- Strong build quality
- Built-in optical drive and docking station support
- Runs cool and quiet
- Great pointing stick
- Boring design
- Anemic, low-resolution display as reviewed
- Keyboard needs more feedback
In an era dominated by Ultrabooks, Toshiba’s more traditional Portegé R30 stands almost alone as one of the few 13.3″ notebooks to use a “full wattage” Intel processor and include a built-in optical drive. Those extra features make the R30 slightly thicker and heavier than Ultrabooks yet this laptop still has comparable battery life. The R30 excels at serving its limited audience of demanding mobile professionals, but we wish it had a more attractive design and a lower price.
Build and Design
The Portegé R30’s business-like appearance is about as generic as they come. Weighing 3.33 pounds and measuring 1.04 inch at its thickest point, there’s little sense denying the fact the R30 feels “chunky” compared to most business-class Ultrabooks; although the size and weight of the R30 would have been considered normal several years ago. Granted, the R30 does include an internal optical drive which the aforementioned Ultrabooks lack along with a significantly more powerful processor.
The exterior is all black save for the silver display hinges and aluminum strip below the touchpad, both of which look somewhat out of place. The chassis material is strong yet lightweight magnesium alloy. The chassis itself is remarkably free of flex and is one of the stiffest we’ve tested. This is likely due in part to the R30’s internal honeycomb support structure. The lid is relatively stiff as well though it could use some extra protection from behind given we were able to get ripples to appear in the display panel; granted, we had to use abnormal pressure to make it happen. In short, this notebook is designed to tolerate the typical abuse of airline travel or the occasional drop as you remove it from your bag.
The Portegé R30 is upgrade-friendly thanks to a bottom access panel. Remove the four screws located here and you’ll find the two memory slots and a standard 2.5-inch storage bay which accommodates drives up to 9.5mm thick. The R30’s processor is also upgradeable since it’s socketed and not a soldered BGA model; you’ll have to disassemble the chassis to access it however. The R30 also has a standard mSATA slot for a solid state drive (SSD), however, it’s not accessible through the bottom panel. Lastly the battery is easily removable by unlocking it and then sliding the release latch for quick swaps on the go.
Input and Output Ports
There are a fair amount of ports on the R30, equaling or exceeding what would be found in an Ultrabook this size. The left side holds the AC power jack, cooling exhaust vent, VGA out, a powered USB 3.0 port (for charging devices while the notebook is asleep, a second USB 3.0 and HDMI. The right side has an full-size SD card slot, optical drive (a DVD burner in the case of our review unit), a headphone and microphone combination jack, a third USB 3.0 port, gigabit Ethernet and a security lock slot.
Screen and Speakers
The 13.3-inch display on our review unit is the entry-level panel with unfortunate quality. We had trouble multitasking and found ourselves scrolling often due to the display’s low resolution (1366 x 768 pixels). The washed-out image quality is also disappointing; colors look dull and lifeless because of inadequate saturation. The viewing angles are yet another trouble area with just a narrow range when looking head-on; tilt the display forward or back and you’ll see the colors distort noticeably. Speaking of tilt, the hinges only allow the panel to be pushed back 45 degrees past vertical.
On a positive note, the R30’s 200 nit display is bright enough and can be seen in modest direct sunlight. It’s easy to appreciate the anti-glare surface coating as well since it negates reflections. Toshiba offers the R30 with an upgraded 1920 x 1080 resolution panel that we didn’t get a chance to test but would like to suggest as an upgrade to anyone considering this notebook as it’s hard to imagine it being worse than the base 1366 x 768 panel we tested. Its higher resolution will also be beneficial for multitasking and using two windows side by side.
Two stereo speakers are recessed inside the chassis and project through holes just above the keyboard. The sound is tinny as expected from small speakers with hardly any bass, though they do get plenty loud for watching a short video with a couple of people. The headphone and microphone combination jack on the R30’s right side is static-free.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The R30’s keyboard is one of its better attributes. The keys are a tad shorter than full-sized keys though we had no trouble typing as we normally would. Its one trouble area is tactile feedback which is borderline inadequate, primarily a result of the minimal key travel distance. On a positive note, the keyboard deck is flex-free under normal typing pressure. The keyboard layout is also excellent with all keys in their expected positions. Home, End, PgUp and PgDn keys are neatly arrayed down the right side in their own row. The keyboard spans nearly the entire width of the chassis – clearly Toshiba used the space wisely. The only smaller size keys are the function row (F1-F12) and the arrow keys but they’re still easy to find by feel. The R30 is offered with LED keyboard backlighting but our review unit was not so equipped.
The Alps touchpad is centered with the main keyboard meaning it’s slightly off-center in the palm rest. The silver aluminum strip below the touchpad is not a button strip though it looks like it should be. This touchpad is a clickpad; press down on the surface to produce a click. The clicks have a solid feel but are inconsistent; it takes more pressure to click at the top of the touchpad than at the bottom. Nonetheless the clicks make minimal noise for which we always award extra points. Additionally its smooth surface is excellent for accurate finger movement. Tap the icon in the upper left corner of the touchpad twice to deactivate it; the icon illuminates. Do the same to the icon in the upper right to launch an Internet browser. The versatility is easy to appreciate.
The R30 has a traditional pointing stick in the center of the keyboard along with dedicated left and right buttons below the spacebar. The pointing stick itself has a rough, almost fabric-like texture which provides outstanding grip and feedback. It’s both easy to use and accurate. The left and right buttons are natural to find by feel though their feedback is so minimal it’s tough to determine they’ve been pressed.