Toshiba Portege R835 Review

The Toshiba Portege R835 is a 13.3” portable laptop that has on paper specs that would make you think it costs over $1,000, but in reality can be picked up for around $800.  Some of the stand out features for the Portege R835 are:

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  • Weighs only 3.2lbs
  • Built-in optical drive yet still thin
  • Durable magnesium-alloy chassis
  • Spill resistant keyboard
  • “Honeycomb” ribbed reinforced palm rest area
  • Fast Intel Core i5-2410m processor

And that’s just a starters.  But you want to know the best thing about this Portege R835-P56X under review?  I bought it for $699.99 and got a Free XBox 360 with it thanks to a deal at the time on Amazon.com, that’s probably one of the better laptop deals I’ve had in a while!

The specs for the Toshiba R835-P56X being reviewed are as follows:

  • Screen: 13.3” widescreen 1366 x 768 resolution
  • Processor: Intel Core i5-2410M Processor 2.3 GHz (2.9 GHz with Turbo Boost Technology), 3MB Cache
  • Memory: 4GB DDR3 1333MHz (max 8GB)
  • OS: Genuine Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • Battery: 6 cell/48Wh Lithium Ion battery pack
  • Storage: 640GB (5400 RPM) HD
  • Ports: 1-eSATA/USB (2.0) combo port with Sleep and Charge, 1-USB (2.0) port, 1-USB (3.0) port, Memory Card Reader, HDMI
  • Weight: 3.2lbs
  • Dimensions: 12.44” x 8.94” x 1.05” (width x depth x thickness)
  • Full specs: http://www.toshibadirect.com/td/b2c/pdet.to?poid=501921

Toshiba R835 Unboxing

The Portege R835 came in a standard brown box and is packaged well to ensure the contents are secure during shipping:

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Inside the box you get the following: Toshiba R835-P56X laptop, power cord, warranty and manual, quick start guide:

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Toshiba R835 Build and Design

The Portege R835 is very well built for its price class.  The majority of the body is metallic, it uses a magnesium-alloy casing.  The palm rest areas are reinforced with what Toshiba calls a “honeycomb” rib structure, making those areas very firm and resistant to flex during typing.  The only areas of plastic are found on the bezel around the screen, the hinge covers and the bottom of the laptop which uses a thick plastic cover for protection.   While the Portege R835 chassis does not feel as solid and rigid as the Apple MacBook Air or Pro, it also doesn’t cost as much as those Mac laptops.  Adding to the build quality is the fact you get a spill proof keyboard and hard drive impact sensor that automatically parks the hard drive read/write head during an impact situation to protect from any data loss.

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The R835 has a very appealing, clean and what I would call professional design.  The lid has a subtle dark blue finish and inside it is a brushed dark metallic look.  The hinges, while plastic, do have a chrome finish that adds a nice design flare.  Helping with the design look is the overall slimness of the Portege R835, “thin is in” might be a cliché term, but when it comes to phones, laptops and tablets people simply recognize the slimmer the device the better.

The Toshiba R835 weighs in at a very light 3lbs 3.8 ounces, or 3.2lbs if you prefer decimals.  With the power cord and AC adapter the total travel weight comes to about 4lbs.

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Toshiba R835-P56X Performance

The Portege R835-P56X comes equipped with an Intel Core i5-2410m dual core processor, part of the 2nd generation of Intel Core i5 processors.  This is a great processor because it runs at 2.30GHz under typical usage but if a particular program is more demanding the processor can overclock to 2.90 GHz using the Intel Turbo Boost technology.  For the average student the Intel Core i5-2410m is going to be ample performance for your needs.   Since the Core i5-2410m is part of the the latest Intel mobile processor technology, it’s 20% faster than the previous generation of Intel Core i5 processors and will provide smooth HD video playback, seamless multi-tasking and speedy application switching.

Though the Intel HD 3000 integrated graphics will not be enough to provide great performance in high end games such as the popular Counter Strike series, it will provide enough performance for more basic games such as those in the EA sports gaming series.  For 90% of students though, this laptop is going to provide more than enough power and not be outdated 4-years from now as you’re getting the latest processing technology inside.

The Toshiba Portege R835 scored well in the PCMark Vantage overall system performance benchmark test, the 5,858 score was close to that of the recently reviewed Dell Vostro 3450.  Below is a table comparing the Inspiron 14z PCMark Vantage score to other recent 14-inch laptops:

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Laptop PCMark Vantage Score
Lenovo ThinkPad Edge E420 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM 6,056 PCMarks
Dell Vostro 3450 – Intel Core i5-2410m 2.30Ghz, 4GB RAM 5,901 PCMarks
Toshiba Portege R835-P56X – Intel Core i5-2410m, 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM 5,858 PCMarks
Dell Inspiron N411z – Intel Core i3-2330m 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM 5,285 PCMarks
Lenovo ThinkPad T420 – Intel Core i3-2310m 2.1GHz, 2GB RAM 3,204 PCMarks

 

Toshiba R835 Battery Life

The battery life on the R835-P56X under review is, in a word, amazing.  I set the power mode to “Eco”, a Toshiba customized power setting, and then forced the screen to remain on at half brightness along with Wi-fi.  With a browser window open and refreshing every 1 minute the battery lasted a full 8 hours and 20 minutes.  Granted, this is a conservative usage scenario but even if you were to crank up the screen brightness to full level and play video  you’re easily going to get 5 hours of battery life.  That’s amazing, and as a student you can rest assured that this laptop will be a good option for taking notes in class without running out of juice.

