- Review Date: 04/20/11
- Bottom line:
The Toshiba Portege R835-P50X is the epitome of what an ultraportable should be: Lightweight, relatively inexpensive, powerful, and equipped with enough battery life to last from dawn to dusk.
One of the lightest in the 13-inch class. Superb typing experience. Aluminum design. Built-in optical drive. Standard voltage processor. Excellent performance. Superior battery score. Reasonably priced. WiDi2.
For a ultraportable laptops beauty and style are just as important as computing power. Sometimes even more important. The focus has been that of razor-thin, seductive frames, at the cost of speed, features, and price. Yes, I'm talking to you two—Apple MacBook Air 13-inch ($1,299 direct, 4 stars) and Samsung Series 9 (NP900X3A) ($1,650 list, 4 stars). There is one ultraportable, however, that doesn't let style get in the way of performance. The Toshiba Portege R835-P50X ($888.99 list at Best Buy) isas stylish as its cracker-thin competitors, but costs a lot less and performs like an ultraportable should. For these reasons, it receives the Editors' Choice in the ultraportable category.
By focusing on more than thinness, Toshiba has built one of the lightest, most functional ultraportable in the 13-inch class. This same approach made its predecessor—the Toshiba Portege R705-P35 ($900 list, 4 stars)—so appealing. The R835-P50X uses a combination of metal and plastic in its 3.2-pound frame, which is about three-tenths of a pound heavier than the Air 13-inch (2.9 lbs) and Series 9 (2.9 lbs). This slightly heavier frame includes an optical drive, a feature you won't find in most of its wafer-thin competitors. It measures 9 by 12.4 by 1 inches (HWD), and it's not as sturdy as the MacBook Air 13-inch or Series 9, the laptop bends and flexes when pressure is applied. Even so, it's still a classy-looking laptop.
The 13.3-inch widescreen isn't as bright as MacBook Air's 13-inch. It is also mor glossy than the matte versions found in the Dell Vostro V130 ($830 direct, 3 stars) and Samsung Series 9. The 1,366-by-768 resolution is boilerplate, but shouldn't matter to the average user. If you want a higher resolution screen, the MacBook Air 13-inch (1,440-by-900) and Sony VAIO VPC-Z1390X (1,600-by-900) ($3,800 direct, 4 stars) can give you that.
The R835-P50X delivers a solid typing experience.. Every key has that perfect bumpy, deep response that you don't get from the flatter keys of the MacBook Air 13-inch and Samsung Series 9. It's like a Lenovo ThinkPad keyboard, except that all the keys look like chiclet gum pieces. The keyboard isn't backlit, but you would have to spend a lot more for systems like the Series 9 and Z1390X to get that kind of luxury. The mouse buttons are tuned just right so that clicking isn't tiring andthe touchpad is wide and quite responsive.
The R835-P50X's no-compromise feature set separates it from other super thin laptops. The oldest and most compelling feature is the built-in optical drive. It and the Sony Z1390X are the only ultraportables that offer one. Every other ultraportable—the Lenovo IdeaPad U260 ($1,050 direct, 3.5 stars), Dell V130, Air 13-inch, Series 9—leave them out to save weight and cost. It has also has three USB ports, two of which are combos (E-SATA and USB 3.0). An SD slot, Ethernet, VGA, and HDMI are also part of the package, which is prtty nice for a laptop this size.
Like its predecessor, the R835-P50X also features a slew of wireless connectivity, including 802.11n Wi-Fi, WiMax, and Intel's Wireless Display 2 (WiDi2). The last two are very useful if you live in any one of the 50+ cities that house WiMax (4G wireless) towers or if you want to wirelessly connect to an HDTV from your laptop (you need a second-generation Netgear Push2TV receiver). The improvement that WiDi2 brings to the table over the original WiDi is that it now supports 1080p HD video streams (the original WiDi topped out at 720p). The 640GB hard drive is spacious, but isn't as durable or as speedy as the solid state drives found in the MacBook Air and Samsung Series 9. My only complaint about this laptop is that the two tiny speakers above the keyboard are prone to distortion when the screen or entire laptop is moved.
The R835-P50X's standard-voltage processor is another reason why reigns supreme. This means that the processor runs at full speed, whereas the low voltage chips in the Air 13-inch, Series 9, U260, and Vostro V130 operate at a [what] fraction of this speed. The 2.1GHz Intel Core i3-2310M isn't only standard voltage, but it's based on the Sandy Bridge architecture—Intel's next-generation processing technology. All this means great things for performance. The R835-P50X's Handbrake (3:15) and Cinebench R11.5 (2.04) scores beat every other laptop save for the Sony Z1390X. The R835-P50X's PCMark Vantage score (5,423) is middle of the pack, only because the SSD in the Samsung Series 9, MacBookAir 13-inch, and Sony Z1390X made a huge impact on this test. By using Its 3DMark06 (4,550) and Lost Planet 2 (17.8 fps) results were similar to those of the MacBook Air 13-inch, which runs on an Nvidia chipset.
What made the Toshiba R705-P35 so special was that it came with a big battery that its rivals couldn't fit into their starved frames—and the R835-P50X is no different. In fact, its 66WH battery has even more capacity With a little help from the Sandy Bridge architecture's energy efficiencies , and the R835's battery score surpassed the 9-hour mark (9 hours 26 minutes), prompting a double-take. It beat the Toshiba R705-P35 (7:01) by two hours and completely annihilated the Samsung Series 9 (6:04), Lenovo U260 (4:35), Dell V130 (3:02), MacBook Air 13-inch (5:35), and whatever ultraportable you want to throw against it.