Tag: thin-and-light notebook

Product Review–Toshiba Portege R830 ultraportable notebook computer (Part No: PT321A-01L002)


I am reviewing the Toshiba Portege R830 series of ultraportable notebook computers which is targeted at business users, primarily the “big end of town” but there are models in this series that can appeal to most users who are after a notebook that can be stuffed in to that bike bag or shoulder bag.

This is the first ultraportable notebook based on Intel Sandy Bridge technology that I have reviewed for HomeNetworking01.info.This class of notebook is infact a proving ground for the technology because it has requirements for long battery life, ability to play video content at a moment’s notice as well as be light and suitable for use on the road. The Toshiba Portege R830 Series is so well positioned with this respect due to it being equipped with an optical drive which would come in handy with playing DVDs that you buy or rent before that long bus or train trip.

Toshiba Portege R830 ultraportable notebook

– this configuration
Processor Intel Sandy Bridge i5-2520M Other vairants – all Sandy Bridge
cheaper –
more expensive
RAM 4Gb RAM shared with graphics
Secondary Storage 128Gb solid-state storage
cheaper 500Gb hard disk
extra cost 512Gb solid-state storage
optical drive, SDHC card reader
Display Subsystem Intel HD Graphics up to 2G RAM for graphics
Screen 13.3” widescreen (1366×768) LED-backlit LCD
Network Wi-Fi 802.11a/g/n
Ethernet Gigabit Ethernet
Bluetooth 3.0 + HS
Connectors USB 3 x USB 2.0
SATA 1 x eSATA in combo USB socket
Audio 3.5mm stereo headphone jack
3.5mm stereo microphone jack
Digital audio via HDMI
Operating System on supplied unit Microsoft Windows 7 Professional
Windows Experience Index – this configuration Overall 4.7
Graphics 4.7
Gaming (Advanced) Graphics 6.1

The computer itself

I have noticed negligible extra weight when I have packed in my day bag to take it on an “on-road” test drive. It is large enough for the lid to lean back while in crowded buses or economy-class airline seats, even if the seat ahead is suddenly reclined.

Toshiba Portege R830 ultraportable's optical drive

One of the few ultraportables that is equipped with an optical drive

All the models in this series come with a DVD burner but this review model and the model above are equipped with a solid-state drive rather than a hard disk for the main secondary storage. The two less-expensive models come with a 500Gb hard disk and the most expensive model has a 512Gb solid-state drive while this model has the 128Gb SSD.

Aesthetics and Build quality

The Portege R830 Series is finished in an all-black finish with chrome highlights on the lid hinges. This avoids the tendency to use a fingermark-attracting gloss finish, which allows for a more durable finish.

As well, for an ultralight computer, it is very well-built and has a good-quality finish about it. It was also able to handle the rough usage that may occur as it is taken out and about when you travel or go “hotspot surfing”.

User interface

The Toshiba ultraportable notebook is equipped with a chiclet keyboard which supports accurate touch-typing for long perionds, even while travelling on public transport. It could benefit from rubber-capped keys so you know where you are actually typing.

There is an easily-discoverable trackpad that has a generous area for working with; as well as easily-discoverable buttons. As well, this ultraportable does use a fingerprint scanner between the buttons as part of a secure-login option.

Audio and Video

The Intel HD video is responsive for most multimedia tasks especially video playback. It may be able to cope with basic editing but there may be problems when you use the video-editing tools to make anything beyond “rushes-quality” video. I even noticed that the Toshiba had performed very well even when it was playing “Munich: from the integrated DVD burner whil;e running on batteries.

Unlike most laptops, the Toshiba Portege R830’s screen on this unit isn’t a reflective glossy screen, which makes it suitable for bright operating environments.

The sound-reproduction for these laptops is typical for many of the laptops in that it has the tinny speakers that don’t provide depth to the sound. I would recommend that you use this laptop with a pair of good headphones or a good speaker setup when you want the best out of the sound.

Battery life

I have run this computer on a variety of activities and it has run longer than expected for the typical laptop. For example, I was able to have a DVD playing for four hours after a full charge and fhen find that there is 25% of power left, with an estimated 4 hours worth of use left.