Toshiba Portege R835 Ports

The R835 comes nicely equipped with all the ports you’ll need, it even has the latest USB 3.0 port for fast transfer to peripherals such as external storage.  Here’s a run down of the ports on each side:

Portege R835 left side

Left side ports: Monitor out, eSata USB 2.0 combo port, USB 2.0, HDMI

toshiba portege r835 back

No ports on the back side!

toshiba portege r835 right side

Right side ports: SD card reader, microphone, headphone, USB 3.0 port

Toshiba R835 Keyboard

Toshiba R835 keyboard

Not everything can be perfect can it?  And alas, the keyboard is where we run into a wall with the Portege R835.  The keys are small and slippery, making typing a challenge.  To add to the issues, the key travel is very short and it’s hard to tell based on touch whether a key press registered or not.  Even after several days of using the keyboard I still got tripped up and mistyped quite frequently.  I’m very picky when it comes to keyboards so take my opinion with a grain of salt, but this is one of the worst keyboard implementations I’ve seen in quite a while.  Thumbs down.

Toshiba R835 TouchPad

DSC_0218The Portege R835 has a synaptics touchpad, this allows you to do things such as pinch to zoom or two fingered scrolling along with a host of other configurable gestures.  The Touchpad works well and there’s nothing major to complain about, no jumpy cursors or poor sensitivity.  The mouse buttons below the touchpad are two distinct buttons, these work well but are slightly on the loud and clicky side which could be annoying in a quiet room such as a lecture hall.  If you plan on using a wireless mouse instead of the touchpad be aware there is no Bluetooth built-in to the R835-P56X configuration, you’d have to use a wireless mouse that uses a USB receiver.

Toshiba R835 Screen

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Screen viewed straight on
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Screen at a 30 degree angle back, colors distort

This Portege R835 uses an LED-backlit 13.3-inch glossy display with a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution.  The top brightness is adequate, though far from outstanding.   The vertical viewing angles are really poor, meaning you need to look straight on with eyes perpendicular to the screen to get a true color representation.  My big issue is that this screen seems somehow more glossy than your average glossy screen notebook, and that’s a problem, reflections and mirror like behavior in a setting with bright background lighting – such as an office, leads to the following:

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The window blinds you see on the screen there are in fact a reflection so strong that it’s hard to see the image of the flowers being shown on the screen.  If you’re using this laptop in a room without strong overhead lighting or a window behind you as is my case, then the glossy screen won’t be an issue, but if you’re like me and do have such a setup then you should consider this factor.

Toshiba R835 Heat & Noise

The R835-P56X runs nice and cool under normal usage and when being run full hilt it still doesn’t get overly warm.  This means the R835 is comfortable to use in your lap, and at only 3.2lbs a lot of people will probably choose to do that.  Because the heat is well managed the fans don’t need to do a ton of work, so overall the sound is quiet.

Toshiba R835 Review Conclusion

The Portege R835 is truly a standout in the 13.3” screen laptop class, you get so much for the money which explains why this model has been selling like hotcakes.  I can’t think of any other 13.3” laptop that uses a metallic body, has 8 hours of battery life, built-in optical drive and Core i5 processor that can be found in the $700 range.  It’s not a perfect laptop, I’d like to see improvement in the screen and something done about the keyboard to make it more usable, but you’ll be hard pressed to find something under $1,000 that has the same specs as the R835 so it becomes easier to accept the drawbacks and simply enjoy the features that are truly great.

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Filed Under: Feature Articles, Student Laptop Reviews

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2 Responses to Toshiba Portege R835 Review

  1. J.D. September 10, 2011 at 1:23 pm #

    Great review Andrew!

    Nice that you pointed out the poor keyboard and ultra-glossy LCD. For me those were two of the main strikes against this otherwise awesome machine.

    I went with a Dell Vostro V131 because of the better (and backlit) keyboard as well as the matte LCD. I hope that the V131 has better viewing angles (laptop should get here around the end of the month) than the R835. Now if only more manufactuers would start offering IPS display options like Lenovo does on the X220!

    • Andrew September 10, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

      thanks J.D., yeah the glossy screen and keyboard were added as something meant to give a more flashy look to the R835, but it’s a case of form over functionality there. Quite a bummer since a matte screen and a simply “normal” keyboard would make this laptop 10/10.

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