Ultrabooks, with their super slim designs and light weight, are among the most sought after notebooks right now. If you want the least expensive Ultrabook being offered right now, here it is – the Toshiba Z835-P330. The Z835 sports an Ultra Low Voltage Core i3 CPU and SSD for a very low price. Measuring 2/3rds of an inch thick, and weighing under two and half pounds, it’s remarkably portable. The downside of being the least expensive of any product is there’s usually a trade-off or several to keep the cost down. Did Toshiba make the right nip and tucks to come up with a good Ultrabook or is the sum less than the parts? Read on to find out.
The specifications of the Toshiba under review are:
- Model: 13” Portege Z835-P330
- Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium
- CPU: Intel 1.4GHz Core i3-2367M (3MB L2 Cache 1333MHz FSB) 17w
- Chipset: Intel HM65
- Memory: 4GB DDR 1333MHz
- Hard Drives: Toshiba 128GB SSD(THNSNB128GMCJ)
- Screen: Toshiba 13.3” Glossy 1366×768(TOS5091)
- Graphics: Intel HD3000 Integrated
- Network: Intel 1000 B/G/N and Intel Gigabit Ethernet Port
- Inputs: Six Row Keyboard and TrackPad w/Buttons
- Three USB – Two USB 2.0 (One Powered) and One USB 3.0
- Headphone and Microphone Jacks
- HDMI and VGA
- SD Card Reader
- Battery: 47W 8-Cell
- Dimensions: Width 12.44”, Depth 8.94” and Height .33”(Front)/.64”(Rear)
- Weight: 2.4 Pounds
- Warranty: One Year
- Cost: $699 plus tax (on sale at time of purchase)
The Z835 was purchased at Best Buy on sale for the tidy sum of $699 plus tax, which means it should cost around $750 out the door unless you’re in one of those sales tax free states. A quick Google search shows it retailing for a little over $800 at most other places and the price is back up to $799 at Best Buy now.
Design and Build
The Z835 has a plain understated look. There’s nothing flashy about it at all, but then again, it doesn’t say steal me either. It has a brushed like slate gray plastic case material, top and bottom, with a Toshiba logo centered on the lid. There’s a couple silver accents at the rear of the notebook. When I initially saw the Z835 the first thought that popped into my head was it looked like a Nintendo GameBoy, with the accent buttons looking like the shoulder buttons on a GameBoy.
|The Toshiba 0.65” thick Z835 next to a 0.93” thick Sony VAIO SA|
When you open the lid you get a black chiclet style keyboard, nothing special there, and more brushed slate gray plastic for the palm rest and LCD bezel. You also get some silver trimmed mouse buttons. Toshiba located all the indicator lights below the touchpad. It seemed an odd spot to pick since if you’re using the touchpad your hand might block them. Most of the connectors are located on the rear of the Z835 with the exception of the USB 3.0 (right side) and the SD card reader (left side). That seems to make sense for the HDMI port, but since you’ve only got one USB port on the side, it could be an inconvenience if you want to plug in more than one USB device.
When I pulled the Z835 out of the box, I thought there’s no way this thing is slimmer and lighter than the Air. I hadn’t used the Air in a week or so, but when I put them back to back, sure enough, they were within a millimeter or so of each other. Despite what the specs say, I think the Air was the mm slimmer. Just when you think nothing can get lighter than the Air in the 13” segment, Toshiba managed to make the Z835 even lighter. The Z835 weighs around 2.45lbs while the MacBook Air is 2.95lbs. The Air feels denser and more solid, but the Toshiba feels noticeably lighter.
The Z835 weighs 2lbs 6.6 ounces
The MBA is 2lbs 15.1 ounces
The Z835 does appear to be fairly solid despite the plastic case. The underlying frame feels mostly rigid. Flex is minimal when handling it. It’s not as stiff as the MacBook Air, but the Air has the unibody construction that makes it much more rigid. There are a few spots like the right palm rest and the lid which have a bit of give. The Z835 uses a single hinge for LCD, which runs along the back. The hinge is firm and doesn’t move during usage, but is small. One wonders how that’ll hold up to three years of opening and closing. The lid is latchless, but always stayed in place.
Display and Sound
The Z835 has a 13.3” LED TN panel. It is a Toshiba made screen, model TOS5091. It has a resolution of 1366×768 and a glossy surface. I don’t have the brightness specifications, but I’d guess about 200 nits. It’s not as bright as my ThinkPad X220i, which is rated at 300 nits. There are eight levels of brightness, which can be controlled via the keyboard. I thought all the brightness levels were at least usable, though a bit tough on the lower levels. The gloss on the Z835 is about average for glossy screens. It’s glossier than say an Air and can get annoying at times, but I’ve seen worse. The screen itself has a distinct blueish hue to it. It’s blue out of the box, but that can probably be reduced with calibration if you’re inclined. The screen looks pretty good. It’s crisp and colors are acceptable, if a bit blue.
There’s a big catch however, the angles are narrow, more narrow than a typical TN panel, which are usually already narrow to begin with. Any adjustment in position can cause the colors to go out of whack. If you’re using it on a desk, it’s probably not as big an issue, but if you’re lazing on the couch with it, frequent adjustments may be needed to maintain an optimal viewing angle.
