Long before Apple had created the MacBook Air and Intel coined the term Ultrabook, there was the Toshiba Portege. This dipped to around 1.5kg more than a decade ago, yet still provided a useful battery life and decent performance. Today, the Portege model lives on, and goes from strength to strength. The Z930-10Q may be one of the slimmest notebooks on the market, but it still packs a heavyweight punch.
Not only does the Portege sport Intel’s latest Ivy Bridge processor generation, it also goes one further than even Asus’ Zenbook Prime UX32A by using the top Core i5 ultra-low voltage model. This is the 3427U, which runs nominally at 1.8GHz, but can also increase the speed of a single core to 2.8GHz for single-threaded tasks and two cores at up to 2.3GHz via Intel Turbo Boost. It’s a dual-core processor with Intel Hyper-Threading, too, so presents four virtual CPUs for optimal multi-threaded performance. Our review sample also came with the maximum 6GB RAM available for the model, which puts it ahead of some other Ultrabooks again.
With its Intel Ivy Bridge-generation processor, the Portege takes advantage of the latter’s HD 4000 integrated graphics, rather than a separate device. This has proven itself significantly more powerful than the HD 3000 graphics it supersedes. It hasn’t quite entered dedicated gamer realms, but for occasional entertainment it will be adequate.
The 13.3in screen is pretty standard, offering the 1,366 x 768 widescreen resolution we usually see at this size. It has a matt coating, so isn’t plagued by the reflections in bright lighting that glossy screens can suffer. Horizontal viewing angles are good, but vertical viewing tails off rather quickly at anything other than straight on, making good vertical angling of the screen a necessity.
If the Portege has one slight drawback, it’s that the keyboard keys are a little narrow in the back to front direction, and the action not quite as defined as the best out there. It’s still a reasonable keyboard to type on for extended periods, but the key size is one price you pay for the diminutive proportions of the Portege, and if you have blacksmith’s fingers this might not be the notebook for you.
The touchpad is surprisingly conventional for a notebook of this genre, with physical left and right buttons. There’s a fingerprint reader in the middle as well. Pinch to zoom is supported, but there are no other common multi-touch gestures. The positioning is slightly off centre, so you won’t accidentally brush the touchpad with the heel of your hand, and even if you do find this a problem, there’s a button just above to turn the touchpad off entirely. Toshiba has also built the status lights into the front of the touchpad section, which we think is a surprisingly good idea.
Despite the Portege’s skinny proportions, Toshiba has still managed to shoehorn a commendable selection of full-sized ports into its svelte frame. Asus and Samsung should take note, because the Portege is still only 16mm thick at its widest point, yet it manages to incorporate full-sized HDMI, VGA, and Gigabit Ethernet ports, with no dongles required. These are all situated around the rear, which might irritate some, but not having to carry any adapters will surely outweigh this. There are a few ports on the sides, with individual headphone and microphone minijacks – not a single combined one – on the left alongside the SDXC memory card slot, and USB 3 on the right. A further two USB 2 ports are located on the rear.
One thing Toshiba hasn’t managed to shoehorn into the Portege is an optical drive, although some previous models did manage this engineering feat. You probably won’t miss this unless you plan to install a large software suite from disk, and even then the many networking options provide alternative methods. There’s a 128GB Toshiba solid state disk for storage, which is pretty standard, as well as decidedly quick and miserly on power, but it might prove limiting if you are a heavy user. Otherwise, there’s the aforementioned SDXC-compatible memory card slot.
Naturally, the Portege comes with 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, but also 802.11a for corporate locations still using this standard. There’s Bluetooth 4, too, and best of all a slot for a 3G SIM, so you can add on a wireless data subscription, with support for UMTS up to HSUPA at 5.76Mbits/sec.
As predicted, the Portege is a considerably more capable performer than previous Ultrabooks we have tested. Its Core i5 processor powered it to a result of 2.46 in Cinebench R11.5’s rendering test, a good 20 per cent faster than even Ivy Bridge-based alternatives. It won’t be giving a powerful desktop a run for its money, but no everyday task will be beyond it. The impressive results continue in the graphics department, too. The Cinebench OpenGL score of 15.19 isn’t quite up with discrete graphics, such as Lenovo’s IdeaPad U410, but it’s pretty close. Similarly, the score of 646 in 3DMark11 implies that this wafer-thin notebook really could handle the odd game at respectable resolutions and quality settings, but still won’t quite give what discrete graphics can manage. The result of 5621 in 3DMark06 is also a good 60 per cent higher than Ultrabooks equipped with Intel HD 3000 graphics, showing just how much more potent HD 4000 is.
The Portege only managed to endure 109 minutes of our 100 per cent load battery test, which is a bit less than some Ultrabooks we have reviewed recently. However, it’s worth bearing in mind that the Core i5 3427U’s Turbo Boost mode works against it here, as CPU power consumption can leap by more than 50 per cent when the clock frequency is increased. Switching to Toshiba’s eco mode instead of the balanced mode improved endurance to 127 minutes, approximately on par with Asus’s Zenbook Prime UX32A. Toshiba claims up to eight hours battery life, which might be possible with light usage, but we’d expect quite a bit less if you call upon multimedia functions extensively. Nevertheless, a working day’s worth of office application and web usage should still be possible.
As with pretty much every Portege before it, the Z930-10Q is a mightily impressive bit of kit. Its performance belies its size considerably, and its battery life is reasonable if not exceptional in its class. Unfortunately, all this quality comes at a considerable cost, though, with a price a tad over £1,300. So this is one of the best-equipped Ultrabooks on the market, but you do have to pay for it.
- Best-in-class processor performance
- Good graphics power for an Ultrabook
- Full-sized VGA, HDMI & GbE ports
- SIM slot for 3G wireless data
- Only reasonable battery life
£1,319.99 inc. VAT