Other experience notes

Toshiba Portege R830 ultraportable's USB Sleep N Charge socket

USB socket for Sleep N Charge feature

The Toshiba Portege R830 has a Sleep And Charge feature for one of the USB ports. Here, it means that the notebook can be set to supply power to 1 USB port while it is off so that smartphones and other gadgets can be charged off that port. This may benefit travellers who want to cut the number of chargers and AC adaptors they carry for their devices while on the road. For overseas travellers, this may avoid the need to carry extra plug converters for mobile phone chargers while they travel. The function has worked as stated on the tin when it came to charging my Samsung Galaxy S Android smartphone as illustrated below.

Toshiba Portege R830 Sleep N Charge in action

Sleep N Charge in action - charging my mobile phone while closed up and off

I had shown this computer to some friends whom I live with when I was talking about laptops and they thought it was similar to a netbook that they considered as a “traveller” computer. This is although they were used to seeing the larger laptop computers and didn’t really pick up on this class of ultraportable notebooks that filled the gulf between the netbook and the regular laptop.


The Toshiba Portege computers do work well as a current-spec traveller’s computer where you value creating content or need the ability to work with DVDs. It does the Sandy Bridge CPU/GPU platform justice as far as “traveller-friendly” portable computing goes.

I would recommend this configuration for use as a secondary traveller computer where only current data is kept on the system and quick performance is a priority. If you do need to have a larger data collection like digital photos or videos that are being “proofed”, you may have to use an external hard disk or invest in the more-expensive model of the series.

Toshiba Portege R830 ultraportable on coffee bar at a cafe

This ultraportable looks the part on the coffee bar that is part of the smart "second office" cafes

There is a variant of this model that is equipped with the same processor, RAM and other specifications but has a regular 500Gb hard disk for AUD$1980 which may suit most people who want the same power but more storage.

But whatever, I would place the Toshiba Portege R830 series of ultraportables as contenders for a notebook computer that you intend to use “on the go” especially if you cycle or use public transport. It also would be an appropriate notebook to use if you do a lot of work at Wi-Fi-equipped cafes.

Product Review – Hewlett-Packard Envy 15 luxury “thin-and-light” notebook computer

Do you really envy the HP Envy?

I am now reviewing the HP Envy 15, which I have talked about previously in relation to Windows 7, especially if you have noticed the AdSense ads for this computer that appeared on the blog around the time of that operating system’s launch.HP Envy notebook computer

This computer is a consumer-market “thin-and-light” notebook computer pitched at the luxury end of Hewlett-Packard’s notebook computer range. This review is infact the first review I have done for a “thin-and-light” travel-friendly notebook in this blog.

Look and feel

Even from the moment you unpack the Envy from its box, you will notice a look and feel that says the word “deluxe” about it. It was as though I was unwrapping something that was very special like a good watch. You would find the computer itself wrapped in a black cloth bag and the keyboard was covered with a black sheet. Even the cardboard box had the sense of “Black Label” about it.

The computer itself has a “bronze-tone” lid and keyboard escutcheon with a display that is shrouded with a black escutcheon. That same “bronze-tone” is very similar to how the Nokia 6210 mobile phone was finished. There is even a detailed pattern in the perforations on the lid an keyboard escutcheon that reminds me of a pattern associated with satin-finish or flock-finish wallpapers used by some people  to achieve the “manor house” look in their homes. The casing also has a feel that reminds me of aluminium even though it is plastic.

User Interface

Pattern detail on HP Envy lid

Pattern detail on HP Envy lid

The keyboard has a “chiclet”-style layout which may not appeal to touch-typists and the keys don’t have a “deep throw” that most PC users are used to. Therefore, it will take some time getting used to. This may be an attempt to mimic the Apple MacBook Pro’s keyboard. You also will need to use the Fn key to gain access to the function keys, otherwise these keyare used for managing functions like sound volume, display brightness and media-player controls.

The trackpad looks just like the MacBook Pro’s trackpad, with the buttons being as though they are part of the trackpad rather than as separately distinct buttons. Here, you would use tne area on each side of a white marker on the bottom of the trackpad to select your options.

Processor and RAM

The computer works on an Intel Core i7 processor and is loaded with 8Mb RAM, which would allow for a high level of performance. This should be considered enough for the kind of performance expected from a deluxe machine.

