Toshiba Portege R930-116 review

Pros

  • Good performance for a 13.3in model
  • Integrated DVD rewriter
  • Decent range of ports, including eSATA
  • Excellent battery life in eco mode.
  • Integrated 3G

Cons

  • Expensive

Throughout its history, Toshiba's Portege has been synonymous with squeezing a phenomenal range of computing features into an unfeasibly small space. The Portege Z930 we looked at recently was the most powerful true Ultrabook we have reviewed, as well as being the thinnest. But the R930, reviewed here in its 116 variant, is a rather different beast. Instead of presenting the svelte and trendy form of the Ultrabook, and foregoing an optical drive in the process, the R930 is more like a regular notebook - only shrunken in size.

To keep performance closer to larger notebooks, the R930-116 doesn't opt for an ultra-low voltage Intel processor. Instead, a full-fat mobile Core i5 3320M is used. This runs at a nominal 2.6GHz, but incorporates Intel Turbo Boost 2.0, allowing an individual core to increase to 3.3GHz when required. The Core i5 has two physical cores, but Intel Hyper-Threading means these are split into four virtual cores, for improved multi-task performance. Being a non-ULV processor, the power draw is 35W rather than 17W, which will have some negative effects on battery life. It's still not the most powerful mobile Core i5, but should give the R930 noticeably more grunt than an Ultrabook.

As the processor is from Intel's latest Ivy Bridge range, its integrated graphics is the much-improved HD 4000 variety. This is almost good enough to compete with entry-level discrete graphics, making it more than adequate for the business traveller at whom the R930 is aimed. The graphics uses up to 1,696MB of the 4GB of 1,600MHz DDR3 system memory, which can be user-upgraded to 8GB via the second vacant DIMM slot, accessible through a plate on the underside of the machine. The hard disk can be accessed through a second plate, too.

For storage, the offering is more traditional than an Ultrabook. There's no solid-state disk here to improve performance and battery life at a major extra cost. Instead, a 500GB conventional Toshiba MK5061GSYN hard disk is included. The optical drive is a Matshita UJ8B2 8x DVD rewriter, which even supports DVD-RAM. So if you have discs you need to access on the road, the R930 is one of the few 13.3in notebooks that will let you do so. There is also an SDXC-compatible memory card reader on the top-right edge of the keyboard surround, above the optical drive, which is a slightly unusual position.

The complement of ports displays the R930's professional orientation. On the left can be found VGA, a combo USB 2.0 and eSATA port, USB 3.0 and HDMI. On the right, behind the optical drive, are discrete minijacks for headphones and microphone, another USB 3.0 port, and Gigabit Ethernet. Lurking underneath these is a SmartCard reader, if your company uses this method to secure its IT assets. The usual 802.11b/g/n wireless and Bluetooth 4 are available, and there's a GPS receiver built in too, and 3G UMTS is supported, so adding a SIM will give you completely unfettered wireless Internet..

The matt-finish anti-glare screen has the usual 1,366 x 768 resolution we have come to expect from a 13.3in display. Vertical viewing angles aren't particularly special, but horizontally it's fine, and both detail and colour are also perfectly adequate. Colours aren't quite vibrant enough for extended multimedia usage, but for watching a movie on the plane or in your hotel room the display will be decent enough. The speakers, though, lack volume and have almost no bass response. The keyboard keys are a little smaller than some Ultrabooks offer, but the island-style and general sense of quality construction mean it's still supremely comfortable to type on. The trackpad is a fairly traditional affair, with discrete buttons and a fingerprint reader in between them. So the pad itself is smaller than all-in-one trackpads, and by default only offers pinch-to-zoom, so doesn't have the MacBook influence of many recent trackpads.

With its non-ultra-low voltage processor, the R930 promises better performance than most 13.3in notebooks generally achieve. The score of 3.08 in the Maxon Cinebench R11.5 rendering test is way beyond the Ultrabook norm, although Acer's TravelMate P633-V-73528G50ikk goes even further with its Core i7 processor. Similarly, the Maxon Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL score of 12.19, 624 in the performance test from Futuremark's 3DMark11, and 4,836 in 3DMark06 are all very good for integrated graphics. This is clearly not a gaming laptop - and was never intended to be. But applications requiring OpenGL or DirectX acceleration will at least function smoothly at reasonable resolutions on the R930.

The story is encouraging for battery life, too. We ran our intensive battery rundown test twice in this case, as Toshiba offers its own optimised eco mode alongside the standard balanced mode. Our test runs the processor and graphics at 100 per cent, with the screen slightly dimmed, until the battery gives out. So it's essentially a worst-case scenario. The R930 lasted 117 minutes in balanced mode, but a much more impressive 242 minutes in eco mode, which is many times more than most regular notebooks, and even ahead of the least power-hungry Ultrabooks, such as HP's Folio 13. In practice, this will mean the R930 will manage a full day's usage on the battery in eco mode, although the quoted nine hours still sounds a bit optimistic. The 66Wh battery is removable, too, so you could carry a replacement with you for truly lengthy trips away from the power socket.

Verdict

Despite having most of the features of a full-sized notebook, the Portege R930-116 weighs in at just 1.5kg, making it a good example of what has made this notebook range popular with business travellers in the past. Its demure black magnesium chassis also exudes business-like quality, although we have to say this isn't the most stylish Portege we've ever seen. The price differential of the Portege also remains, however. So this isn't a particularly cheap option, but well worth considering if you need many of the features, and some of the power, of a desktop replacement in a much more portable, compact form. On the other hand, if you can forego the optical drive, Acer's TravelMate P633-V-73528G50ikk provides even more power and similarly extensive professional features for less, albeit in a heavier, less solidly constructed package.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Product

Toshiba Portege R930-116

Processor

2.6GHz Intel Core i5 3320M

RAM

4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM

Graphics

Intel HD 4000

Hard disk

500GB Toshiba MK5061GSYN

Optical disc

Matshita UJ8B2 8x DVD rewriter

Display

13.3in HighBrightness TFT with 1,366 x 768 pixels

Networking

Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Interfaces

2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0 / eSATA, VGA, HDMI, microphone, headphone, SD card reader

Width x Depth x Height

316 x 227 x 26.6mm

Weight

1.5kg

Warranty

3 years collect and return