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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  • TegiriNenashi - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Amen Reply
  • Sunburn74 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Honestly dude, I don't care. My laptop is for browsing and for word documents. I can get my pixel fixation at home. 1366x768 is fine up until around 14inch screens for most laptops. Reply
  • snuuggles - Monday, April 02, 2012 - link

    Glad you have a toy. Some people have to get actual work done, so they need more than 768 height. Reply
  • arthur449 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I just helped my sister choose a laptop to replace her 7 year old Dell laptop.

    Based on my discussion with her for what she needs, I established the following minimum requirements:
    1) 8GB memory--Because some people like to leave, at a minimum, 5 weeks of browser tabs open.
    2) 7200rpm HDD--7200rpm drives are at least better than the 5400rpm garbage they're cramming in every laptop these days.
    3) >1366x768 screen resolution.
    4) <$750

    Surprisingly, that eliminated HP entirely (my go-to brand, as popular brands tend to have problems that can be Google'd), and almost everything on Newegg. This led me to the following revelation: despite all the competition in the inexpensive laptop market currently, there's really not much in the way of meaningful choices for consumers. >95% of $400 - 700 laptops are going to have 720p, 5400rpm, or 4GB (or mismatched 6GB) of memory.

    I'd love to have a balanced model to recommend for friends and family.

    (We eventually settled on the Dell Inspiron 17R.)
    Reply
  • Impulses - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    The display is really your biggest limiting factor... The state of displays on laptops these days is a very sad affair. The $500-800 market is way over saturated and anyone that actually wants to pay more for some premium features doesn't really have a lot of choices without some massive compromises (or having to spend 3x as much).

    That is why Anandtech reviews a lot of high end systems... There's very little interest amongst the reader base in having them highlight the minimal differences amongst all the budget models (this is addressed at the guy campaigning for more cheap laptop reviews).

    If you fall in that camp just read one of their yearly laptop round-up or recommendation articles, they do a good job steering you in the right direction... Or go read PC World, Laptop Mag, etc.
    Reply
  • montanio - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I was in the market recently for a laptop replacement for my parents. I eventually found some deals on a VAIO SE (15.5") that are 1080p with very good viewing angles for $800 (Amazon) which is a good deal considering it doesn't require shipping/tax. Official website has similar configurations but tax makes it unattractive. I added a Samsung 830 128gb to it, bought a USB3 enclosure for the old 640gb drive, and added a 4GB stick for less than $200. I added a external sheet battery to double the battery life as well since that was one of the main selling points for the series ($90) Grand total is <1100, which isn't bad considering the quality of the screen is excellent. Weight is <2.0kg without the sheet battery, pretty slim, feels a bit fragile though. Its a bit over what you said, but laptop markets are all about compromises, typically with more severe trade offs the more "cheap" you box yourself into. Sometimes its worth the little bit more you put out, the point of diminishing returns depends on the brand/model.

    Screen resolution is pretty important... I've always hated working on my 13" screen's 1366x768... Typing is okay, but if you need to reference things for example from a webpage, or have to edit your work later (especially documents with graphics) then its really a pain. 900p screens seem very attractive though, unfortunately the quality on them aren't exactly the best from looking at current laptops.
    Reply
  • arthur449 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Both of your suggestions are helpful, and if I were buying the laptop for myself, I'd definitely be adding the memory and replacing the HDD with an SSD myself (as vendor markup on those items is amusing). And if it were mine, I wouldn't mind the additional complexity of having a discrete/switchable GPU and a 15" or 14" screen, as this would be my secondary or tertiary computing system.

    Unfortunately, if I end up doing that for her (she lives out of state) and something goes wrong with the rest of the hardware during the warranty period: we're in a difficult situation.

    I loved being able to instantly recommend the HP dm1z last year when people were asking about a recommendation for a cheap and small travel laptop. Great battery life, superior keyboard, and it came with a comparatively zippy 320GB 7200rpm hard drive. There's no magic bullet system available like that for families with one (laptop) computer that only needs to occasionally move from room to room depending on whether they're studying, researching, or writing lengthy dissertations in comments sections of Anandtech.com
    Reply
  • Gunbuster - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    1366x768 screen; stopped reading.

    I'm so sick of these low res screens.
    Reply
  • quitesufficient - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    As soon as I see 1366x768 Reply
  • snuuggles - Sunday, April 01, 2012 - link

    +1

    That is quite literally what I just did.
    Reply

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