IDF2011: Toshiba Z830 Ultrabook Hands On Preview

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Toshiba’s Portégé Z830 ultrabook is among the first crop of notebooks coming to market built upon Intel’s Ultrabook platform. Intel sees the ultrabook as the ideal computer that can be built using today’s technologies. Netbooks showed that the public was interested in having a light, portable computer – but they were, by and large, anything but thin.

Toshiba Portege Z830 Ultrabook Toshiba Portege Z830 Ultrabook

Apple’s MacBook Air has been an unqualified success. More importantly, however, is that it showed that the public is willing to pay a premium for portability – which means low weight and super thin stylings. Intel has taken that success and decided that there’s a whole new market niche just waiting to be exploited. After seeing the Toshiba Portégé Z830 ultrabook in person…they might just be right.

Be sure to check out our full gallery of images for the Toshiba Portege Z830 ultrabook here!

At first glance, the Z830 looks thicker than its most obvious rival, the MacBook Air.  And it is, but barely – most of the Air’s profile comes from the clever tapering that Apple introduced; it’s a good bit thicker than its razer thin margins might suggest. Instead, the Z830 doesn’t taper at all; the end result is that it doesn’t feel quite as ephemeral, but its 0.63-inch profile is more than sleek enough.

Toshiba Portege Z830 Ultrabook Toshiba Portege Z830 Ultrabook

The new Portégé is clad in a magnesium shell that almost feels like plastic at first touch. Not because it feels cheap, mind you – very little about the Z830 could be described as cheap. Rather, the whole notebook is extremely light. Despite being a full-sized, 13.3-inch computer, Toshiba’s first ultrabook weighs just 2.5 pounds. 

It’s so light, in fact, that it’s almost laughable. We were almost tossing around the ultrabook here at the show, simply because everyone was so incredulous at how light it feels. Despite being light, Toshiba still managed to pack in a lot of technology – you’ll be able to get models with Intel’s Core i3, Core i5 and Core i7 CPUs, up to 6GB of RAM, a 128GB solid state drive, a backlit and spill-resistant keyboard, and an LED-backlit 13.3-inch LCD panel with a resolution of 1366×768.

Toshiba Portege Z830 Ultrabook Toshiba Portege Z830 Ultrabook

Speaking of the screen, it’s probably the weakest part of the Portégé’s construction – and even it isn’t so bad. There is a substantial amount of frame flex in the screen, so that when you open the notebook up by one edge, you’ll be able to see the panel twist a bit as you open it up. Even though it flexes, you won’t need to worry about screen distortions – we pressed pretty hard on the back of the screen and not a single ripple popped up on the front.

Viewing angles weren’t quite as good, but we’ve seen worse. On the plus side, at least, the screen is entirely matte – you won’t find a glossy panel here. In the bright, sunlit hall, it was easy to read text and see video on the screen, and the the display wasn’t even at full brightness.

Toshiba Portege Z830 Ultrabook Toshiba Portege Z830 Ultrabook

The keyboard features an island style layout first seen in Sony’s Vaio notebooks, and popularized by Apple. Feedback is good; there was little flex and the keys responded quickly. Just below the keyboard was a nice enough trackpad – it felt like a Synaptics, but I can’t be certain – and a set of buttons. Fortunately, the buttons aren’t integrated into the trackpad button, but set below. Lenovo made the mistake of providing an integrated solution for their IdeaPad ultrabook, and there are significant problems with it (more on that in another post).

Inside of the Toshiba Portégé Z830 is a solid state drive, just like the rest of the ultrabook lineup. This drive, with its imperectibly low seek times, and superior drive throughput, makes the OS feel snappy indeed. The software, in this instance, was Windows 7, but Windows 8 was seen on the Z830 on stage. Putting the computer to sleep by shutting the lid was snappy, but the wake up times were less so. It was faster than many notebooks on the market, but it definitely doesn’t respond as quickly as the Air. We’ll be able to get definitive sleep and boot times once we get a shipped unit in house for a review.

Toshiba Portege Z830 Ultrabook Toshiba Portege Z830 Ultrabook

In terms of the overall package, Toshiba’s new Z830 ultrabook model can definitely serve as the spokesbook for the Intel platform. It is excitingly thin, incredibly light, and quite possibly the herald of notebook computing’s next wave of technology. Given the lilliputian nature of these computers, manufacturers will have to work hard to add sufficiently diverse options that draw buyers in.

Stay tuned for our continued coverage of the Intel Developer Forum 2011 here in San Francisco, and be sure to check out DesktopReview for our latest IDF news.

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