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Toshiba Portege Z830
Toshiba's Portege Z830 is cheaper, lighter, and better equipped than Apple's 13" MacBook Air

Manufacturers are still trying to work out final details on pricing for Intel-based Ultrabooks, but the devices are on the way. For those that like the form-factor and weight on Apple's highly popular MacBook Air range, but can't be bothered with Apple’s pricing or OS X, Toshiba is serving up a fine alternative with the Portege Z830. 

Toshiba has worked some serious magic on the Portege Z830 as it manages to incorporate a 13.3" display (1366x768) and second generation Intel Core processors into a frame weighing in at under 2.5 pounds. Part of the low weight can be attributed to the Portege Z830's magnesium alloy body.

Although Toshiba won't tell us how fast the processors are in the Portege Z830, the specs are quite amazing. It will come with a 128GB SSD, backlit and spill-resistant keyboard, two USB 2.0 ports, one USB 3.0 port, GbE port, Secure Digital reader, HDMI-out, and stereo speakers.

According to Engadget, the notebook features an 8-cell battery, can be equipped with up to 6GB of DDR3 memory, and will have an optional Core i7 processor upgrade available.

"The Portégé Z830 Series sets a new standard for thin and light systems, not just in portability, but also in affordability for such cutting-edge designs," said Carl Pinto, vice president of product development, Toshiba America Information Systems, Inc., Digital Products Division. "Toshiba's engineering achievements and expert craftsmanship have resulted in a brilliant and fully thought-through innovation that exceeds expectations, perfect for both mobile business professionals and consumers." 

And keeping with Intel's mandate, the 0.63"-thin Portege Z830 will start at under $1,000 (we're guessing $999) when it launches later this year. That would make the lighter, better-spec'd Toshiba Ultrabook $300 cheaper than the entry-level 13" MacBook Air.

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Oh hell no
By Apone on 9/1/2011 12:16:41 PM , Rating: 1
@ corduroygt

- Oh Puh-lease, only recently has Apple decided to make the MB-Air's guts up to date. Before the refresh, it was still using the dinosaur that is the Intel Core 2 Duo. Quit making it sound like Apple is on the frontier of technology. I remember when they were using Radeon 9600 (2003 architecture) video cards in their desktop computers 3-4 years ago. And I find it insulting they're advertising the MB-Air as having high resolution when high-resolution is really 1680 x 1080 or 1920 x 1080.

- And what do you need a backlit keyboard for? Competent keyboard users type by touch, not sight. Also, those numbers on the top row of the keyboard aren't just there for decoration...

RE: Oh hell no
By KPOM1 on 9/1/2011 12:22:50 PM , Rating: 2
It still came out several months before these Ultrabooks. Apple was waiting for Intel's integrated graphics to catch up before switching from the Core 2 Duo, which was paired with a nice NVIDIA IGP.

Anyway, let's see what the final specs are. Sure, the Toshiba may start at $999, but what processor will it use? Let's compare prices between the 13" Air and the version of this Toshiba that uses the 1.7GHz Core i5 or better before we declare that this thing has the Air beat by $300. The 13" Air also has a higher resolution than the Toshiba.

RE: Oh hell no
By corduroygt on 9/1/2011 12:42:15 PM , Rating: 2
So what? MB Air's weren't competitive back then, but they are now. Regardless of your personal views, the thin and light buying public put an importance on having a good touchpad, a backlit keyboard, and a good quality screen.

RE: Oh hell no
By Apone on 9/2/2011 1:07:34 AM , Rating: 1
What do you mean so what? You just said it takes more than fancy specs to (apparently) dethrone the end-all & be-all of ultraportable computers (MB-Air) and now you're saying the public just puts an importance on having a good touchpad, backlit keyboard and good quality screen? So then, what else does it take? Should Toshiba slap an Apple-ish logo on the cover to get noticed?

Mac users are so blinded by perceived value that you ignore the big picture. For example, what is up with $200 for an 8GB RAM configuration on a Macbook Pro? Nevermind that DDR3 RAM is dirt-cheap right now ($40-$50 for 8GB on Newegg). Also, why the standard slow 5400rpm hard drives? 5400rpm speed drives are from 2005 and Apple is gonna' ask for $100 more for an industry-standard 7200rpm speed HDD upgrade? And yet you're gonna' pitch Apple's apparent penchant for cutting-edge hardware? Really?

