though, as they are small and feel awkward.

Connectivity and other features

Nestled between the buttons is the fingerprint reader, which can be used to log in to the system and also to access Web sites that require a login, although that feature only works with Internet Explorer, which is unfortunate. Unlike the fingerprint reader on the Lenovo ThinkPad X1, you can't use the Portege's fingerprint reader to power on and log in to the system with one swipe. You can, however, change a setting in its BIOS to make the laptop power on as soon as the lid is lifted, which is convenient. The Portege took only 21sec to boot, and that includes the time it took to swipe our finger at the login screen and get to the Windows desktop — that's even faster than the Thinkpad.

The Portege includes Intel's vPro technology, 802.11n dual-band Wi-Fi, a webcam, Bluetooth, TPM 1.2 and a built-in 3G broadband modem (Ericsson F5521gw), which had no problems recognising our SIM cards. Around the edges of the Portege's thin base, you'll find a DVD burner (hey, they do come in handy sometimes), Gigabit Ethernet, an SD card reader, microphone and headphone ports, VGA, HDMI, eSATA (which doubles as a USB 2.0 port) and two USB ports. One USB port is USB 2.0, while the other is USB 3.0. They all support Sleep-and-Charge, which means you can charge your iPhone or Android-based phone through the laptop, even while it's powered off.

Battery life

The battery installed in the Portege has six cells with a 66 Watt-hour rating and it sits in the spine. It's removable, unlike the battery in the Lenovo and Samsung 13.3in ultraportables, and it can supply a long life away from a power outlet. In our rundown test, in which we disable power management, maximise screen brightness, enable Wi-Fi and loop an Xvid-encoded video, the laptop lasted 5hr 12min, which is an excellent result. If you only use the laptop for creating documents and you turn the screen brightness all the way down, it can last over seven hours. Toshiba's Eco utility is supplied, which allows you to use an extreme power profile to prolong its life further.

One thing that was inconvenient was the very long charging time for the battery. Unlike the ThinkPad, the Portege doesn't have a rapid charge feature — it took around half a work day to fully charge the battery. This could be a problem if you need to quickly charge it before going on the road, but the benefit of the removable design is that you can always carry a spare with you just in case.

Conclusion

All up, the Toshiba Portege 830 is undeniably good. It possesses great performance and excellent battery life, it's strongly built, it has an optical drive, and it's comfortable to use overall. We wish it had more premium features though, such as a backlit keyboard and an ambient light sensor. We'd also like a more vibrant screen, keys with better travel and responsiveness, and more versatile fingerprint reader software. That said, we think it's a great laptop for anyone who wants a light and easily mobile solution with exceptional performance, features and build quality.

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