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Toshiba Portege Z30-A1301

  • Category: Notebook Computers

  • Review Date: 2/28/2014
  • Bottom line: The Toshiba Portege Z30-A1301 is a solid business ultrabook, elevated by a full selection of ports and impressive battery life.
  • Pros: Long battery life. Solid performance, thanks to an Intel Core i5-4300U processor. Dual pointing devices. Integrated fingerprint reader and other security features. Generous port selection.
  • Cons: Solid-state drive offers limited storage capacity (128GB). No touch screen.
Editor Rating: 4.00

By Brian Westover

The Toshiba Portege Z30-A1301 ($1,279 direct) is the latest in Toshiba's long line of highly regarded business ultrabooks, distinguished by a lightweight yet strong magnesium-alloy chassis, and a plethora of features aimed squarely at the worker who needs to get things done wherever they are. The Portege Z30-A1301 doesn't drastically exceed expectations for performance, but the combination of a generous port selection and a battery that will carry you through a full workday and then some makes it an excellent choice for plenty of business users.

Design
The Portege Z30-A1301's design is lightweight and strong thanks to a magnesium-alloy chassis with an internal honeycomb support structure for greater rigidity with less weight. Measuring 0.82 by 12.5 by 9.0 inches (HWD), the slim and portable Z30-A1301 weighs only 2.6 pounds—considerably lighter than either the Editors' Choice Dell Latitude E7440 Touch (3.85 pounds) or the Lenovo ThinkPad T440s (3.5 pounds). The mag-alloy look is similar to the Toshiba Kirabook, but slimmer, sleeker, and toned down with a darker finish.

The 13.3-inch display has a 1,366-by-768 resolution, the same as seen in the Dell Latitude 6430u, but not as high-resolution as the displays on the Lenovo T440s or the Dell E7440 Touch (both offer 1,920-by-1,080-resolution screens). It's also nowhere near the 2,560-by-1,440 resolution offered in Toshiba's similar but consumer-focused Kirabook. While 1,366-by-768 is still standard on many business systems, the disparity between this system and most any consumer-oriented ultrabook is notable. Unlike most current ultrabooks, the Portege Z30-A1301 doesn't offer touch capability. While this isn't a problem when using Windows 7—which our review model came with—it will have some impact on the ease of use if you opt for Windows 8.

Two downward-firing speakers provide the sound, and when we tested them with the new "Guardians of the Galaxy" trailer, the sound was on the quiet side, requiring me to lean in to make out dialogue. The sound is definitely improved by DTS Studio Sound software enhancement. After tweaking the settings in the DTS dashboard, the clarity was much better, though the volume was still a bit low.

The system sports the same chiclet-style keyboard seen on most ultrabooks, but this one is both backlit and spill-resistant, making it better suited for use in during a working lunch, or while typing up notes during a PowerPoint presentation with the lights dimmed. In the center of the keyboard there's a small blue nub, Toshiba's Accupoint pointing device. Above the touchpad, just below the spacebar, are two mouse buttons for use with the Accupoint nub. The touchpad itself offers the usual multi-touch functions, with right and left buttons integrated into the clickable touch surface, with a small fingerprint reader set just below the touchpad for secure logins.

Features
The Portege Z30-A1301 is outfitted with three USB 3.0 ports (one with Sleep-and-Charge functionality), VGA and HDMI output, Gigabit Ethernet, and an SD card slot. Given that most competing business ultrabooks opt for smaller or combined versions of ports, which in turn require special cables or adapter dongles for use, it's refreshing to see such a complete selection of genuinely useful connections offered.

Toshiba Portege Z30-A1301

A Kensington lock slot lets you physically secure the laptop, and a docking port on the underside of the chassis will work with Toshiba's docking port replicator, sold separately ($199 list), provides an array of additional connections, like Ethernet, USB 3.0, VGA, DisplayPort, DVI, and HDMI video outputs. Inside, the Portege Z30-A1301 boasts a number of business-friendly features, from dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, to TPM and enhanced security.

Our review unit came preinstalled with Windows 7 Professional, with the necessary software license and recovery media for Windows 8.1 Pro. This gives you the option of upgrading to the new OS whenever you or your IT department are ready to do so. It's an excellent feature for business users, and I wish more manufacturers offered something similar for consumers.

Toshiba equips the Portege Z30-A1301 with a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), which offers all of the storage space necessary for either operating system, but may fill up quickly once you begin installing programs and saving files. It also comes with a handful of programs preinstalled. The usual 30-day trials of Microsoft Office and Norton's Internet Security and Anti-Theft are all included, along with a handful of diagnostic utilities and management tools, like PC Health Monitor, Password Utility, and Fingerprint Utility. Toshiba covers the Portege Z30-A1301 with a three-year warranty, so you'll get plenty of use out of this business ultrabook before upgrading to a new model further down the road.

Performance
The Portege Z30-A1301 is outfitted with an Intel Core i5-4300U processor, designed with ultrabooks in mind and combining standard performance with energy efficiency. The dual-core, 1.9GHz CPU is paired with 8GB of RAM, lending itself to solid performance in most any business-related task. In PCMark 7 the Portege Z30-A1301 scored 4,582 points, putting it well ahead of the Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga, and slightly ahead of the Lenovo T440s. It did, however, fall slightly behind the Editors' Choice Dell 6430u, which scored 5,006 points.

Similar results were seen in multimedia tests, with the Portege Z30-A1301 completing Handbrake in 1 minute 23 seconds and Photoshop in 5:42. By comparison the Lenovo T440s finished the same tests in 1:20 and 5:59, respectively, while the Dell 6430u completed them in 1:22 (Handbrake) and 5:08 (Photoshop). Performance-wise, the Portege Z30-A1301 doesn't deviate much from the rest of the pack, offering enough processing oomph for the average office-worker or road warrior, but not exceeding those needs by any extraordinary amount.

Graphics performance followed the same tune, with the Portege Z30-A1301's integrated graphics processing offering solid graphics support for Web browsing and basic visual demands like viewing video and occasional basic photo editing, but for serious visual rendering, you'll want something equipped with a dedicated graphics processor.

While the overall performance of the Portege Z30-A1301 didn't exceed expectations, the battery life did. With a four-cell, 52Wh battery sealed into the chassis, the slim laptop lasted 10 hours 19 minutes in our battery rundown test. Given that the closest competitor, the Dell E7440 Touch, lasted only 7:44, the Portege Z30-A1301 is the hands-down winner in terms of true portability, letting you go through an entire workday without having to haul a charging cable around.

Conclusion
The Toshiba Portege Z30-A1301 offers a solid business ultrabook that's light enough to take anywhere, long-lasting enough to take you through a full workday (plus overtime), and offers all of the ports and connectors you might want. While it doesn't take the top spot from the Editors' Choice Dell Latitude e7440 Touch (which offers slightly better performance overall), it is a less expensive alternative, and you even have the option of getting it with Windows 7.