Lots of people want a small and light laptop, and that's why Ultrabooks have become so popular. But many of those same people hanker for optical drives – a feature Ultrabooks notably lack. If you are a business user, maybe you also want legacy features like Ethernet and a VGA connector. Toshiba offers all three in its Portégé R30, along with an overall weight of 1.5kg and a bag-friendly, tough chassis. It sounds like a good setup – but there are some prices to pay.
Outwardly the Toshiba Portégé R30 is not particularly pretty. Yes it is light, but the thickness of 18.3mm at the front and 26.6mm at the back immediately marks this out as a fairly chunky laptop. At least this means there's room for a full-sized Ethernet port on the back right of the chassis behind the optical drive, a USB 3.0 connector and the combi headset and mic port. Heck, it even means Toshiba has managed to squeeze an SD card slot in above the optical drive bay and, slightly recessed, a smartcard reader underneath. On the left side there's plenty of height for the full-sized VGA port. There are also two further USB 3.0 ports here, and HDMI too.
Toshiba can hardly be called a dedicated follower of fashion with the chassis design here. In fact, the overall look of this notebook has not been seriously refined for a few generations. Compare it to the 2011 Portege R700 and you'll find the ports and connectors in the same locations, and a great deal of similarity in the general look.
However, I don't dislike it. It is a practical layout and that counts for a lot. Also, the chassis is made from magnesium adding solidity to the build. That noted, though, the lid section is quite flexible and a fourth USB 3.0 connector might have been useful.
Open the device up and there's an immediately noticeable blue nubbin of a pointer that provides cursor control alongside the trackpad. Two narrow buttons sitting above the trackpad work well with it, while the trackpad itself has a couple of embedded buttons, and is finished in a silver panel that contains tiny white status lights. The trackpad is easily disabled with a FN key if you want to rely on the nubbin alone, and when not in use a tiny backlit icon at its top left reminds you of the fact.
The keyboard is very light touch and comfy to use. The keys are perhaps a tad small, but this isn't really an issue.
The 13.3in screen has a noticeably wide bezel, in the top of which sits a 2 megapixel camera for your all-important web chats. It is good to see a matte finish to the screen – this is a great laptop for working with on trains where sidelights can be really reflective. And the slightly disappointing viewing angles might also be a good thing if you do a lot of mobile working: At least they deter fellow travellers from reading over your shoulder.
But the resolution of 1366 x 768 feels very old hat and there's no touch-responsive panel among the range of different configurations of this laptop. Don't think about the Toshiba Portégé R30 if you need to give presentations from it, either. The speakers aren't really up to it.
There are various different configurations of this laptop available with Windows 8.1, which was on board my review sample, and Windows 7 in the mix. The R30-A-13C I reviewed boasts a Core i5-4200M CPU running at 2.5GHz and 4GB of RAM in support, along with a 500GB, 7,200rpm hard drive. There's shock protection for the hard drive which will park it if the built-in accelerometer detects motion. This should ensure it is protected against knocks and bangs, and you can configure its sensitivity or turn it off completely if you wish. Wi-Fi ac and Bluetooth 4 are of course both here.
Battery life is good, and anecdotal evidence suggests a long train journey should be able to be filled with fruitful working unless you plan to travel the full length of the UK by train on a single battery charge! If you do, then the battery is very easily removed and replaced with a pre-charged spare. Toshiba quotes up to 9 hours for the battery which will probably be a bit of a stretch, but my anecdotal evidence during testing suggests between 7 and 8 hours should be achievable.
There aren't a lot of bells and whistles with this notebook, but it is ergonomic and functional. Importantly, it combines a reasonably light weight with some features business users will particularly like: A DVD drive, Ethernet and VGA. The downside is that it seems rather overpriced.
Manufacturer and Model
Toshiba Portégé R30-A-13C
2.5GHz Intel Core i5 4200M
4GB 1,600MHz DDR3L
Intel HD 4600
DVD Super Multi
13.3in 1,366 x 768 resolution
802.11a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.0
3 x USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, Ethernet, combo headphone and microphone, SD card reader
Width x Depth x Height
316 x 227 x 18.3mm (front) / 26.6mm (rear)
1 year international