Toshiba Portege Z835 Ultrabook Review

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If Intel has its way, most laptops will eventually be Ultrabooks, which if you strip away the marketing jargon simply refers to slim and light machines with long battery life and enough processing power to watch Netflix and play Farmville. Toshiba’s Portege Z835 is part of the first wave of Ultrabooks, and tries to get an edge with a relatively low price tag of $899. I’ve been using a Portege Z835 review unit for a week, and I think Toshiba’s pulled off a good first effort, but the lower price doesn’t come without sacrifice.

The Portege Z835 runs Windows 7 Home Premium and includes a 13.3-inch display with 1366-by-768 resolution, a 1.4 GHz Intel Core i3 processor, 4 GB of RAM and a 128 GB solid state drive. It measures 0.68 inches at its thickest point, and weighs 2.9 pounds. It has an SD card slot, HDMI and RGB outputs, an Ethernet jack and three USB ports, including one with USB 3.0 support.

(MORE: Eight New Tablets and Ultrabooks You Should Know About)

Toshiba hasn’t made the sharpest-looking Ultrabook around. Its deep gray frame has a brushed aluminum finish on the lid, but you can still feel plenty of plastic elsewhere. Next to most other Windows notebooks, however, the Portege Z835 looks like a supermodel, and it’s shockingly light. I showed this laptop to a few folks, and “oh wow” was the typical reaction. People still think Windows laptops have to be clunky monstrosities. Not so.

Although the Portege Z835’s slim figure will get the most attention at first, its backlit keyboard deserves more praise. Typing on this laptop is a pleasure, with island-style keys that snap satisfyingly into a depressed panel. There’s not a lot of movement on the keys–a reality, perhaps, of ultra-thin design–but that never slowed me down while typing this review.

The Portege Z835’s trackpad doesn’t disappoint, either. Its medium-sized matte panel glides smoothly under the fingers, even if isn’t as silky as the MacBook Air’s glass trackpad. Whereas some Ultrabook makers have opted for a clickable trackpad, the Portege Z835 sticks with dedicated buttons. They’re easy enough to press, but I prefer tapping on the touch panel instead. That said, I wish this laptop supported two-finger tapping to simulate the right mouse button. At least it supports two-finger scrolling.

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