RE: Oh hell no
By ltcommanderdata on 9/1/2011 1:03:00 PM , Rating: 4
Quit making it sound like Apple is on the frontier of technology

Obviously, Apple didn't invent the ultraportable category, but it's incorrect to say Apple isn't at the forefront of this area. Intel has already said that their recent move to shift the TDP of standard processors from 35W to 15W and the Ultrabook program to promote this platform was in part a response to Apple's ultimatum.
Welch said Apple informed Intel that it better drastically slash its power consumption or would likely lose Apple’s business. “It was a real wake-up call to us,” he said.

Intel is saying that Apple told them that either Intel devote the resources to lowering the power consumption of CPUs or Apple will look somewhere else. Intel has clearly agreed and now the Ultrabook program is being pushed onto other OEMs to ensure a broader market for these low power processors since it's obviously not economically viable to design and produce these low power processors only for Apple.
Welch: We don't have any set opinion on materials or design elements. Different materials pose different challenges. Machined aluminum is great but it isn't cheap. People are looking at fiberglass, carbon fiber, and metal reinforced plastics.
As the cost of purchasing a CNC lathe is rather expensive, it has created a high threshold for competitors to join. Currently, Taiwan-based Catcher Technology and Foxconn Technology both have more than 10,000 CNC lathes for metal chassis production.

Since the two players are already the suppliers of Apple, ultrabook players will need to compete for the remaining capacity from the two firms, leaving players unable to fully ship enough devices.

An important feature of such thing designs is the structural rigidity. Apple's machined aluminum unibody design is obviously one way to provide that, but it requires expensive, low volume lathes which Apple has long been buying as much capacity as possible leaving less room for the Ultrabook manufactures who are trying to move into this space. As Intel notes machined aluminum as Apple does is more expensive, which contributes to the $300 price difference. As Engadget describes below, Toshiba currently uses a magnesium skin and needs work on the honeycomb understructure to improve rigidity before shipping.
Unfortunately, the pre-production model we played with lacked the company's honeycomb ribbed internals, so we can't make assumptions on rigidity or how sturdy it'll be. The company did assure us that it was aware of the Ultrabook's squishy nature, and that production units would be much more rigid. Regardless, we were smitten with the Z830's thickness (or lack thereof) and its comely magnesium skin, which compares favorably to the existing thin and light champion, the MacBook Air.

And I find it insulting they're advertising the MB-Air as having high resolution when high-resolution is really 1680 x 1080 or 1920 x 1080.

Well it's true that the 13.3" MacBook Air's 1440x900 resolution isn't high in absolute terms, it is high in the context of 13.3" screens. I don't remember hearing of a 13.3" screen with higher resolution than 1440x900. It is higher resolution than this Toshiba for instance.

RE: Oh hell no
By DanNeely on 9/1/2011 1:14:55 PM , Rating: 2
Sony sells a Vaio model with a 13.1 1920x1080 screen for people who want massive DPI in a tiny package. OTOH the Sony tax makes Apple laptops look like bargins.

RE: Oh hell no
By ltcommanderdata on 9/1/2011 1:22:19 PM , Rating: 2
Hmm, that's impressive. I wonder how much higher the component cost of that 13.1" 1920x1080 screen is compared to 1440x900 or the common 1366x768.

RE: Oh hell no
By Solandri on 9/1/2011 3:27:50 PM , Rating: 2
The default screen on the (now discontinued) Sony is 1600x900, so even that beats out the Air. As for the Sony tax, yes it's there, but Sony products get much steeper sales and discounts than Macs. I got my Sony Z (1600x900, 128 GB SSD, 3 lbs) on sale for $900. There was also an old laptop trade-in program going on then, which gave me a $300 rebate on top of that. While Sony was making that particular model Z, they refreshed it every 4-6 months, meaning you could get the "old" model at a steep discount pretty frequently. You'll never see Apple doing that.

That said, 1440x900 is a good resolution. Much more useful than 1366x768 IMHO. It's 16:10 rather than 16:9 for one. And 768 vertical pixels just doesn't cut it. Many apps seem to be designed to assume 768 vertical pixels (probably from the old 1024x768 standard). Unfortunately, when you add Windows' task bar at the bottom, 768 vertical pixels ends up being insufficient. 1440x900 and 1600x900 work really well.

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