Intel’s Ultrabook movement is on a roll. All the major laptop manufacturers either already have contenders in the field or are training them up, ensuring they take slimming pills to keep them below 22mm thick and weighing less than 1.5kg. The important part is that this is achieved without compromising internals, which at a minimum include an Intel Core i CPU, 4GB of RAM and SSD (or hybrid SSD) storage for snappy performance and fast boot-up.
We’ve already extensively tested the Asus Zenbook UX31 and Acer Aspire S3, as well as checking out awesome future models like the Lenovo Yoga. However, back to the here and now, Toshiba’s current offering is the Satellite Z830-10U, and it’s one of the lightest, thinnest and best-connected Ultrabooks going.
The Satellite Z830's name recalls the Satellite R830, which was as close to an Ultrabook as many laptops got before the standard was introduced. In fact, if it hadn’t been for its poor screen and keyboard, the R830 would have been one of our top laptops of last year, so this latest Satellite is starting off with some impressive DNA. Just don’t confuse it with Toshiba’s Portege Z830, which is the business version of the company’s Ultrabook range and costs more.
So let’s start off with design. As mentioned the Z830 is one of the thinnest and lightest Ultrabooks on the market, which is quite an achievement in a sector where thin & light are already the norm. It measures only 16mm at its thickest point, beating the S3’s 17.5mm and the 17mm of the UX31 and MacBook Air [while not technically an Ultrabook, Apple’s ultraportable fits the category].
Weight - or rather, lack thereof - is where this Satellite really shines though. Thanks to a chassis constructed entirely from magnesium alloy, Toshiba has kept it below 1.11kg, where most rivals weigh closer to 1.5kg (for example the S3, which uses magnesium-alloy for its interior, still comes in at 1.4kg). And while this might only be a few hundred grams difference, it’s really noticeable when you pick the Z830 up. It almost lives up to Toshiba’s “featherweight” marketing.
So far then, Toshiba’s Ultrabook is shaping up pretty well. Unfortunately, thanks to all that magnesium it feels deceptively flimsy in the hand, and even though this is a somewhat false impression, the amount of flex will undoubtedly put off many who might be looking for the kind of solid rigidity you get from the Air or Zenbook.
Also, the Satellite Z830 isn’t exactly the prettiest Ultrabook we’ve seen, perhaps because of its shared DNA with the business-oriented Portege. Even its lid isn’t a cohesive whole, with two hinges to either side finished in chrome – as is the touchpad area. These touches jar rather than adding class. And while we’re talking about the pad’s visual impact, the multicoloured indicator LEDs don’t do it any favours either.
The Z830’s extensive connectivity also spoils the tapering edges somewhat, even if Toshiba has located most of it on the laptop’s rear. Finally the bevy of colourful stickers on the palm rest don’t help matters much (though they’re fairly easy to remove). Admittedly these labels are obligatory, but Asus’ solution of making them all grey, for example, showed a consideration for style that’s missing here.