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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  • TrackSmart - Friday, April 13, 2012 - link

    I have a Toshiba R705. Basically the same laptop, right down to the cooling system design. When running heavy-duty processes (30min of straight number crunching) my CPU core temperatures usually stay in the mid-70s. That's more than 25C below the recommended thermal limit for my processor (105C).

    I can't imagine any normal usage case, even heavy duty usage, where I would ever get near 105C. I'm guessing the cooling design is okay for all 'normal' usage scenarios, even heavy-duty usage.

    That being said, I think that putting all of the intake vents on the bottom of the system is a really dumb idea. If you stream movies with the bottom of the laptop on a bed or sofa - look out! It's going to get toasty in there...
    Reply
  • jigglywiggly - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    please keep talking about lcd quality, I bought my sager np8130 (p151hm1) when you guys spoke about the LCD, it was fairly good and it was great performance for the price and dual link dvi for my 120hz display Reply
  • hexanerax - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    How difficult is it to write a PPI agnostic app? ( to those not in the know,all elements of the UI should appear exactly the same physical size on all monitor resolutions meaning a high ppi display UI looks awesome and this low res junk that manufacturers are hawking will end).
    Hi res support has to be coded into the os and done right. I have enough problems with un-clickable buttons and unreadable text due to poor dpi scaling in some poorly written apps. Getting correct PPI information from the panel and scaling display elements to actual physical dimensions would be great, allowing users to really see the difference and cough up the extra dough if inclined.
    Writing this on a great 1900 x 1200 17" LCD on my Dell Precision M6300 ( never upgraded due to the 16:9 fetish in most product lines.
    Reply
  • hexanerax - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    $ for $ , an SSD will translate to better user experience than a higher clocked processor for most normal usage scenarios. For those looking for a fast, low priced system, adding a 40 GB SSD and going for a lower clocked cpu or lesser cores will be a better option than a 500 GB 5400 RPM HDD with a high frequency processor. Enthusiast or not an SSD is no longer an option. I can understand using a Mechanical drive for critical data considering the issues that SSDs have had in the past but if you are buying a budget laptop, how critical is the data you are storing? Think cloud storage + SSD for the best experience. Buy an external HDD.
    On a system with a Corsair Force F120.
    Reply
  • jabber - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    I don't need more than two USB ports (to be honest I can get by with one).

    I don't need a Firewire port.

    I don't really need a HDMI or D-Sub port either.

    I can go without Bluetooth.

    That should be nearly enough to get a decent screen instead.

    Yeah so one or two USB ports, a gigabit ethernet port and the power port are all I need.
    Reply
  • Mumrik - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    I'm out... Reply
  • Pylon757 - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Judging from the last picture on the 2nd page, the body appears to be magnesium alloy, not plastic. Mag alloy feels a lot like plastic (especially when painted) since its thermal conductivity is extremely poor and thus doesn't feel cold to the touch (unlike say, aluminum found on Apple's devices) Reply
  • hexanerax - Sunday, April 01, 2012 - link

    Just for the record :-

    http://www.jsw.co.jp/en/mg_f/mg_mg_f/mg_mg_chare.h...

    It probably feels less cold because it is conducting heat from the system outwards.

    The paint probably has more to do with this feeling than the thermal conductivity of the metal. Aluminum is generally left unpainted ( polished, brushed ) or anodize in color which leaves the thermal properties unchanged.
    Reply
  • Mygaffer - Sunday, April 01, 2012 - link

    The last time many consumers have seen a monitor with decent image quality was when they were using a CRT.

    If more consumers could see a side by side of your average TN panel and some of the amazing IPS and PVA panels out there a lot more people would seek out the better monitors. Right now people just don't know any better.

    I use two monitors at home, the Dell 3007wfp-HC and a Yamakasi Catleap Q270 (27" S-IPS, same panel as the Apple Cinema display). Both are S-IPS panels, both are very high resolution, and both are amazing. To go back to some lower resolution TN panel now would make me want to claw out my eyes.

    Luckily my HP laptop has a very good TN panel in it that even has good viewing angles. One thing that will have to improve a little bit for the high resolution displays to be a good fit for everyone will be better font scaling. Windows 7 has fairly decent support for it and modern browsers also allow some control but it still needs to be improved.
    Reply
  • ThreeDee912 - Sunday, April 01, 2012 - link

    For better or worse, ultrabooks are coming down in price, and are still using crappy panels.

    Except for Delta E, and compared to the high-end Sony, it seems like the MacBook Air line from last year still beats most of the panels in these new Ultrabooks:
    http://www.anandtech.com/show/5259/ultrabook-head-...
    Reply

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