Below you can see in the top row the Toshiba Z835 with the screen perpendicular (straight up), tilted back and then side angled to get an idea of how colors change with angle:
And below is a lineup of the MacBook Air (13.3”), Toshiba Z835 (13.3”) and then Lenovo ThinkPad X220 (12.5”) with IPS screen all lined up:
I have four notebooks in my possession right now – the ThinkPads X220i and R60e, the Z835 and a MacBook Air. Of those four, I think the Z835 has the best speakers, though not by a large margin. That’s probably not saying much. The R60e has a single speaker and the others are ultraportables, which never sound great to begin with. The speakers sit just over the front lip of the Z835 on the underside of the notebook, which usually isn’t an indicator of good sound. The Z835 is fine for a movie or music, but anything beyond that is pushing it.
CPU, Performance and Storage
The Z835 in this review uses an Intel Sandy Bridge i3 Ultra Low Voltage processor, though there are other Z835s with the ULV i5 and i7 CPUs if you’re willing to open your wallet a little wider. Getting the i3 means no turbo boost is offered on the Z835, but the emphasis for the Z835 is portability more so than performance. Performance on the Z835 is good, unless you’re doing heavy processor intensive tasks. The i3 will work, but will be a little slower at crunching the numbers than the i5 or i7. I was able to listen to music, run benchmarks and type some documents without any complaint from the Z835. To get a sense of the performance, I coded a .VOB file using Handbrake on the Z835 and the ThinkPad X220i, which has a i3-2310M CPU. The Toshiba took 7:07 to code the file while the X220i ran it in 4:54. The GeekBench numbers seem to bear out the Handbrake performance:
To keep Ultrabooks slim, manufacturers use SSD for storage. The Z835 uses a Toshiba SSD (THNSNB128GMCJ) and it has 128GB of storage. After accounting for Windows and the installed software, and the recovery partition, there was 105GB of space available when I received the Z835. The SSD does a nice job of offsetting the slower performance of the CPU. Applications opened quickly and the boot time on the Z835 was just over 20 seconds. The boot times and snappy application launch times are probably more important to the Z835′s users than processing power.
To give an idea of overall system performance the benchmark PCMark Vantage was run, the Z835-P330 got a score of 5,895 and had comparable scores to some Intel Core i5 equipped laptops thanks to its SSD:
|Laptop||PCMark Vantage Score|
|Toshiba Portege Z835-P330 (Intel 1.4GHz Core i3-2367M, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)||5,895 PCMarks|
|HP Folio 13 (Intel Core i5-2467M 1.60GHz, Intel HD3000, 4GB RAM, 128GB SSD)||9,026 PCMarks|
|Sony VAIO SA (Intel Core i5-2430M 2.50GHz, AMD Radeon 6630M, 4GB RAM)||7,007 PCMarks|
|Dell Vostro 1440 (Intel Core i3-370M, Intel HD, 6GB RAM)||4,931 PCMarks|
|Lenovo IdeaPad Y470 – Intel Core i7-2630qm, Nvidia 550M 1GB, 8GB RAM, Intel SSD||12,160 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM||6,056 PCMarks|
|Dell Vostro 3450 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30Ghz, 4GB RAM||5,901 PCMarks|
|Dell Inspiron N411z – Intel Core i3-2330m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM||5,285 PCMarks|
|Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM||3,204 PCMarks|
Keyboard and TouchPad
The Z835 has a six row chiclet style keyboard. Toshiba says the keyboard is spill resistant like a ThinkPad, but when I looked on the bottom, there doesn’t seem to be any holes for the liquid to drain. I wonder where spilled liquid is supposed to go? Like most ultrabooks I’ve seen the key depth is a bit shallow because they’re so thin. The key depth seemed a little better than the Air, but this is offest by the fact that the Air is firmer and it uses a nicer material to make the keys. Despite being very thin there a bit of flex in the keyboard when you get going on it. The keyboard on the Z835 is backlit. You cannot adjust the light levels, it’s either on or off.
The touchpad on the Z835 is smooth. It’s a Synaptic touchpad. It’s about average for a notebook of its size, measuring about 3.25” across and 1.75” top to bottom. The touchpad worked well. Dragging your finger across the pad works effortlessly with no hesitation. It has some gestures like two finger scrolling and pinch to zoom, but Toshiba decided not to turn two finger scrolling on by default. I had to enable it in the mouse configuration utility to get it to work. The touchpad itself can be turned off or on with a button located above the pad. The touchpad buttons felt kind of cheap. They made of a shiny silver metal. When pressing them I could feel the click and they were a bit noisy. I know I am more sensitive to this than other users, but a thought worth noting if you’re like me.
The Z835 has an 8-cell 47w battery. As is the case with all Ultrabooks, the battery is located enclosed inside the case and cannot be replaced by the end user. You’ll need to send it to Toshiba or take it to a service center if there’s one nearby to have the battery replaced. Searching around Toshiba’s website doesn’t reveal any information about how that process would work. With the screen set to half brightness with WiFi on doing normal stuff like surfing the web, watching a movie and typing up some documents, I was able to get five hours and nine minutes battery life from the Z835 before it went to sleep. That’s a bit short of the Air, but considering the Air cost nearly twice as much, it’s not too shabby.
