What do you get if you cross an Ultrabook with Asus' now seminal Transformer concept? The answer is something pretty close to the Toshiba Portege Z10t-A-106. The main unit is an 11.6in Windows 8 tablet – but slot it into the bundled base unit, and it does a passable impression of an Ultrabook, albeit a rather strangely formatted one.
What makes the Z10t particularly strange is that whereas most Ultrabooks have skinny lids containing their TFT panels, and fatter bases with the rest of the electronics, this one has things other way round. This choice is fairly obvious considering that screen can be detached from the base to form a standalone tablet, but it's still a little incongruous, and has one or two drawbacks. The most significant of these is that Toshiba has prevented the hinge from allowing the screen to pass an angle much further than perpendicular to the base, presumably for reasons of balance. This is just about adequate for lap usage, but it could lead to uncomfortable screen viewing in some situations.
The other drawback of the skinny base is that the keyboard’s key action isn't as satisfying as our favourite Toshiba Portege notebooks, such as the Z930-10Q, because there just isn't the space for full key travel. It's still much better than having to use the onscreen keyboard on a tablet, and the key layout is not far off that of a 13in Ultrabook – but we have had better typing experiences.
The Z10t has the usual trappings of a Portege, with both a trackpad and the traditional joystick in the middle of the keyboard. To go with the latter, there are two physical buttons above the trackpad, although the trackpad has its own built-in but clearly delineated buttons at the bottom. This isn't the most responsive or accurate trackpad we have used, and this makes the joystick actually rather welcome. There is, of course, the tablet touchscreen available as a third pointing option.
The one portion of the base that isn't inordinately skinny is the rear behind the hinge. This houses a Gigabit Ethernet connection, and there are full-sized HDMI and VGA ports on the rear, plus a USB 2.0 port on the left. So with the USB 3.0 port on the right-hand side of the tablet screen itself, alongside a combo headphone and microphone jack, microHDMI and SD card reader, the Z10t is rather well appointed in terms of connectivity.
Of course, the Z10t is meant to spend a fair amount of time not attached to its base, so it has a Windows 8 button on the bottom edge of the screen, plus a physical volume control and a button to turn off auto-rotate. The touchscreen is accurate and responsive, and the tablet feels comfortable in the hand.
Inside is a specification that is beyond many Windows 8 tablets we have reviewed before, such as the Acer Iconia W700 or Dell's Latitude 10, although it’s not quite up there with the average true Ultrabook. The processor is an Intel Core i5-3339Y, which is a dual-core 13W ultra-low voltage CPU from the Ivy Bridge generation, running at a nominal 1.5GHz. Despite the low power consumption, this processor still offers Hyper-Threading and so it presents four virtual cores. It even has a Turbo Boost mode, where a single core can increase to 2GHz when required.
The processor is backed by 4GB of DDR3 SDRAM, which is decent for a tablet but merely adequate for an Ultrabook, and there’s no upgrade option. The processor also supplies the graphics, in the form of Intel HD 4000, although this runs at 850MHz, a lower frequency than most Intel Ivy Bridge processor graphics, which can be as much as 50 per cent faster clocked than this. This is one area of compromise to keep the power consumption down.
The power of the 3D acceleration isn't that important on a more business-focused tablet hybrid such as this, anyway. You are more likely to watch videos, however, and this is where one of the Z10t's most compelling features will aid matters greatly – the screen. The 11.6in IPS touchscreen sports a highly commendable 1,920 x 1,080 resolution, and it's bright, clear, and boasts excellent viewing angles as well. This screen is definitely a cut above most Ultrabooks or tablets. The speakers on the bottom edge, on the other hand, are very tinny, and won't even give an iPad a run for its money.
Storage is on par with the Ultrabook norm. A 128GB Toshiba THNSNF128GMCS solid state disk is the primary storage device, which will be adequate for general usage, but not if you want to hold a large quantity of audio-visual data, although this is less likely for a business-oriented portable model like a Portege.
As you would expect from the Z10t's relatively low processor frequency, performance is a little behind the average Ultrabook, but still adequate for everyday tasks. The score in the rendering portion of Maxon Cinebench R11.5 was 1.8, where most Ultrabooks achieve over 2. Similarly, the lower clock speed of the graphics means that the Cinebench Open GL score of 9.64 is comparatively low, and this is matched by the Futuremark 3DMark11 result of 476. But most 3D tasks should run, which isn’t the case with Intel Atom-based tablets, so this will be fine in most situations.
Less acceptable is the battery life. In our 100 per cent battery stress test, the Z10t only lasted 147 minutes, which would amount to between four and five hours of everyday activity. With tablets like Dell's Latitude 10 able to last more than twice as long, and many Ultrabooks with significantly better battery life as well, this is the one significant downside of the Toshiba offering, and could be a deal-breaker for some users.
Toshiba has gotten quite a lot right with the Portege Z10t-A-106. It feels at home whether used as a notebook or tablet, and the fantastic screen is a particular joy to use for content consumption in tablet form. The keyboard dock also makes it a serious contender as an Ultrabook when you need more rapid text entry than an onscreen keyboard will allow.
It's also not extortionately expensive at a smidgen under £900, but the battery life lets the side down somewhat. It's not appalling, but it doesn't live up to the mobile companionship implied by the rest of the system's features and specification.
Manufacturer and Product
Toshiba Portege Z10t-A-106
1.5GHz Intel Core i5-3339Y
4GB DDR3 SDRAM
Intel HD 4000
128GB Toshiba THNSNF128GMCS solid state disk
11.6in Toshiba TruBrite IPS High touch TFT with 1,920 x 1,080 pixels
802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0
2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, LAN, headphone, microphone, SD card reader
Width x Depth x Height
299 x 220.5 x 19.9mm
1 year European collect and return