Introducing the Toshiba Portege R835

With the deluge of ultrabooks stemming from Intel's initiative over the past few months, it's easy to forget ultraportables have been a part of the Windows PC landscape for quite some time. One of the unlikeliest sources was Toshiba; in 2010, a company that had been spending the last few years aggressively pursuing budget consumers produced a remarkably compelling ultraportable in the form of the Portege R700. We reviewed the R700 and found a lot to like, and Toshiba must have appreciated the notebook's excellent performance in both critical and commercial arenas.

Despite the steady march of progress with ultrabooks (due to get a shot in the arm soon with Ivy Bridge), Toshiba's Portege R700 hasn't gone untouched. Toshiba refreshed it with the R835, keeping the same basic chassis but enjoying the benefits of Sandy Bridge hardware and USB 3.0 connectivity. Forced to compete in a market with ultrabooks, the R835 strengthens the R700's value proposition with models starting at just $799 and featuring full voltage mobile processors from Intel while maintaining the same portable form factor.

Ultrabooks offer a healthy amount of performance in the sleekest of form factors, but sometimes end users just need a little more power and flexibility. Features that may have to be excised to hit that class can still be found in a notebook like the Portege R835, which enjoys all the comforts of a full-sized notebook without breaking your back...or the bank. Here's what our review unit came equipped with:

Toshiba Portege R835 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-2450M
(2x2.5GHz + HTT, Turbo to 3.1GHz, 32nm, 3MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM65
Memory 1x4GB Samsung DDR3-1333 and 1x2GB Samsung DDR3-1333 (Maximum 2x8GB)
Graphics Intel HD 3000 Graphics
(12 EUs, up to 1.3GHz)
Display 13.3" LED Glossy 16:9 768p
TOS5091
Hard Drive(s) Hitachi Travelstar 5K750 640GB 5400RPM SATA 3Gbps HDD
Optical Drive Matsushita DVD-RAM
Networking Intel WiFi Link 1000 802.11b/g/n
Intel 82579V Gigabit Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone and mic jacks
Battery 6-Cell, 11.1V, 66Wh
Front Side -
Right Side SD Card Reader
Optical drive
Headphone and mic jacks
USB 3.0
Ethernet
Left Side AC adaptor
Exhaust vent
VGA
eSATA/USB 2.0 combo port
USB 2.0
HDMI
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 12.4" x 0.72-1.05" x 8.94" (WxHxD)
315mm x 18-27mm x 227mm
Weight 3.2 lbs
1.45kg
Extras Webcam
USB 3.0
Warranty 1-year limited
Pricing Starts at $799
As configured: $849

Just from the dimensions and weight you can tell the R835 isn't really that much bigger than an ultrabook would be, but Toshiba outfits it with a full voltage Intel Core i5-2450M, a latter day incremental update from the i5-2430M (100MHz higher base and turbo) for Sandy Bridge released early this year. Alternately, the i5-2450M is comparable to the older i5-2520M, but has slightly lower (100MHz) turbo clock speeds. Attached to the i5's memory controller is 6GB of DDR3-1333; realistically the only difference between our review unit and the base level R835 is the extra 2GB of memory and $50 on the price tag. I wouldn't expect the boost in memory to impact performance greatly, particularly in our benchmarks, so prospective shoppers can probably steer clear and save some money buying the least expensive model.

What should attract some attention is the relic sitting in the 2.5" drive bay. We get a lot of higher end systems in for review, and with the push for ultrabooks we've gotten so used to seeing SSDs in notebooks that it's surprising to see a mechanical hard disk in a machine, much less one as slow as the 640GB, 5400RPM drive by Hitachi that occupies the R835. Thankfully it's user replaceable, but using a slower drive is a shock to the system when you've been playing with machines that come equipped with SSDs.

One of the major points where the Portege R835 sets itself apart is the inclusion of an optical drive. While the optical drives in my notebooks very seldom see use, I can recognize enough situations where one can be useful that it's easy to understand why someone might be willing to sacrifice a little bit of extra carrying weight just to get that perk included.

Everything else is pretty much par for the course, although it's nice to see a 66Wh battery standard in the Portege R835 instead of a smaller capacity one. This is usually one of the first places major vendors shave costs for consumer notebooks, and while 66Wh isn't mind-blowing, it's healthy enough to keep the R835 on its legs for a while. Other than the lack of an SSD and a stock voltage CPU (not that that's a bad thing), the only area where the Portege fails to achieve ultrabook status is in thickness: it's about 0.2" too thick at the back.

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  • kvort - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I bought my r835 over a year ago, and it had been out for a few months at the time. I remember looking all over AT for a review to find out if was any good.

