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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