Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Why I Chose the Ultrabook Toshiba Portege z830 instead of the MacBook Air

Z830 next to Apple's 13" MacBook Air
An Ultrabook is a computer in a category of higher-end thin and lightweight ultraportable laptops, defined by a specification from Intel. The name Ultrabook is an Intel trademark. By this marketing initiative and an associated $300M fund, Intel hopes to reinvigorate the PC market, against rising competition from tablet computers, which are powered by rivaling ARM-based processors and of course from the Apple MacBook Air from which the Ultrabook’s specifications are clearly designed.

Z830 next to iPad 1
The Toshiba Portege z830 is one of the first Ultrabooks to be made within Intel’s specs and this Ultrabook is pretty awesome. The size and weight is perfect for mobility and portability. I have the Apple iPad and have become accustom to a light and portable computing package. The iPad is great and the Logmein Ignition application makes it a near laptop replacement. Despite this, there is still a need for a full computer while on the go. For my job, I do most of my work on remote computers and servers, but there times I need to work locally. The things that I do locally on the computer are mostly simple tasks like email, word processing, spreadsheet calculations, etc. I do; however, enjoy manipulating photos and videos that I capture on my many devices like the iPhone 4s. The Portege z830 is not perfect, but is still a very good and very usable device. I refuse to carry a heavy laptop ever again.

Whenever I look to upgrade my laptop, I always get the faster machine available for the model that I chose to use. I wanted to get an Apple MacBook Air, but my boss insisted that I stick with the Windows platform. While I purchased a lot of Apple products lately, my preference for the MacBook Air was not because of the operating system but for the lightness and thinness that the MacBook Air could provide. When I first learned of my boss’ decision to stay in the Windows camp, I was bummed because I did not want to get a heavy laptop to lug around. Fortunately I heard about the Ultrabook category and so I began my quest to find the perfect Ultrabook from the bunch.

I won’t bore you with the process I took to decide which Ultrabook to pick, but I will tell you that the Toshiba Portege z830 had all of the features that I wanted in my portable computer. The main things that I wanted were Core i7 processor, at least 6GB of RAM, backlit keyboard, thin design and ultra-light weight form. The next things that I desired were full sized ports so I didn’t have to have extra cables or dongles to remember to bring along. The z830 has a full VGA port. Today I used the z830 for a presentation at our Christmas lunch. I was able to hook it up to the projector via the standard VGA cable; better than that I was able to close the lid (after disabling the sleep when lid is closed feature) and place the z830 under the projector. This device is so thin and strong that I could place the portable projector on top and not be concerned that the weight would damage the z830. This arrangement worked great because I had limited space for the equipment. Having the full size VGA was very useful.

The z820 has a full SD card slot. This allows pictures to be moved from a camera without an issue. I mainly work with Wi-Fi, but it is good to know that I have a full sized LAN port for a RJ-45 cable if required. Sometimes when traveling, this is the only way to get an Internet connection. The LAN port is poorly designed though. It has a slot at the bottom for a tab of a LAN cable to slide, but the edges are very sharp and can cut you or damage clothing if caught on the edges. I know the tab is normally plugged in on the bottom when a LAN cable is plugged into a LAN port; however, I would be willing to flip it upside down if Toshiba flipped their design to make the slot be on the top and out of the way. The way it is, I have snagged my pants while shifting the z830 around on my lap. If you grab the z830 by gripping it behind the screen on the right side, there is a possibility that you could get cut (at least the first time when you don’t know this hazard exists). While I am talking about sharp edges, let me talk about the other area of the z830 that is literally a pain.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

The z830 is slighter than the Apple MacBook Air. It is very thin. The z830 is very rectangle with very sharp edges. I know Apple loves to sue any competitor that copies their design too closely, but this is an area that Toshiba should have been willing to copy. I have rather hands that are often stuck by the z830’s sharp corner edges located below the keyboard. Toshiba is not the only PC maker that don’t get why pointed corners are not good on a laptop; many manufactures are guilty of this to this day. I am from Detroit – Motown. Years ago all car makers built vans with rear doors only on the passenger side – how silly was the idea people wanted to enter and exit only from the passenger side. Today, you might not be able to see a van with this design. One day, a laptop with sharp pointy corners near your hand rest will be a thing of the past too. Aside from the MacBook Air, the Asus Zenbook UX31 and the Acer Aspire S3 are the other Ultrabooks with rounded corners. While this is not a showstopper, the Toshiba Portege z830 would be much better off without this square cornered design.

Well I might as well get my last gripe out before I move on to all the things I do like about this computer. The z830 has a circular opening on the bottom of the device that sucks air in and blows it out of the rear of the computer. This process creates a buzz or whine that is quite noticeable. It isn’t a showstopper either, but it is very noticeable. The z830 doesn’t run hot, nor do I feel any warm air escaping from the rear vent. It makes me wonder if the setup was purely precautionary or if Toshiba engineered it so perfectly that air flow is constant to prevent heating issues. With it being so light and quick starting like my iPad, I guess I just want it to be quiet just like my iPad.

There is plenty to love about the Toshiba Portege z830. The matted screen is great; no reflections of the lights above or behind me. I love the backlit keyboard; no more tilting of the screen to cast light on the keys anymore. The fingerprint reader makes logging on quick and safe; no worries about someone looking over my shoulders while I type my password.

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