Don't Mess With Success?

While no company makes a product expecting it not to sell, I remember reps from Toshiba telling me in a meeting about how surprised they were by the original Portege R700's success. The slim form factor, matte plastic shell, and chiclet keyboard were a major departure from their other notebooks, but the success with the design seemed to have struck such a chord that Toshiba took design cues from the R700 and adapted them part and parcel to the Tecra R800 series.

Progress in the industry can be slow, though, and while I've seen some of the pretty radical changes Toshiba has planned for the back-to-school season this year, the Portege R835's shell hasn't really changed much from its predecessor. You could go back and take a look at Vivek's thoughts on the R700's design and apply most of the same information to the R835.

The difference, though, is that his review unit was north of $1,600. The one we have on hand is just $849, and what's unacceptable at a premium price can merely feel like a compromise at a more mainstream cost. Gone from our unit are the fingerprint reader, matte display, and ExpressCard slot; the one concession we get back is the USB 3.0 port, which is welcome enough.

My feelings do echo Vivek's regarding the keyboard, though. While the touchpad and touchpad buttons are perfectly fine and even pleasant enough to use, I'm not a fan of this keyboard. The slightly shorter keys Toshiba employs for this keyboard (and for the one on their ultrabook, the Portege Z830) feel just different enough in size to throw off my typing, and the action of the keys themselves is on the mushy side. I'm also not sure why Toshiba persists in using a glossy finish on their "premium" keyboards; the matte keyboards they use on lesser notebooks are actually more comfortable and practical in my opinion. To their credit, Toshiba continues to use a generally fantastic key layout, with dedicated document navigation keys and arrow keys that are all the same size.

 

With all that in mind, the relative absence of gloss elsewhere on the notebook is much appreciated. The matte black plastic with brushed aluminum pattern looks slightly chintzy, but generally it's the kind of minimalistic aesthetic that I personally enjoy. The placement of expansion ports is smart, and access panels on the bottom allow the end user to quickly and easily replace the memory and 2.5" drive. Something else you're not liable to see in an ultrabook (besides the optical drive) is present here, too: a user-replaceable battery.

I'm not necessarily wowed by the Portege R835 as a whole, but I'm not underwhelmed by it either. Toshiba's designers seem to have tried to make the most of the limited real estate the form factor provides, and while nicer build materials would've probably helped they also would've been liable to drive the total system cost up.

Introducing the Toshiba Portege R835 System Performance
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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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