Toshiba Portege Z835 Review

Toshiba’s Z835 does not make a good first impression. It’s as thin as a piece of cardboard, and feels just slightly stronger. These snap judgments about the laptop’s strength are only worsened by a sub-par keyboard and a display that isn’t sharp or beautiful.
Toshiba’s Z835 does not make a good first impression. It’s as thin as a piece of cardboard, and feels just slightly stronger. These snap judgments about the laptop’s strength are only worsened by a sub-par keyboard and a display that isn’t sharp or beautiful.
Toshiba’s Z835 does not make a good first impression. It’s as thin as a piece of cardboard, and feels just slightly stronger. These snap judgments about the laptop’s strength are only worsened by a sub-par keyboard and a display that isn’t sharp or beautiful.

Highs

  • Incredibly thin and light
  • Great connectivity
  • Excellent performance
  • Useful bundled software

Lows

  • Drab design
  • Flimsy chassis
  • Terrible keyboard
  • Disappointing display and audio quality
  • Runs loud and warm
  • Expensive as-tested

DT Editors' Rating

One of the goals of the Ultrabook specification was affordability, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the list of options currently available, nor the list of laptops soon to be released. Many models will set you back one Grover Cleveland — and that’s if you don’t pick any options.

There are a couple Ultrabooks that offer a price more than a dollar below a grand, however. One of them is the Acer Aspire S3, which we’ve already reviewed. The other is the Toshiba Portege Z835, which can be had for as little as $799.

This price allows the Z835 to undercut almost every other Ultrabook besides the S3, which can also be had for $799 (or even less, if you wait for the right deal). However, the base model only has a Core i3-2367M processor. That means no Turbo Boost.

We have no doubt that would impact performance, but we aren’t able to confirm it. Our review unit is better equipped, packing not only an upgrade to a Core i7-2677M processor clocked at 1.8GHz but also two additional gigabytes of RAM, bringing the total to 6GB. As if that weren’t enough, our laptop is the “built for business” model. That means it includes a fingerprint reader, a three-year warranty and various software utilities.

It has another extra — a price tag of $1,429. Suddenly, this budget-friendly laptop has turned in to a computer capable of intimidating the bravest wallet. Can the Z835 stand up to its own price? Let’s find out.

Design

We’ve eaten pancakes thicker than this laptop. The 0.63-inch profile is impossible not to notice the instant you look at it. This is no cheap parlor trick made possible by tapered edges or an uneven frame, either. That figure is the maximum thickness — the laptop is actually thinner along the front edge, which rounds upward.

Most of the materials appear to be metallic, but you wouldn’t know that by touch. Everything feels like plastic. The use of magnesium alloy only becomes clear if you place the laptop in a chilly environment, giving it time to cool. Aesthetics aren’t helped by the tacky chrome accents along the touchpad buttons and on each side of the single, wide display hinge.

toshiba-portege-z835-review-angle-lid-open

Build quality reveals the natural opponent of thin design. Strength. Many surfacesfeel flimsy, from the display lid to the keyboard to the palm rest. The lack of stiffness in the display, as well as the hinge, makes wobble a frequent issue. Even normal typing on a stiff surface (such as a kitchen table) causes the display to bend and sway slightly.

That’s not to say the Z835 isn’t practical. It doesn’t suffer from much lower chassis flex and there’s almost no use of glossy material, which means scratches and dents won’t be noticeable. The issue is luxury. Even at its base price this is not a cheap laptop — at the price of our review unit, it’s incredibly expensive. And the design doesn’t keep up with the price tag.

toshiba-portege-z835-review-lid

Connectivity options are a bright spot. There are three USB ports, HDMI and VGA out as well as a standard Ethernet jack, separate headphone and microphone jacks and an SD Card reader. Better yet, these ports are all at the rear of the laptop. Hello, Asus, Acer, are you listening? If Toshiba can pack all of this into such a slim chassis, why can’t you?

User interface

Stiffness isn’t the only part of the laptop impacted by its thin profile. The keyboard also has issues. Because the laptop is so thin, there simply isn’t any space for key travel. I would not be surprised if the total length of key travel on a ThinkPad T420 is nearly as deep as this laptop’s chassis.

The result is the least tactile laptop keyboard we’ve ever used. That can make touch-typing a bit of pain. Misaligning your fingertips is too easy, and you may not know anything is wrong until you see goobly-gook instead of the characters your intended.

toshiba-portege-z835-review-keyboard

The bad news ends there, though the rest is merely average. Space is not a problem and the layout features large keys across its entire surface. Backlighting is standard and works well, but the lighting used is uneven.

