Conclusion: Time for a Change

When Toshiba released the Portege R700 in 2010, it came out of nowhere. We didn't have ultrabooks on the market, and nobody was expecting a design like that from Toshiba of all companies. The design served them well, and they extended that design language to respectable notebooks like their Tecra R840 and R850 lines.

The problem is that while the R700 was a fine effort, it wasn't perfect out of the gate, and it seems like Toshiba's designers may have gotten nervous about messing with success. The result is an R835 with hardware updates under the hood but none of its predecessor's issues resolved. On the contrary, the R835 seems to have suffered in the interim.

Fundamentally we have a sound design, but things fall apart in key areas of the experience. The display is the same problem we've belabored time and time again; that's easy enough to fix provided economies of scale pick up and better quality displays become more readily available, and judging from the explosion of the tablet market this is entirely possible. The keyboard is simple enough to revise, too; lose the glossy keycaps, increase the y-height of the keys, and somehow fix the mushy tactile response. These two items are things that most users can adjust to on a regular notebook, but they're fixable at the design phase as well.

Unfortunately, the last major issue with the R835 is the cooling design. I'm not convinced this is unsolvable, but Toshiba may have to make serious revisions under the hood to get thermals in check—or they have to look at sacrificing quiet running for lower temperatures. My other problems with the R835 were things I could see someone adjusting to, but I can't recommend a system with a CPU that's hitting the high 90s under full load, let alone Intel's spec 100C.

What's disappointing is that if it wasn't for those thermals, I could probably give the Portege R835 a tentative recommendation. Battery life is fantastic, performance is solid enough, and the features are there. I can see the R835 theoretically being a fine solution for certain users. As it stands, though, I couldn't in good conscience recommend a notebook that's pretty much banking on its warranty the moment it ships.

Another Low Quality TN Panel
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  • MooseMuffin - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I actually have this laptop and I replaced the HDD with a SSD within two weeks of owning it. Reply
  • TrackSmart - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Ditto. I have the R700 (basically the same laptop). I installed a small SSD and put the original hard disk in the optical drive bay. A nice compromise that wouldn't be possible in an ultrabook.

    Now if they would only start making decent screens on these things...
    Reply
  • agent2099 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    That is really the way to go. Manufactures charge a huge premium for adding ssds. Reply
  • steven75 - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Anandtech isn't a site for "most people", it's a site for tech enthusiasts. They are right to recommend SSDs over HDDs at this point in time. The cost-to-benefit ratio is very much in favor of SSDs. Reply
  • pdjblum - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    This is a crapple-centric site that used to be an enthusiast site. Now Anand and all his sheep primarily use crapple and measure everything against it. Reply
  • TrackSmart - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I have no love for apple, but I don't see the problem here. If you are not willing to buy a laptop with a crappy screen and and less than stellar build quality, that doesn't leave you with many other options outside of Apple, a few very expensive models from Sony, and the HP Envy series (which doesn't always have the display upgrade available). Like it or not, Apple sells a lot of laptops and also sets a pretty high bar for overall build quality, which is why they are so often used as a benchmark for comparison. Reply
  • Snotling - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Dell XPS also have a few decent offers... Reply
  • frostyfiredude - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Are you saying Anand's standards have gone up because they use Apple machines now?

    If so, I don't see how that is an issue.

    You have to admit that Apple makes excellent machines, hence why they are the reference; they use some of the best displays, two of the best chassis designs, consistently excellent battery life, and they do all the little things like keyboards and trackpads right every time.
    Reply
  • ImSpartacus - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Yup. I wish I could buy a PC, but Macbooks are way too damn good (the TRACKPAD). And bootcamp works well enough, so it's little inconvenience. Reply
  • MrSpadge - Saturday, March 31, 2012 - link

    Sure, the average buyer just goes for "cheap enough", maybe with a little extra. But that doesn't mean this is good or the right way for them. Instead of upgrading this Toshiba with 2 GB more RAM for 50$ it should have gotten a 128 GB SSD for maybe 100$+. That would have turned it into a much more usable machine (for most purposes.. external storage is still your friend). Reply

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