Toshiba's Portege Z30-A1310 is well built and wonderfully light for a notebook this packed with features. It provides good performance, long battery life and solid security features, including a fingerprint scanner. But this otherwise excellent mobile workstation, which costs $1,279, is held back a bit by its low-res display.
Regardless, road warriors will love the Z30's lightweight frame, durable design and impressive array of ports. Travelers will also like the docking connector built into the machine's underside, which makes it easy to transition between home and the office.
In the Portege Z30, Toshiba has constructed a notebook that's lightweight without feeling flimsy. Toshiba says the notebook's magnesium alloy casing has an internal honeycomb support structure that provides enough rigidity to make the machine durable, without adding a lot of weight. That's a big perk for workers who need a laptop that can withstand some abuse.
The Z30's looks are understated, and that's a good thing. It's not completely plain, though. I like the matte-finish silver color and subtle brushed-metal effect.
At just 3 lbs., the Z30 feels crazy light for a notebook this size. It's noticeably lighter than its closest rivals, a fact I was particularly thankful for as I lugged the device between home and the office in my shoulder bag. In comparison, HP's EliteBook Folio 1040 weighs about a half pound more, at 3.4 lbs., and Lenovo's ThinkPad T440s weighs 3.5 lbs. Even the featherweight Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon is a bit heavier, at 3.07 lbs.
The Z30 is also pretty thin, at 0.73 inches. That's slimmer than the ThinkPad T440s (0.8 inches) and on par with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon (0.73 inches). The slim design helped the Toshiba laptop slide easily into my bag at the end of the day. The EliteBook Folio 1040 is thinner, though, at 0.63 inches
The Z30's 13-inch, 1,366 x 768-pixel panel isn't very sharp. In fact, I consider this resolution the bare minimum for a laptop in this size category. It's the notebook's biggest weak point, and it could be a deal breaker for some.
The display is absolutely fine for basic tasks like editing spreadsheets and documents, though the relatively low resolution limits the amount of information the screen can show at once. The notebook really suffers during split-screen multitasking, though; documents and Web browser windows become downright claustrophobic when confined to one half of the screen.
Viewing angles are somewhat poor, so the picture starts to wash out quickly when the display is viewed from the side. On the other hand, I like the screen's matte finish, which dampens colors a bit but eliminates glare, a perk for a notebook intended to be used in a bright office environment.
However, the notebook's low resolution probably has something to do with its excellent battery life, so this might be a worthwhile trade-off.
The Z30 lacks a touch screen. That's not a big deal, since the notebook comes with Windows 7 installed out of the box. But if you want to upgrade to the more touch-friendly Windows 8.1, or to Windows 10 when it launches later this year, you might miss the feature. Then again, touch panels add extra weight, so the omission helps the Z30 maintain its featherweight status.
The keys provide a satisfying amount of feedback, but they're on the shallow side. That counts against the Z30, since keyboards with a bit more travel (like the one on the ThinkPad T440s) are more comfortable and accurate for extended typing sessions.
Otherwise, I like the well-spaced chiclet design of Toshiba's keyboard, and the optional backlight for low-light working. Plus, the keyboard deck exhibits very little flex while typing, a testament to the notebook's rigid design. Another perk: Pressing and holding the Fn function key reveals an overlay at the top of the screen with text descriptions for key shortcuts, making it easy to perform actions like locking the notebook or toggling airplane mode on and off.
Touchpad and Accupoint
Like Lenovo's ThinkPad notebook line, the Z30 includes two different types of touch controls: a standard touchpad and a small pointing nub, which Toshiba calls Accupoint, located amid the G, H and B keys.
The touchpad is pretty responsive, though I wish it were a bit bigger; it's hemmed in by the fingerprint scanner at the bottom (more on that in a moment) and the Accupoint buttons at the top.
The Accupoint nub won't appeal to everyone, but I appreciate having the option. It lets you accurately control the pointer without removing either hand from the keyboard, which is a potential productivity booster. The buttons at the top of the trackpad provide easy right and left clicks for Accupoint users.
The Z30's built-in fingerprint reader proved reliable during my testing time, providing a nice security boost for business users. You can register all 10 of your fingers to the notebook's memory, then slide any finger down over the reader to quickly unlock your device, without typing a lengthy password. You can also use the fingerprint reader to encrypt files and folders, for an extra layer of security.
A couple of handy software utilities provide additional protection. For example, you can set up password-protected "checkpoints" on your system to ensure that only authorized users can access sensitive business data. There's also a security-cable lock slot on the notebook's right edge, to help prevent theft.
An excellent selection of ports is available on the Z30's left and right edges. I especially like the inclusion of three USB 3.0 ports for connecting accessories; many competing machines offer just two USB ports. You also get HDMI and VGA ports for connecting to a larger monitor, and an Ethernet jack for wired Internet. Finally, there's an SD card for beefing up the notebook's middling 128GB of internal storage. The dock is pricey, though you can bundle it in for $183 at the time of purchase.
While most new Windows notebooks come loaded with Windows 8.1, the Protege Z30 surprises with a clean installation of Windows 7 instead. That might be a perk for some business users, especially if you prefer a more traditional Windows desktop experience over Windows 8's touch-centric interface.
The Z30's Intel Core i5 4310u is coupled with 8GB of RAM, striking a good balance between power and efficiency. In my experience, the notebook provides fast performance for everyday business tasks. Apps opened and closed smoothly, and multitasking was snappy during my testing time.
On PCMark 7, a benchmark test that measures overall performance, the Z30 registered 4,229. That's a good score, topping the thin-and-light laptop category average of 3,445. But the T440s fared better, with an impressive score of 4,970. The EliteBook 1040 also beats out the Z30, with a showing of 4,802.
The Z30's 128GB solid-state drive (SSD) is also pretty quick, but that's not a lot of storage space, especially once you start installing programs. Fortunately, you can augment the internal storage by inserting an SD card.
Built into the bottom of the Z30 are ports that let the machine snap onto Toshiba's Hi-Speed Port Replicator III docking station. The dock adds a range of extra ports, including four USB 3.0 ports for connecting desktop accessories like a mouse, keyboard and external hard drive. It also lets you link your system to a larger monitor via VGA, DisplayPort, HDMI or DVI connectors. The snap-in nature of the dock is convenient for on-the-go business users.
The Portege Z30 is a thin-and-light notebook that keeps going and going. The machine racked up an impressive 8 hours and 20 minutes in our battery test (which involves continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi with the screen set to 100 nits of brightness). That's nearly two hours longer than the 6:44 category average. It also beats out the HP EliteBook Folio 1040 (7:41) and the Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon. The Acer TravelMate P645 outlasted them all though, running for an incredible 9:46.
Keep in mind that the Z30's 13.3-inch display is slightly smaller than those 14-inch competitors.
If you need a work laptop you can take anywhere, the Toshiba Portege Z30-A1310 is very good option. Compared to its closest rivals, the notebook feels incredibly lightweight. You also get good performance, long battery life, a durable build and convenient docking, plus security features like a fingerprint reader, all at a fair asking price of $1,279.
It has a few big weak points, though, like a low-res display. I also wish the keys offered a bit more travel, and a roomier hard drive would be nice. But thanks to its light weight, the Z30 is hard to beat as a travel companion.