    Why review after a year and a half on the market?
    Reply
  • jacobdrj - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    In my experience: People don't need dual core systems. They rarely need more that 2 GB of RAM. They CERTAINLY don't need huge display resolutions. They want to go online, check their mail, punch out the occasional Word document, and facebook themselves to death.

    A netbook with a single core processor and a HDD: Worthless. A netbook with a SSD (even with a 10.1: screen) the most used computer in a household... It starts fast. It is portable. The battery goes on for 9 HOURS (with a 6 or 9 cell battery, depending on your processor).

    I have to deal with a HDD boot drive at work, and it is HORRIBLE. I told them when I was hired in: Give me a the cheapest system you can buy, and put a SSD in it... My request has been postponed, but everyone in the Office can't wait for the SSD budget to be approved... That day is coming. Just waiting a few more months through the pain...
    Reply
  • bennyg - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Netbook with dual core (N570) atom, and with a SSD is still slow. Quick to get to windoze desktop but slow to finish booting due to the slow CPU. A Corsair Force (285/180mb/s) was no better than the slow old 90mb/s Samsung RBX harvested from a busted Dell. But no argument, both are much preferable to the bog slow 5400rpm that was in it. Everything I use has a SSD in it, even the HTPC.

    It's Android x86 ICS that makes it fly, it shines when paired with an OS designed for low power CPUs.
    Reply
  • bji - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I finally got SSDs in my work system. Now my home laptop, desktop, and fileserver, and work workstation, all are SSD only. Life is good.

    What an amazing difference it has made already (at work). I got two 240 GB Intel 520 SSDs. I wouldn't touch Sandforce before Intel endorsed it. So far - incredible. Perceptibly faster than the X25-M and Intel 320 I have in my home systems. Eliminated every single performance problem that I had been having during my software development work. My company sprung for the $750 upgrade. I would recommend it to anyone. My company is easily going to get more than $750 worth of extra productivity out of me in compensation for the upgrade cost.
    Reply
  • bootsattheboar - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Although it looks like it has a docking port, it doesn't really: the motherboard connector is missing. You have to dock it to a dynadock u3 that connects to the usb 3 port, which doesn't provide power. We bought 2 of these for people in my department. One works fine. The other has a problem with the usb3 port crashing after a few minutes of use. You have to restart the pc for it to work again. We tried both dynadocks with it, and 2 different usb2 mice, and it's definitely the port. It has been to the Toshiba repair depot once, and is awaiting a new box for a second trip since they did nothing but a burn-in test. Several people on their laptop forums have complained about the same issue with the renesas usb3 chipset. An unsupported (by Toshiba anyway) firmware update and driver update only prolonged the time before the port crashes.

    Other than that, it's a great laptop for the price.
    Reply
  • Hulk - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I hear the super PLS screens are very good. Reply
  • apudapus - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    I completely agree about getting better displays. That is why the last 2 laptops I've bought are the Sony Vaio Z1 and Sony Vaio Z2 (that and because they're great little machines). Display resolution is the first spec I look at when I see a new laptop. Thank you for continuing to wave the "we need better displays" banner. Reply
  • Daller - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    In Europe it is called the Satellite R835. Mine has an i3 processor, but I do not care, since I do all the heavy lifting on my workstation.

    I think the cooling system is very good, I've even tried blocking the exhaust while running Prime95... The system stays stable. Intel actually helped Toshiba design this cooling system, so I think they know what they are doing. Running a CPU hot is not a problem as long as it is within spec and you do not have many rapid heating/cooling cycles.

    I use it with a OCZ Vertex 2 120GB and it is very responsive.. if only I could replace that crappy screen! >:O
    Reply
  • Bob-o - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    > When Toshiba released the Portege R700 in 2010, it came out of nowhere.

    Uh, no it didn't. It evolved from the R600, which evolved from the R500,. . . , which evolved from the R200. . .

    Toshiba has made thin/ultralight/whatever notebooks for some time. I still have an R500 and R200 sitting around. And yep, the screens have always sucked. :-) But very light and decently capable in their time.
    Reply
  • bennyg - Friday, March 30, 2012 - link

    Good that someone is trying to remedy the deficiencies of the 'ultrabook' spec (... where are you AMD..??)

    Removeable battery = biggest yay. Don't care for runtime stats if I can double whatever they are by a hibernate & swap. Works great for my phone. My cheap ten year old 24V drill came with a spare battery. Why does no one advertise this for laptops!!?

    768p screen = boo.
    100C CPU temps? ouch!

    I had a notebook that pushed over 80C CPU and 95C GPU, but that was running a 45W i7 quad and ~65W GPU off the one tiny fan. Not a 32nm dual core with int gfx! Not good enough Toshiba!
    Reply

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