Toshiba Portégé R30-A-14K review

Pros

  • Solid build quality
  • Good battery life
  • Excellent keyboard
  • Optical drive

Cons

  • Mediocre screen
  • Chunky chassis design

Toshiba's Portégé models used to be some of the lightest, most portable laptops on the market. But the rise of the Ultrabook format means most manufacturers now make something thin and light, so the Portégé has become more of the portable end of Toshiba's range, rather than being the lightest of all. Some models do maximise the mobile experience, such as the hybrid Z10t-A-106 – but the R30-A-14K is more traditional in design.

We looked at the slightly higher-end R30-A-13C a few weeks ago. The A-14K sports a more modest Intel Core i3 4000M, rather than the Core i5 4200M of the A-13C. The 4000M is a dual-core processor with a nominal 2.4GHz clock speed, and again comes from Intel's latest Haswell generation. However, although the Core i3 still supports Hyper-Threading, meaning the two physical cores are presented as four virtual ones for faster parallel processing, it doesn't have a Turbo mode. So whilst the Core i5 4200M supports up to 3.1GHz on a single core, the 4000M is stuck at its nominal 2.4GHz. Both are 37W parts, though, so not quite the low-consumption CPUs found in Ultrabooks.

A somewhat meagre 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM is supplied alongside the processor. The system supports up to 16GB, and there's user access to the SODIMM slots via a panel on the bottom. But these days 4GB is the bare minimum, and even Ultrabooks are beginning to standardise on 8GB. The processor also supplies the graphics, in the shape of an Intel HD Graphics 4600 chipset. This has 20 execution units, 25 per cent more than the Intel HD Graphics 4000 supplied with most of the previous Ivy Bridge generation, so performance will be better, but not a sea change. There's a TPM chip inside as well, for greater password security and hardware drive encryption.

Storage provision is very traditional. There's no solid state disk here, just a 500GB Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 conventional hard disk, which has a 7,200rpm rotational speed so should be reasonably sprightly as mobile hard disks go, albeit no match for an SSD. There's shock detection on the hard disk, too, so its heads are protectively parked whenever potentially dangerous vibrations are detected. This is partnered with a tray-loading 8x DVD rewriter, which you may never use in this download-oriented software distribution era, but could be essential for some businesses.

As we mentioned in our review of the R30-A-13C, this Portégé is not going to win any beauty pageants. The design is very much function over form. However, its chunky appearance looks a lot heavier than it actually is. The 1.5kg weight is not a lot more than the Portégé Z10t-A-106, which sits firmly in the Ultrabook class, thanks to the R30's extensive use of magnesium in the chassis. The latter makes for a reassuringly solid feel, despite the light weight.

The 13.3in screen is nothing particularly special, though. It has a non-reflective rather than anti-glare coating, giving it a matt rather than glossy finish. This usually makes for better viewing angles, but the R30-A-14K's display is not exceptional in any direction. The 1,366 x 768 resolution isn't very special either, now that we are seeing notebooks with much higher resolution 13.3in screens, such as the 3,200 x 1,800 display sported by Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga 2 Pro.

In contrast, the Chiclet-style keyboard is a particular highlight. The action is light, but it's a joy to type on for extended periods. For the intended market, this is perhaps more important than a top-end screen. There's a decently sized trackpad, sensibly placed slightly to the left and almost directly beneath the spacebar. It's comfortable and accurate, although the bar of status lights beneath the trackpad can catch you out, as it isn't the button bar – these are integrated into the bottom of the trackpad. Alternatively, there's a trackpoint joystick in the middle of the keyboard as well, with discrete buttons just above the trackpad. The trackpad can be disabled if you prefer the trackpoint.

One of the benefits of the R30-A-14K's larger chassis compared to an Ultrabook is the greater space it affords for comprehensive connectivity. On the right, above the optical drive, is a SD card reader. Further back on the same side is a combo microphone and headphone jack, USB 3.0 and a Gigabit Ethernet port. On the left, there's a full-sized HDMI port, two more USB 3.0 ports (with one supporting Sleep-and-Charge), plus VGA. There's a docking port on the bottom, too. Wireless connectivity includes 802.11ac, so this notebook will connect with the latest WLAN installations.

The R30-A-14K acquits itself reasonably well when it comes to performance. The result of 2.58 in the Maxon Cinebench R11.5 render test is about on par for a 2.4GHz processor, and the OpenGL score of 15.63 is reasonable enough. With 883 in Futuremark's 3DMark11 and 535 in the Firestrike 1.1 portion of 3DMark, only light 3D usage is feasible, but that's not the focus of this notebook anyway. More relevant is the result of 2,206 in the Home portion of PCMark 8, and 3,250 in the Work portion. Neither are stunning results, but they are good enough, showing that the R30-A-14K will be more than up to everyday business tasks.

Best of all, the R30-A-14K lasted six hours and four minutes of the Home test in Toshiba's eco mode, and still recorded a performance score of 1,494. So it should be able to achieve the claimed duration of nine hours away from the power socket, since this would entail less continuous usage than the test scenario. It managed 179 minutes of our intensive Battery Eater Pro test, too, implying that it would probably get through a couple of movies in transit. The battery is removable, so you can also bring a second one along if you really need loads of time away from the mains, or the original one deteriorates.

Verdict

If you're not too bothered by how your portable looks, or actually prefer a sober and business-like appearance, the Portégé R30-A-14K has a lot going for it. It is a little on the pricey side for the specification, but the build quality and overall utility should mean this notebook will provide lengthy service before replacement is required, so long as you upgrade the RAM at some point. We would still prefer Toshiba's KIRA 101, or Lenovo's Thinkpad Yoga or Helix as more stylish and future-facing portables. However, all these are considerably more expensive, and as a general office workhorse that is highly portable, but a bit more practical than an Ultrabook, the Toshiba Portégé R30-A-14K ticks a lot of the right boxes.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Toshiba Portege R30 A-14K

Processor

2.4GHz Intel Core i3 4000M

RAM

4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM

Graphics

Intel HD 4600

Hard disk

500GB Hitachi Travelstar Z7K500 7,200rpm hard disk

Optical disc

Matshita DVD-RAM UJ8E2 8x DVD rewriter

Display

13.3in Toshiba HD non-reflective High Brightness LED-backlit TFT with 1,366 x 768 pixels

Networking

Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 + LE

Interfaces

3 x USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, LAN, headphone / microphone combo, SD card reader

Width x Depth x Height

316 x 227 x 26.6mm

Weight

1.5kg

Warranty

1 year international carry-in