Secondary storage

The Envy has a 640Gb hard disk that is split between 3 partitions – a 580Gb boot partition that is used for programs and data, a 14.5Gb recovery partition and a 99 Mb HP TOOLS partition for HP’s own software.

For removeable storage, there is an integrated SDHC card reader on the front edge of the machine as well as an external tray-load DVD burner that is connected via the USB ports. The external DVD burner, which is finished in a similar manner to the Envy, also has an integrated 2-port USB hub.


The Envy has a 15” widescreen LED-backlit LCD driven by an ATI Mobility Radeon HD 5830 integrated-graphics subsystem. The memory used for this display is 1Gb of main system memory, which may affect system performance. This would be adequate for most tasks and had performed very well during the DVD run-down test with “Munich”.


The Envy also has “up-to-the-moment” connectivity abilities with 2 USB 3.0 sockets, ,1 eSATA socket, an HDMI video/audio output socket and a jack for connecting a microphone or headphones.,It doesn’t seem to work with the new 4-conductor plugs used as part of the OMTP specification for wired mobile headsets.

At the moment, HP has to supply operating software to “open up” the USB 3.0 functionality but Microsoft will rectify the problem by integrating this functionality when they release the next or subsequent service pack for Windows 7.


The Dr. Dre Beats Audio sound tuning primarily adds a 10-band graphic equaliser and balance control  to the sound controls, but the common lack of bass response is still there when you use the Envy’s integrated speakers – the small size and cramped space makes the job harder.

HP Envy alongside B&O headphones

HP Envy alongside some premium B&O headphones

This sound tuning is best enjoyed with good sound equipment or a pair of good headphones in the order of AKG, Bang & Olufsen, Bose, or Sennheiser. Infact the sound comes through clearly with my B&O Form 2 headphones that I am using with this laptop and I would recommend these headphones as befitting the luxury style of this computer.

It may be worth noting that the Beats Audio tuning won’t affect the HDMI digital-audio output path mainly because the device that is used to reproduce the sound will be the control point for the sound output and usually offer better sound reproduction.

Operation Issues

I had run a “DVD-rundown” test which measures battery runtime when the computer is playing a DVD. This test has the graphics subsystem constantly working as it shows the movie and als runs the DVD player constantly. Here, I was playing Stephen Spielberg’s “Munich” and had noticed that whether the wireless functionality was on or off, the computer couldn’t make it through the movie. This may also be because of a smaller battery pack built in to this computer and the fact that the DVD is played on an external DVD drive.

Sometimes the “throw-in” software that comes with a name-brand computer may be described as “crapware” can be of high calibre. One example is the MediaSmart Music Player, which behaves properly with UPnP MediaServer setups. Here, it allows you to navigate the MediaServer’s content tree in the same way as you would navigate it using a DLNA device’s user interface.

Limitations and Points Of Improvement

A major limitation with the Envy’s “thin-and-light” chassis design is that it is simply “cramped inside”. This limits proper cooling which leads to the machine becoming hot after a significant time of use. It also leads to the “Beats Audio” sound-reproduction tuning being off the mark because there isn’t enough room for the bass frequencies to resonate.

What HP could do to “build-out” the Envy deluxe notebook range is provide a larger “mainstream-style” notebook computer with integrated direct-load optical drive (preferably Blu-Ray) and larger battery in to the Envy series in order to set itself up with a worthy competitor to the Apple Macbook Pro computer. The suggested machine would have the same styling and Beats Audio sound-tuning as this machine and could support a larger screen.

Conclusion and Placement Notes

I would place the Envy towards people who are wanting the look of one of the “thin and light” Apple MacBook Air computers but want to have something cheaper or stay on a “standards-based” computer operating environment.

Women may like this computer because of its emphasis on aesthetics, especially if they are enamoured by the “old-class” manor-house styling. The “thin-and-light” chassis may not fit in to a handbag but would fit well in a small briefcase or large shoulder bag.

Functionally, I would still class it as an all-rounder for most data-intensive applications. Some multimedia applications may require the computer to be on an external power source. The Beats Audio sound tuning would be justified when used with external sound equipment or good-quality headphones.