Introducing the Toshiba Portege R835

With the deluge of ultrabooks stemming from Intel's initiative over the past few months, it's easy to forget ultraportables have been a part of the Windows PC landscape for quite some time. One of the unlikeliest sources was Toshiba; in 2010, a company that had been spending the last few years aggressively pursuing budget consumers produced a remarkably compelling ultraportable in the form of the Portege R700. We reviewed the R700 and found a lot to like, and Toshiba must have appreciated the notebook's excellent performance in both critical and commercial arenas.

Despite the steady march of progress with ultrabooks (due to get a shot in the arm soon with Ivy Bridge), Toshiba's Portege R700 hasn't gone untouched. Toshiba refreshed it with the R835, keeping the same basic chassis but enjoying the benefits of Sandy Bridge hardware and USB 3.0 connectivity. Forced to compete in a market with ultrabooks, the R835 strengthens the R700's value proposition with models starting at just $799 and featuring full voltage mobile processors from Intel while maintaining the same portable form factor.

Ultrabooks offer a healthy amount of performance in the sleekest of form factors, but sometimes end users just need a little more power and flexibility. Features that may have to be excised to hit that class can still be found in a notebook like the Portege R835, which enjoys all the comforts of a full-sized notebook without breaking your back...or the bank. Here's what our review unit came equipped with:

Toshiba Portege R835 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-2450M
(2x2.5GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.1GHz, 32nm, 3MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM65
Memory 1x4GB Samsung DDR3-1333 and 1x2GB Samsung DDR3-1333 (Maximum 2x8GB)
Graphics Intel HD 3000 Graphics
(12 EUs, up to 1.3GHz)
Display 13.3" LED Glossy 16:9 768p
TOS5091
Hard Drive(s) Hitachi Travelstar 5K750 640GB 5400RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive Matsushita DVD-RAM
Networking Intel WiFi Link 1000 802.11b/g/n
Intel 82579V Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone and mic jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 66Wh
Front Side -
Right Side SD Card Reader
Optical drive
Headphone and mic jacks
USB 3.0
Ethernet
Left Side AC adaptor
Exhaust vent
VGA
eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port
USB 2.0
HDMI
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 12.4" x 0.72-1.05" x 8.94" (WxHxD)
315mm x 18-27mm x 227mm
Weight 3.2 lbs
1.45kg
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Warranty 1-year limited
Pricing Starts at $799
As configured: $849

Just from the dimensions and weight you can tell the R835 isn't really that much bigger than an ultrabook would be, but Toshiba outfits it with a full voltage Intel Core i5-2450M, a latter day incremental update from the i5-2430M (100MHz higher base and turbo) for Sandy Bridge released early this year. Alternately, the i5-2450M is comparable to the older i5-2520M, but has slightly lower (100MHz) turbo clock speeds. Attached to the i5's memory controller is 6GB of DDR3-1333; realistically the only difference between our review unit and the base level R835 is the extra 2GB of memory and $50 on the price tag. I wouldn't expect the boost in memory to impact performance greatly, particularly in our benchmarks, so prospective shoppers can probably steer clear and save some money buying the least expensive model.

What should attract some attention is the relic sitting in the 2.5" drive bay. We get a lot of higher end systems in for review, and with the push for ultrabooks we've gotten so used to seeing SSDs in notebooks that it's surprising to see a mechanical hard disk in a machine, much less one as slow as the 640GB, 5400RPM drive by Hitachi that occupies the R835. Thankfully it's user replaceable, but using a slower drive is a shock to the system when you've been playing with machines that come equipped with SSDs.

One of the major points where the Portege R835 sets itself apart is the inclusion of an optical drive. While the optical drives in my notebooks very seldom see use, I can recognize enough situations where one can be useful that it's easy to understand why someone might be willing to sacrifice a little bit of extra carrying weight just to get that perk included.

Everything else is pretty much par for the course, although it's nice to see a 66Wh battery standard in the Portege R835 instead of a smaller capacity one. This is usually one of the first places major vendors shave costs for consumer notebooks, and while 66Wh isn't mind-blowing, it's healthy enough to keep the R835 on its legs for a while. Other than the lack of an SSD and a stock voltage CPU (not that that's a bad thing), the only area where the Portege fails to achieve ultrabook status is in thickness: it's about 0.2" too thick at the back.

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  • Arkive - Monday, April 02, 2012 - link

    While you might be right that the average user might buy a lower end laptop, the bulk of Anandtech readers do not fall into that category I don't think. Most folks here are power users and will generally shell out a little more money for a laptop than the average user, so in this case, I think focusing on $1,000+ laptops makes sense for the site. Reply
  • dananski - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I don't think it's right to say "you're doing it wrong" if your computer doesn't boot up quickly from HDD. People have different requirements and I expect yours are quite minimal, allowing you to reduce startup programs and clutter and get a decent experience from a relatively slow drive. Other people will need quicker access to more/heavier applications.