Heat & Noise
Heat levels on the Z835 were impressively cool. It stayed cool to the touch, even when coding video or running benchmarks. The only part that got a little warm was around the fan. The fan sits on the bottom, which may be an issue if you want to use it on your lap as the vent would be blocked.
The noise levels were less impressive. The fan on the Z835 I got has a dull grind/hum to it. It starts when you turn on the machine and doesn’t stop until it’s shut down or goes to sleep. This is true whether it’s just sitting there doing nothing or running the CPU at the max. It’s not so loud that it can’t be drowned out by other noise like music or conversation, but if you’re using it in a quiet room, it can be irritating. A little poking around the Internet revealed this is not an uncommon problem with both the Z and R series Toshiba notebooks. It can vary to some degree from one machine to the next, but Toshiba has yet to offer any sort of fix for the issue.
Ports, Connections and Networking
If there’s an area where the Z835 excels, it’s in the port selection. For being such a thin machine, Toshiba does a great job giving users just about every port a typical user would want. Most of the ports are on the back of the machine, which is unusual these days. You’ve got three USB ports including a power USB port and USB 3.0 port. You’ve also got HDMI, a Card Reader, Ethernet and VGA. Perhaps the only thing missing is in an ExpressCard slot, but that’s minor in my opinion. On the left side of the Z835 is the headphone and microphone jacks, and the SD Card Reader.
The back of the Z835 has the Ethernet port, power jack, HDMI and two USB ports – one powered.
The right side of the Z835 has a single USB 3.0 port. I guess you’re out of luck if you’re a southpaw.
The Z835 comes with the Intel 1000 wireless and an Intel Ethernet port. The wireless worked well at both home and work. The Z835 also comes with WiDi. WiDi allows you to connect your laptop to your WiDi enabled TV (or using a WiDi Adapter) and play videos on your TV from the Z835 wirelessly.
The Z835 comes with Windows 7 Home Premium x64. Toshiba does have some nice utilities on the Z835. There’s disc burning software, though no burner, some diagnostic tools to analyze any problems you may have down the road and a tool to make recovery media either via either a USB drive or optical drive. Toshiba also offers Eco. It’s a battery life utility and has all sorts of options that allow you to maximize your battery life. There’s even a nice GUI to show you how you were doing:
One other nifty touch is when you press the FN key, an overlay pops up showing what all the function do. It’s nice for someone new to the machine like myself. Toshiba has supplied the Z835 with facial recognition software. Once set up you don’t even to type your password in. Unfortunately, you have to hold the screen about 10” away from your face before it’s close enough to recognize your face. If it was sitting on a desk, it would be too far away to identify you. You also have to move your head from side to side. I thought it was just easier to type the password in.
For a consumer based machine, the bloatware on the Z835 was minimal. There’s Office, the extremely annoying Norton and Google Toolbar, but that’s it. You should need only a few minutes to remove them. The Z835 was purchased at Best Buy. Best Buy was nice enough to put their own software on it that opens up every time you turn on the machine. How thoughtful.
Warranty & Support
The Z835 comes with a one year hardware warranty from Toshiba. This would include software support and is pretty standard for a consumer based machine. The warranty is a depot warranty, meaning you’ll have to mail it to Toshiba for any hardware service. Since I was having noise issues with the fan I decided to call Toshiba support and see what they had to say about it. I called on a Thursday afternoon. After navigating through the menu, I was pleasantly surprised I only spent about 15 seconds on hold. The agent took my info and inquired about my issue. Without too much consideration Toshiba gave me two options – reformat or send the machine in to have the fan replaced. While the agent was cordial, and seemed to want to help and give me information, it seemed a little heavy-handed to go right to reformat before trying anything else, but I suppose that’s the state of tech support these days.
The Z835 has some nice attributes. It’s incredibly thin and light, easy on the wallet, has a large port selection and gets good battery life. It also has some quality that may give you pause like the below average screen, limited upgrade potential, though this is true for most ultraportables, and I think most important is the noisy fan. I know some people are less sensitive to the fan issue, but to me it’s a livability issue. Do you want a fan that’s on constantly in the background? I wouldn’t. I suppose one could keep taking it back to Best Buy until you get a quiet one. There are other notebooks that offer better value and are in the same ballpark cost wise. I would direct you to the ThinkPad X220. It’s a bit heavier and thicker, but better built, quiet and has a gorgeous IPS screen. It can also be had for around the same price as the Z835, but if your goal is to have the thinnest lightest ultrabook for a minimum of cost, the Z835 fits that profile.
- Uh, Price
- Large Port Selection, including USB 3.0 and Ethernet
- Snappy Performance with ULV CPUs and SSDs
- Good Battery Life
- Decent Build Quality
- Stiff Noisy Trackpad Buttons
- No Upgrades for Hard Drive, Battery or Memory
- Below Average Screen
- Noisy Fan
Where to Buy