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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  • retrospooty - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    "My aforementioned laptop IS 768p, and I can do everything you just mentioned, perfectly fine. Sure I have to scroll. That's not really a big deal to me"

    That is exactly why we hate it. I dont want to scroll to click "OK" or "next" on every other window when I am working. Its aweful. Its not really about scrolling to read a web-page. Its about decision boxes and or buttons you need to click to process something, apply a change or make whatever decision your app or site needs you to make and you cant see the options or button because its below the bottom of the aweful 768 line screen. AAAAAAUGH just typing it pisses me off. LOL
    Reply
  • tim851 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I have an 11" 768p laptop and I can't remember ever having to scroll for confirmation buttons. 1024x768 is the baseline for Windows 7, everything should be a-okay here. Reply
  • retrospooty - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Its not.

    I deal with alot of different software, servers and IT related stuff. Its totally unlivable.

    I suppose for a normal person it works.
    Reply
  • KPOM - Sunday, April 01, 2012 - link

    It's good enough in an 11.6" display, but for 13" or larger a higher resolution ought to be standard by now. Having more vertical real estate is a good thing. Reply
  • retrospooty - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    "I saw the resolution was only 1366x768 on a 13.3" display and just skipped the rest."

    Exactly. As soon as I see that it goes straight to the no way in hell would I but it or recomend it to anyone.Total deal breaker. My freegin 4 inch phone has almost that much res.
    Reply
  • dcianf - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Am I the only one seeing an iPhoto for iOS gallery on page 2? Reply
  • dave_the_nerd - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Nope. Reply
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Fixed. Reply
  • Colin1497 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Didn't I just read an iPad review where it was discussed that chassis changes were expensive? Toshiba has been in this market for a LONG time. This is now 8 generations of product named Portege RXXX and there were Portege 2000 model (review from 2002: http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,7722,00.asp). I've owned a number of them, going back to the 2000, and it's common for them to keep a chassis and general design around for 2 hardware cycles. I wouldn't be shocked at all to see the R9xx have a bunch more changes. Reply
  • bji - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Here is how I read an Anadtech notebook review:

    Before reading a single word, skip immediately to the features chart on the first page. Look for the Display line item. If it says 768p, STOP. Do not read article. If it says something better, enjoy article.

    Stop wasting your time reviewing notebooks with stupid display resolutions. I will not read them. Demand that vendors send you notebooks with worthwhile resolutions and refuse to review 768p notebooks.

    Thank you.
    Reply

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