Thin and Light Compromise
Thin and Light Means Compromise
Opening the notebook’s lid is a one-handed affair. Just the way we like it, yet hardly ever seen on such a thin notebook. This means the hinges aren’t so tight that the bottom of the notebook follows the lid when you try to open it, leaving your other hand free to hold a baby, a bagel, a tablet or a phone. Whether or not this would present any problems a couple of years down the road, it’s impossible to tell now.
The interior layout seems to be quite similar to the Toshiba Portege R830 as well. It’s got the usual eco, screen and power buttons on the top left corner, chiclet keyboard, fingerprint reader and a dedicated button to turn the trackpad off. The screen is also a very average 1366 x 768 pixels resolution, so nothing outstanding here.
The implementation of the chiclet keyboard is practical but not so desirable in our opinion. In order to keep the unit so thin, some compromises must be made. Compromises like the key travel of the keys. They are so shallow, that typing on it feels as though you’re typing on a soft keyboard. Whether or not this is a bad thing depends on which angle you look at it: the typist’s angle, or the non-typist’s angle.
At the very least, there isn’t much flex on the keyboard, probably because it’s so thin there’s no space to flex. Credit of course has to be given to the very tough magnesium alloy housing the keyboard sits on. The keys themselves have fairly good resistance, so there is some tactile feedback to be had to please the typist somewhat. Overall, we wouldn’t worry too much about the shallow keys, because it doesn’t negatively affect the overall usability of the machine very much. However, if you're very particular of the keyboard build and feel, we suggest that you give it a good trial at your favorite notebook retailer. It won't match up to Fujitsu's Lifebook SH771 perfect keyboard, but then again it wasn't designed in the same requirements as the Portege Z830.
One glaring issue that we’re still trying to get used to, is the lack of a giant trackpad that is also clickable (clickpad) on the Z830. Having used this feature on other Ultrabooks we’ve seen so far, it’s just a small 'touch' that we’d like to see more often in manufacturer designs. The trackpad found on the Portege Z830 here is considerably smaller than those found on other Ultrabooks.
Opting for the model without fingerprint reader also doesn’t help, because the left and right mouse buttons are not going anywhere in this year’s Portege Z series line-up. That said, the trackpad is sensitive enough, and the left and right buttons are tight and do their job well. So consumers used to the conventional kind of trackpads, and haven’t been near a big clickpad (like the Macbook Air) will feel right at home. You can always just double-tap on the trackpad anyway.
Lastly, we comment on its built-in speakers, the one feature that usually captures much of the multimedia aspect of a machine. They are good. Not great, not lousy, just good. That in itself, we feel is the biggest compliment we can give, because when you consider how slim the machine is, it’s simply amazing how Toshiba (and of course other Ultrabook manufacturers) can fit speakers that sound good. But of course, we wouldn’t recommend that you use it for anything other than personal needs. Using it in a boardroom would be a terrible idea, unless your boardroom is 3 x 3 meters in size.