There was a time when Toshiba’s line of Portégé business ultraportables was the epitome of sleek utility, particularly in the days of the R500 and R600. Samsung stole some of that show when it released the Series 9 (reviewed here)—the closest a PC has come to a MacBook Air to date. But while the Portégé R830, much like the R700 before it, won’t win any design contests, it offers many useful amenities in a very-portable package.
Costing exactly the same as the Series 9, the 13.3-inch R830 trumps that fancy lad with a much faster processor—a 2.7GHz Core i7-2620M vs. a 1.4GHz Core i5-2537M—a DVD burner, USB 3.0, and eSATA, while still measuring little more than an inch at it thickest.
Admittedly, the Toshiba R830 is no paragon of industrial design, but it's damn portable—without sacrificing power.
Naturally, the extra 1.3GHz of the R830’s CPU produced benchmark results that were substantially superior to those of the Series 9—ranging from 42 percent better in Quake III to 112 percent better in MainConcept. Against our ultraportable zero-point notebook (last year’s HP 2540p), the R830 also fared quite well. Its 98.9 percent win in Photoshop not only illustrates the benefits of a Sandy Bridge proc over Arrandale, but also the boost that comes from a solid-state drive. Its read speeds are likely four times those of the 5,400rpm hard drive in our zero-point. That plus an SSD’s less delicate nature helps counterbalance its modest 128GB capacity.
Could you upgrade to a larger-capacity drive in the future? Actually, no. The drive bay is accessible enough through the bottom of the notebook. What we found in it, though, wasn’t your typical SSD, but rather a proprietary drive with an unusual ribbon connector. Interestingly, the bay seems large enough to have accommodated a standard thin‑profile 2.5-inch drive, which would have been a really nice feature.
The memory bay is also accessible. Toshiba ships the R830 with one 4GB stick of RAM, and you can clearly see the results of that single-channel config in our Quake III benchmark—the only benchmark where the R830 was bested by the zero-point, which has a dual-channel config. Older games really respond to more memory bandwidth when you’re running integrated graphics. In fact, when we added a second stick of RAM to the R830, our Quake III score nearly doubled. Even Quake 4 saw a 25 percent performance boost from the upgrade. The nice thing is that the R830 offers two easy-to-get-at RAM slots, if gaming is a priority.
Speaking of RAM, it’s a little odd that our review unit shipped with a 32-bit version of Windows 7 Professional, since that renders 1GB of the memory unusable. We advise anyone purchasing this notebook to go with the 64-bit option.
Despite its minor quirks, we’re still very impressed with the R830. We don’t know of a lighter, more powerful laptop, and its battery runtime of almost seven hours is a Lab record.