Review

Review: Toshiba Portege R830 laptop

When choosing a laptop, an individual has many choices. Do they want a desktop replacement, something thin and light, budget friendly, or a top tier laptop with all the bells and whistles?  Toshiba sent Neowin one of their latest laptops, the Protégé R830 (MSRP $1649), for review.

The R830 is from their business class lineup but at the same time is a well rounded machine that nearly anyone could get used to using on a daily basis. The specs for the particular machine that we reviewed are the following: Intel® Core™ i7-2620M processor, Mobile Intel® HD Graphics, 1-ExpressCard™ /54 slot, 1-USB (2.0) port, 1-eSATA/USB (2.0) combo port with Sleep and Charge*, 1-USB (3.0) port, HDMI output, 4GB DDR3 1333MHz memory, 128GB Solid State Drive (Serial ATA, SSD), DVD RW, 13.3" widescreen LCD monitor with a 16:9 aspect ratio at a resolution of 1366x768, webcam and microphone built into LCD bezel, and a 6 Cell battery (65W).

At a high level view, the laptop appears to be a serious competitor in the thin and light segment. But in an already congested market, does this machine fit the bill for a daily workhorse or is it simply another mundane laptop in an already blurry marketplace?

Design:

The R830 is a beautiful and simplistic looking machine. There are no fancy designs on the lid, it’s not an outrageous color but it is made of a high quality magnesium casing, something that feels great in your hands.

The minimalistic design looks top tier on this machine; the quality external materials have a fit and finish that plastic laptops envy.  There is also a honeycomb structure to support the laptop for durability and the keyboard is spill resistant.

Keyboard/Trackpad:

The keyboard on the R830 is one area that the laptop comes up a bit short. The keys are a bit smaller than a full sized keyboard that, at first, makes the setup feel a bit cramped. After extended use you adjust to the smaller keyboard but those with excessively large fingers may find the layout a bit troubling. The keys are also glossy in appearance and feel a bit slippery upon first use; a more textured surface, as well as a backlight, would improve the keyboard. Having said that, we typed this entire review on the keyboard and it didn’t present any major barriers to entry.

The trackpad is a middle of the road feature: It did not excite nor did it disappoint. One nice addition is the button right above the trackpad that allows you to quickly disable the device. On occasion your palm will run over the trackpad while typing causing a few disheartened moments when you have to readjust the pointer but with the addition of the hardware button, this is an easy obstacle to overcome. 

Display:

The 13.3 in LCD running at 1366x768 provided adequate results that will satisfy but not excite. The display is well rounded in its color saturation as well as response time. The vertical viewing angels are a little less than desired as the colors will quickly wash out but this can be adjusted by titling the screen. The horizontal viewing angels were better than the vertical and provided a satisfactory experience for slightly off center viewing.

Audio:

Laptop speakers have always served a small role in the overall function of the laptop. Because of the tiny space allotted to the speakers, they perform marginally well. The R830 is no different in that the speakers work for basic functions but turn them up over 50% and they quickly begin to decline in quality. This is a relatively standard affair for laptop speakers. The R830 speakers get the job done but if you want to listen to music, bring along a pair of earbuds.

Battery Life:

As with any laptop, especially those in the thin and light category, battery life is a crucial part of the experience. Fortunately, the R830 provides exceptional performance. While Toshiba rates it up to 11 hours of run time, after several days of use we are averaging roughly 9.25 hours of battery life. This was using the machine for basic internet usage such as web browsing, video streaming, and email; the R830 delivered on all fronts.

Software:

As with any Windows based machine, it has its own bloatware installed. The list is the usual suspects of antivirus software, browser bars and more. It took about 30 minutes to remove all of the bloat to get the R830 back to a stock-like configuration.

Performance:

As with any laptop, performance is key. Fortunately this little machine packs the goods inside. With a Core i7 and an SSD, performance is exceptional. Cold boot time came in at 20 seconds on average over three different boots.

The lack of a discrete graphics chip is a bit of a downer, but this is a business machine at heart and for that, Excel, Word, and PowerPoint will all run like a dream on this machine. If you stream a lot of 1080P content though, the machine does stutter a bit due to the lack of a dedicated card. Streaming 720P content was without issue and for videoconferencing, the R830 will hold its own with ease.

Conclusion:

The R830, with its i7 and SSD inside, has superior performance. Add in the tastefully designed exterior, plethora of port options (including USB 3.0) and DVD drive to boot, make for a well rounded machine. The R830 is not perfect: the keyboard needs a bit of refinement and would benefit from back lighting at this price point.

