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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  • MooseMuffin - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I actually have this laptop and I replaced the HDD with a SSD within two weeks of owning it. Reply
  • TrackSmart - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Ditto. I have the R700 (basically the same laptop). I installed a small SSD and put the original hard disk in the optical drive bay. A nice compromise that wouldn't be possible in an ultrabook.

    Now if they would only start making decent screens on these things...
    Reply
  • agent2099 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    That is really the way to go. Manufactures charge a huge premium for adding ssds. Reply
  • steven75 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Anandtech isn't a site for "most people", it's a site for tech enthusiasts. They are right to recommend SSDs over HDDs at this point in time. The cost-to-benefit ratio is very much in favor of SSDs. Reply
  • pdjblum - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    This is a crapple-centric site that used to be an enthusiast site. Now Anand and all his sheep primarily use crapple and measure everything against it. Reply
  • TrackSmart - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I have no love for apple, but I don't see the problem here. If you are not willing to buy a laptop with a crappy screen and and less than stellar build quality, that doesn't leave you with many other options outside of Apple, a few very expensive models from Sony, and the HP Envy series (which doesn't always have the display upgrade available). Like it or not, Apple sells a lot of laptops and also sets a pretty high bar for overall build quality, which is why they are so often used as a benchmark for comparison. Reply
  • Snotling - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Dell XPS also have a few decent offers... Reply
  • frostyfiredude - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Are you saying Anand's standards have gone up because they use Apple machines now?

    If so, I don't see how that is an issue.

    You have to admit that Apple makes excellent machines, hence why they are the reference; they use some of the best displays, two of the best chassis designs, consistently excellent battery life, and they do all the little things like keyboards and trackpads right every time.
    Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Yup. I wish I could buy a PC, but Macbooks are way too damn good (the TRACKPAD). And bootcamp works well enough, so it's little inconvenience. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Sure, the average buyer just goes for "cheap enough", maybe with a little extra. But that doesn't mean this is good or the right way for them. Instead of upgrading this Toshiba with 2 GB more RAM for 50$ it should have gotten a 128 GB SSD for maybe 100$+. That would have turned it into a much more usable machine (for most purposes.. external storage is still your friend). Reply

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