Toshiba Portégé R30-A-13C review

Despite being full of useful ports, the R30 is letdown by a poor screen and keyboard

Price
£968
  • Plenty of ports; Reasonable power; Excellent battery life;
  • Dreadful screen; Mediocre keyboard; Expensive

Bursting with ports, good performance, solid battery life and high-level of repairability, the Toshiba Portg R30-A-13C sounds like the ultimate office companion. With a price well under 1000, is it too good to be true? 

Best for business?

Lift the R30 out-of-the-box  and you're greeted an array of ports, which you won't find on a thinner Ultrabook. The left-hand edge has 2 x USB 3 ports alongside HDMI and D-SUB outputs. Along the right-hand side sits an old-school DVD writer, SDXC card slot, an audio jack and Gigabit Ethernet port. There's also a Kensington lock connector alongside a Smart Card reader. 

Open up the 13in display and there's a blue trackpoint staring back at you in the middle of the spill resistant keyboard.  It's paired with two discrete buttons.

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The underside of the laptop includes a connector for docking purposes, again highlight the potential to use as a desktop replacement.

It's possible to remove the battery and gain access to more internals is a few screw turns away. The hard disk can be swapped, and one of the two memory slots is free, with this machine capable of housing up to 16GB of RAM. It's an IT admins dream for a repairability and upgrade standpoint.

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The compromises

The end-user experience isn't as impressive. The issues start with the large chassis. The Portg's 1.5kg weight makes it a couple of hundred grams heavier than more expensive Ultrabooks. Toshiba has also had to use a 27mm-thick chassis to fit in all the parts, so its 10mm+ thicker than ultra-thin rivals. If portability is high up on your list of priorities this isn't the machine for you.

Build quality is suspect too. Toshiba boasts of its magnesium chassis, honeycomb internal structure and drop-testing, but there's no disguising the desktop's warping when we pushing against the back of the screen. There's plenty of flex in the wrist-rest as well.

Ergonomic issues arise when it comes to input. The Scrabble-tile keys are wide but too short with limited travel. This makes typing awkward as the keys barely feel like they're being pressed, and the plastic clicks are annoying. We wouldn't want to use this all-day.

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The trackpoint and touchpad are responsive and easy to use. The touchpad has two buttons built-in, and they're fine - although the metallic bar underneath that's used for status lights was initially confusing.

A less important factor is the look of the machine. The R30 is dull. Toshiba has used a plastic for the outside  with a barely-visible brushed metal pattern, and the lid is plain.

Feel the power

The Portg redeems itself when it comes to performance. Powered by an Intel Core i5-4200M, the Haswell part has a respectable clock speed of 2.5GHz and a Turbo Core peak of 3.1GHz. Its two cores are Hyper-Threaded, and it's paired with 4GB of memory.

The Toshiba's 71 benchmark result is behind the Dell Latitude E7440 but squeaks ahead of most other Ultrabooks and hybrids. That score doesn't tell the whole story; the Toshiba's 3D and video rendering results of 47 and 55 are poor, and indicate the machine's graphical weaknesses - but the Portg's 85 and 92 scores in iTunes and Photoshop demonstrate its prowess in less intensive tasks. In short, it's enough power for most work applications, but high-end applications will be too much for this machine.

The downside was noise and heat. We noticed irritating fan noise when the Portg was running demanding software, the vent on the left-hand edge pumped out burning air during stress-tests - no surprise when the processor peaked at a toasty 87C. At least that vent won't be in the way when most people use a USB mouse, and we're glad that the rest of the chassis didn't heat up.

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The 320GB hard disk has enough space for a business notebook, but its sequential read and write scores of 103MB/s and 98MB/s are poor. That means lengthy loading times, and a middling boot time of 15s with Windows' Fast Startup option activated. We recommend keeping this on otherwise the boot time will treble.

Elsewhere, the Toshiba's internals impress. Few laptops still have DVD drives, and connectivity includes Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0 and a future-proofed dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi chip. There's a TPM 1.2 module and a 2-megapixel webcam.

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