With all of that said, the R830 is an incredible machine. For Business and most consumers, you will be exceptionally happy with this laptop as long as video editing is not on your agenda. The R830 is a viable competitor in the thin and light arena and should be on your shortlist if you are in the market for a new machine.

8.75/10

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22 Comments

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We've just started getting these in for staff in our department. We've been buying the i5 model (no 3G) with 4GB RAM and a 320GB regular HDD. I'm very impressed with them so far. they seem well built (better than previous Toshiba's we've had in). We've also been getting the Tecra R840 and R850 which are in the same style as this, but I think the Portege is a cut above these. I guess because its smaller it feels more robust and solid (not that the Tecra's dont feel equally as good).

From the corporate point of view, an Operating System Image from the Portege should (according to XMA and Toshiba) be fully compatible with the Tecra R840 and R850, so businesses that want to offer a small range of different laptops to their employees with minimum setup and fuss, this might be worth considering.

One thing that doesn't say in this review is that this laptop can become extremely hot! To the point of burning your legs if you have it resting in your lap. I guess a core i7 on a laptop this thin & light has its cons.

Streaming 1080p video, i would think that's more an issue of the bandwidth rather than graphics cards. Playing a local 1080p video should be easy as pie even. Done plenty of times on a Core 2 Duo and a Intel x3100 that i had in my Thinkpad T61.

SHoTTa35 said,
Streaming 1080p video, i would think that's more an issue of the bandwidth rather than graphics cards. Playing a local 1080p video should be easy as pie even. Done plenty of times on a Core 2 Duo and a Intel x3100 that i had in my Thinkpad T61.
I was a bout to comment on the same statement. It shows lack of comprehension about how streaming and video processing works.

For video processing, the Intel HD Graphics 2000 and 3000 are more than capable. Streaming 1080p and 720p, even while transcoding it, the issue must be bandwidth capability on the network, not processing power. With enough bandwidth, you can transcode and stream 1080p content even with old Core 2 Duo's using the processor alone even without graphics card/chip processing the content.

I have an OCZ SSD that gets a 7.9 on the richter scale. It is PATHETIC that todays laptops resolutions aren't higher than 1366 for that kind of dough. I had been using my Toshiba for months with the bloatware installed, and it was the most unstable Windows 7 machine I had, and I have a LOT of computers. As soon as I did a fresh install of Windows 7, this thing started behaving like a champ! Toshiba should be ashamed to install, get this, 22 different pieces of Toshiba labeled utilities and hardware "helpers" on their comptuers. Disgusting. But like I said, I now love this laptop after the fresh install of Win 7. Wakes up in 2 seconds, gets great battery life. My next laptop computer I am buying right from the Microsoft store. I have had it with the PC makers renditions of the desktop experience. Sad really, and it doesn't have to be that way.

jimmyfal said,
I have an OCZ SSD that gets a 7.9 on the richter scale. It is PATHETIC that todays laptops resolutions aren't higher than 1366 for that kind of dough. I had been using my Toshiba for months with the bloatware installed, and it was the most unstable Windows 7 machine I had, and I have a LOT of computers. As soon as I did a fresh install of Windows 7, this thing started behaving like a champ! Toshiba should be ashamed to install, get this, 22 different pieces of Toshiba labeled utilities and hardware "helpers" on their comptuers. Disgusting. But like I said, I now love this laptop after the fresh install of Win 7. Wakes up in 2 seconds, gets great battery life. My next laptop computer I am buying right from the Microsoft store. I have had it with the PC makers renditions of the desktop experience. Sad really, and it doesn't have to be that way.

Totally Agree, I purchased my First Toshiba Laptop 4 years ago while I worked at Staples and the amount of useless bloat it came with was outstanding. Since switching it over to Win7 it runs a lot better. May I add the bloat is now gone. 4 Years and the Laptop is still kicking. Although I am extremely glad I had purchased the Warranty the Hard Drive died once, the motherboard/video card had died twice the Webcam had stopped working currently the speakers have blown (Too much bass)

I am extremely skeptical of Manufactured laptops these days. I hope Microsoft would just make its own hardware and add its software to it.

Having used 1680x1050px displays for a few years now, it would be impossible for me to ever buy a laptop with anything less than 1600x900px. Even mundane tasks like editing Word documents or Excel spreadsheets are much easier when you can see more on the display.

