The best thing about Toshiba’s first Ultrabook effort is the simple elegance of the notebook’s design. A brushed aluminum exterior makes this lightweight laptop feel as classy as it is portable.
The slim form factor easily slips in a brief case or messenger bag for easy accessibility. Riding the subway to work, it’s easy to pull out this 13-inch screen, plop it on your lap and start working away. Lugging it around is easy, with this Protégé feeling like a feather compared to typical business-issue laptops. Toshiba promotes it as the “world’s lightest 13” laptop” and its lack of heft is the first thing many notice when handling the device.
Toshiba Protégé Z830 – At a glance
- CPU: Intel Core i3 (1.4 Ghz, 3MB cache)
- Memory: 4 GB DDR3, upgradeable to 6 GB
- Hard disk: 128 GB SSD
- Screen: 13.3-inch with native resolution 1366×768
- Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 3000
- Size & Weight: 2.47 lbs.
- Visit Toshiba’s product page on the Protege Z830
Typing on the Chiclet-style keyboard is mostly intuitive – it is full-sized after all, with Ultrabooks not needing to save on space in the same way that Netbooks did with shrunken QWERTY arrangements. But there are a couple of quirks to get used to; the left Shift key and the Return key aren’t full-sized, making them a bit harder to find with your pinky. The space bar seems a bit stubborn, sometimes not responding to a firm click.
The keyboard is billed as spill resistant, but we didn’t want to put that to the test at the risk of destroying our review unit. The keys are backlit by LEDs to make typing in the dark doable.
There’s no dedicated number pad or media buttons, though these are available as secondary functions by holding the Fn key. Toshiba has made available a hardware button to cycle through your display configurations, or set the computer into a power-saving “eco” mode, complete with graphical display of your watt usage.
Toshiba’s trackpad steals a page from Apple’s MacBooks with multi-touch features. Simply pinch your fingers together or push them apart to zoom in and out on a Web page or a document. Gliding your finger vertically along the right-hand side of the track pad allows you to scroll up and down a page.
Interface and performance
Much like the MacBook Air, the Protégé Ultrabook excludes a disc drive in favour of a slender profile. But a good array ports are available to connect with other hardware and media. There is a SD card slot, three USB ports (including one that is USB 3.0), a computer monitor out, HDMI out, an Ethernet port, and a headphone and microphone jacks.
The HDMI out provides a great way to enjoy movies on your notebook’s hard drive or video streamed from the Internet. Connecting it to a flat panel screen is trouble-free, and the monitor is duplicated at the appropriate resolution on screen as soon as the cable is connected. Though closing the Ultrabook’s screen caused the system to go to into standby, rather than continuing to play on the external monitor only.
Running a demo of newly released PC game Mass Effect 2 pushed the Ultrabook to its limits. After a warning from the game that the machines’ specs were not ideal for gameplay, it launched into a smooth-running experience at a lower 800×600 resolution with black bars on either side of the screen. Attempting to boost the resolution to a higher, widescreen setting resulted in the game crashing and a forced close. But older classic Portal runs seamlessly at the notebook’s native, HD resolution.
The Protégé Z830 includes a Web camera and comes with Skype installed to make it ready for video conferencing out of the box. A sleep mode that continues to deliver power to your USB ports means you can use this as a charging hub whether it is plugged into the wall, or running on battery life.
I found the battery life to not be as advertised on this Ultrabook. While Toshiba promises eight hours, using the notebook for intensive tasks often depletes its juice at a much faster rate. I found an hour of Mass Effect drained the battery from 30 per cent to near zero, and I had to plug in to the wall or else risk losing my unsaved game progress (a tragedy, if there ever was one).
The Toshiba Protégé Z830 Ultrabook is a pleasure to use with its elegant design and compact, lightweight form factor. But an awkward keyboard, a battery life that doesn’t quite meet expectations, and a price tag that begins at $1,149 in Canada leave you wanting more. An upgrade to Intel’s i5 processor will bring the Z830 up to $1,399, and for the i7, it’s $1,549.
If you’re looking to jump on board Intel’s Ultrabooks train, I’d wait until some more developed models are released next year. Expect to see some Ultrabooks with a touch screen, for example.