Touchpad quality is acceptable. You won’t receive much feedback from the flat, un-textured surface, but input is received quickly and multi-touch scrolling works reasonably well. Individual left and right buttons are provided, but as with the keyboard, there’s not much travel.

Display and audio quality

Our review unit surprised us by coming equipped with a matte display panel, which is apparently part of the “built for business” package. The less expensive models instead come with a glossy display. Either way, you’ll be receiving a resolution of 1366×768.

toshiba-portege-z835-review-front

The matte coat does a great job of repelling reflections, and that’s about all the display does right. Black levels aren’t great. Contrast is poor. Colors appear flat and uninteresting. Perhaps the only strong point is the backlight, which is bright enough to allow outdoor use. That’s not true with most Ultrabooks.

Audio is also disappointing. Volume is fine, but music quickly dissolves into a tinny mess if you attempt to play it full blast. Quality is acceptable at lower volume, but then the sound isn’t loud enough to overcome moderate background noise. The poor audio performance isn’t surprising given this laptop’s dimensions, but the Asus UX31 and HP Folio 13 are better.

Product Review

Flexible and fast, HP's Spectre x360 is the 2-in-1 for every occasion

HP’s late-2017 refresh of the Spectre x360 13 convertible 2-in-1 leverages Intel’s eighth-generation CPUs for significantly improved performance and battery life. The thin and light frame is also tweaked, and looks better than ever.
Computing

These cheap laptops will make you wonder why anyone spends more

Looking for a budget notebook for school, work, or play? The best budget laptops, including our top pick -- the Asus ZenBook UX330UA -- will get the job done without digging too deep into your pockets.
Computing

All the best Apple MacBook deals for Black Friday 2018

Shoppers looking for a new Apple laptop could find huge savings on a new MacBook come Black Friday. Retailers are offering discounts as much as $650 on select MacBook, MacBook Air, and MacBook Pro models this holiday season.
Product Review

The MacBook Air plays the oldies we love, but the band is getting old

We’ve waited for a long time for an update to the MacBook Air, and Apple finally delivered one. With a lot of features ported over from the MacBook Pro, is this new laptop what Apple fans have always wanted?
Computing

How to easily record your laptop screen with apps you already have

Learning how to record your computer screen shouldn't be a challenge. Lucky for you, our comprehensive guide lays out how to do so using a host of methods, including both free and premium utilities, in both MacOS and Windows 10.
Gaming

Want to gift a Steam game so you can play with a friend? Here's how to do it

The holidays may have passed, but it's always a good time to give the gift of gaming (especially when there's a Steam sale)! Here's our quick guide on how to give a Steam game as a gift.
Emerging Tech

Microsoft’s friendly new A.I wants to figure out what you want — before you ask

Move over Siri and Alexa! Microsoft wants to build a new type of virtual assistant that wants to be your friend. Already making waves in Asia, could this be the future of A.I. BFFs?
Computing

Multi-monitor issues? Here's how to resolve them

If you're running into multi-monitor problems, you're not alone. Two screens are very useful, but they can present some difficulties. Here are some common multi-monitor problems and how to fix them.
Computing

Capture screenshots with print screen and a few alternative methods

Capturing a screenshot of your desktop is easier than you might think, but it's the kind of thing you'll probably need to know. Here's how to perform the important function in just a few, easy steps.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: A.I. selfie drones, ‘invisible’ wireless chargers

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!
Deals

The best MacBook deals for November 2018

If you’re in the market for a new Apple laptop, let us make your work a little easier: We hunted down the best up-to-date MacBook deals available online right now from various retailers.
Deals

Cyber Monday 2018: When it takes place and where to find the best deals

Cyber Monday is still a ways off, but it's never too early to start planning ahead. With so many different deals to choose from during one of the biggest shopping holidays of the year, going in with a little know-how makes all the…
Computing

All the best deals on Surface products for Black Friday

A number of retailers are discounting Surface devices for Black Friday. Be it the Surface Pro 2017, Surface Pro 6, or the Surface Go, here's a look at how (and where) you can save big on Surface this holiday season.
Smart Home

All the best Amazon Black Friday deals for 2018

Amazon may be an online-only retailer, but that doesn’t mean its Black Friday sales are anything to sniff at. In fact, due to its online status, Amazon has huge flexibility with the range of products and deals it can offer. Here's our…