When I'm buying my next machine, every spec I see with 1366x768 or 1200x800 will be automatically rejected. IMO the screen is a dealbreaker as much as abysmal battery life or flimsy construction, simply because you're going to be staring at it for hundreds if not thousands of hours in the lifetime of the machine. I'm disappointed that business-class laptops like this aren't sporting higher quality displays, and I think reviews should take note whenever a bargain-basement piece of hardware is used.

Relativity_17 said,
Having used 1680x1050px displays for a few years now, it would be impossible for me to ever buy a laptop with anything less than 1600x900px. Even mundane tasks like editing Word documents or Excel spreadsheets are much easier when you can see more on the display.

When I'm buying my next machine, every spec I see with 1366x768 or 1200x800 will be automatically rejected. IMO the screen is a dealbreaker as much as abysmal battery life or flimsy construction, simply because you're going to be staring at it for hundreds if not thousands of hours in the lifetime of the machine. I'm disappointed that business-class laptops like this aren't sporting higher quality displays, and I think reviews should take note whenever a bargain-basement piece of hardware is used.


I think exactly like you... Plus I see this laptop kind of overpriced for the specs, even though is an ultra light notebook. I would have ditched the SSD which would have lowered the price instantaneously and get me a Core i5 instead an i7, (For business purposes only...). And the laptop could have perfectly fit a range from 1,000 - 1,200 US$ (who knows maybe less).

Relativity_17 said,
Having used 1680x1050px displays for a few years now, it would be impossible for me to ever buy a laptop with anything less than 1600x900px. Even mundane tasks like editing Word documents or Excel spreadsheets are much easier when you can see more on the display.

When I'm buying my next machine, every spec I see with 1366x768 or 1200x800 will be automatically rejected. IMO the screen is a dealbreaker as much as abysmal battery life or flimsy construction, simply because you're going to be staring at it for hundreds if not thousands of hours in the lifetime of the machine. I'm disappointed that business-class laptops like this aren't sporting higher quality displays, and I think reviews should take note whenever a bargain-basement piece of hardware is used.

I like the idea of high resolution displays but on a 13.3" screen.. I think a magnifying glass is required for anything higher...

I loved mine when bought it from Best Buy.

It lasted until Monday from Friday before the hard drive failed to boot anymore. It sat on my desk the entire weekend.

I called technical support who demanded I send it in to repair (up to a month total time). I told them that was insane to send my BRAND NEW laptop in for a month.

I told them they could send me another HD because that's crazy for a three day old laptop that I would clone it and send the old back. They refused to do this, I even escalated to a manager who agreed with me 100% but wouldn't do anything.

You could say it was Hitachi's fault but I say it was Toshiba's fault for not fixing the situation. I'll never buy another Toshiba product ever again because of that.

I returned the laptop, after fighting Best Buy on a re-stock fee because the thing wouldn't boot (apparently Geek Squad doesn't understand 0x00007).

Really high spec with intel graphics? That's like organising a royal wedding for 2 random production line workers...

n_K said,
Really high spec with intel graphics? That's like organising a royal wedding for 2 random production line workers...

Agree...I don't understand how they could build such a powerful computer with crappy graphics. Business/no business, get with the times people =P

Quick Shot said,

Agree...I don't understand how they could build such a powerful computer with crappy graphics. Business/no business, get with the times people =P

I always choose an integrated system with my laptops as i don't need 1GB ATI card sucking battery life away from me to do actual work. My point of getting a business thin and light system is so I can be and stay mobile. If i have to find an outlet every 4hrs then i'm not really mobile. I don't need graphics work when doing "Office" documents or Skype back to the office. I can't say i'd actually be outside to get my game on as the sunlight washing out the screen would just ruin the experience. Photoshop work on a 13-15"? Yeah, not happening either. I'd much rather wait till i'm back to my 27".

Now those are my thoughts and needs. Surely they aren't the needs of everyone but I can't see the point of super powerful GPU on a 13" system? Then again who needs a Core i7 also for Word/Excel? I guess it's more a selling point however for the people that still believe in the Mhz myths (or in this case, Core i7 myths )

Quick Shot said,

Agree...I don't understand how they could build such a powerful computer with crappy graphics. Business/no business, get with the times people =P

Why would a business user want a video card they're not going to use that is going to suck more life from the battery and increase the cost of the machine?

If you're not going to play games then Intel graphics is excellent. And even then the Intel graphics will play games like Word of Warcraft and Team Fortress 2 just fine.