    Mind you, I agree the storage/price ratio will put many standard users off. I managed to get a laptop with both a smallish, nippy SSD and a slow but spacious HDD for the best of both worlds, but very few companies seem to offer that.
    Reply
  • gorash - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Most people don't even know what a GB is. They probably fill the laptop up with just a couple of photos and use about 1% of the HDD space. Reply
  • gorash - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    But I bet that if the laptop boots up in 15 seconds instead of 30 seconds then they'll think "Wow! This laptop is so FAST!" Reply
  • Snotling - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    I agree, most companies are perfectly happy designing products for ignorant people who look at numbers and don't understand what they mean. Just put in a number where less is more and they'll buy the bigger one anyway!

    nowadays, products are designed to fit a price-point, not to fill a purpose and that's the big problem. Only a few companies do it the other way around, Apple is unfortunately one of them, Dyson is another.

    I want a laptop for "work" not for 700$ once you realize that, then you don't mix the More RAM = needs discreet graphics. a dumb mix for a "worker's laptop" since it'll eat at the battery and provide no added value. but that's what they do. throw in a 1080p display instead, I'll see more lines of my spreadsheet. They just won't, the ignorant are too many and too lucrative a market to bother with people who make informed purchase decisions.
    Reply
  • KPOM - Sunday, April 01, 2012 - link

    256GB SSDs are now about $400, plus with the HDD shortage, the premium is a little bit smaller. Plus, how many people really need all that storage in a portable. I have used a MacBook Air with an SSD since late 2008 and I hate going back to my HDD-equipped work PC. Lots of tasks, not just booting, seems a bit sluggish, particularly when I see that hard drive LED blinking away.

    Put an SSD-equipped machine next to a HDD-equipped machine, and it's easy to see the difference in opening and closing programs. People get fixated on the processor, but the weakest link in the chain in the HDD.

    The whole point of the ultrabook project is to get away from the $350-$500 bulky commoditized notebook.
    Reply
  • frostyfiredude - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    There are obviously a lot of people who don't mind the HDD, yes even semi-enthusiasts. Others may require a HDD for storage reasons, especially if it's their only computer. Plenty of my friends have filled up their 320-500GB HDDs almost to the rim with who knows what, there is no way they would buy a 1100$ 512GB SSD to fit all their data in. Manufacturers clearly realize this and so we are seeing most laptops with HDDs, sometimes with the option to upgrade to a SSD in more premium models.

    The choice for a decent SSD from Toshiba for a reasonable price would be very welcome here, but as the only option I disagree.

    That said, in notebooks and desktops over ~600$ I think an mSATA SSD cache drive or hybrid HDD should be standard by now; they are good stop gap options until the market is ready for SSDs and SSDs have a good enough $/GB ratio. They offer solid bumps in responsiveness for an only minor price bump, while still maintaining the storage capacity wanted/required by a decent amount of buyers.
    Also 13" and under laptops should no longer have optical drives while we're at it, fill the space previously occupied by the drive with a larger battery and ship an external drive for the once in a blue moon time it's required.
    Reply
  • cclark1593 - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    SSDs are good, but with limited space, they're not quite ideal for someone looking at a laptop as a main computer if said computer only has space for one drive.

    That said, I think anyone looking at a laptop for a main should not be looking at ultrabooks, or anything such, but a 16" or even a 17" with at least two drive bays. This allows use of both a SSD and a mechanical HDD, and is a nice arrangement that would make large laptops enticing to buyers.
    Reply
  • Calin - Monday, April 02, 2012 - link

    "You can buy a fantastic 120GB SSD for <=$120"

    But 90% or more of the laptops I've seen have only space for one hard drive, and 120GB might not be large enough for a lot of prospective buyers.
    But I totally agree with rudolphna - I understand that those review units are provided by their builders (and not bought by Anandtech), but I would prefer laptop tests to be done in close to the default configuration.
    Reply
  • yyrkoon - Tuesday, April 03, 2012 - link

    A perfect example of why personal opinion should be left out of reviews.

    The reviewed hardware obviously came with a HDD, and not an SSD. An informed purchaser will know this before buying. e.g. a moot point.

    1) The buyer is clueless, and it wont matter anyhow.
    2) The potential buyer knows what he/she wants and . . .
    a) opts out.
    b) Purchases laptop + SSD
    c) is perfectly happy with included storage media.

    System stability, performance of the included hardware ( not what *could have* been included ), cooling, noise, screen quality, warranty, price. These, among others are what is important. The order of which is most important is again, subjective ( personal opinion ).

    Personally, I would be far more worried about the super high temps. Than worrying about something I should have already known when I bought the system.

    @Dustin

    For what it is worth, I have an ASUS AMD A3400 A6 laptop that runs warm too when under a full load. Though, not quite that warm, unless overclocked. 74C is about as high as it goes standard. So perhaps the cooling "issue" is not so much an Intel/Toshiba issue. Still, it has me a bit worried. *shrug*
    Reply

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