As already mentioned, the Satellite Z830’s connectivity is among the most extensive to be found on any ultraportable. Again, this is because it’s the identical twin of the Portege Z830, with the unwelcome anachronism of a VGA port proof of this heritage. Still, we won’t complain about a rare (without requiring a USB adapter) Gigabit Ethernet port, a full-size HDMI port, or the separate headphone and microphone inputs on the laptop’s left side where they join a full-size SDXC card slot.
Finally there are three USB ports: two USB 2.0 at the back, and one USB 3.0 conveniently located at the laptop’s right side. Much as we would have preferred all the connections on the sides rather than having most of it around the back, the inconvenience is a concession to style. However you will need to be careful when lifting the laptop while a memory stick is plugged in the back.
As is the norm for Ultrabooks, the Z830 features a chiclet/isolation keyboard. The Z830 joins the MacBook Air and Samsung Series 9 (both old and new) in offering a backlit keyboard, a feature both the Asus Zenbook UX31 and Acer Aspire S3 lack. Keys are well laid out and spaced, though they could have done with being just a tiny bit larger. The secondary function key layout will also take some getting used to since it’s different from most laptops.
Unfortunately, as with the Satellite R830 before it, Toshiba’s latest ultraportable doesn’t impress when it comes to typing. We can live with the keys’ somewhat shallow travel, but they also lack the defined click that most rivals do manage to various extents. While it’s still usable, the Z830 is probably our least favourite 13in Ultrabook so far for word processing duties.
The touchpad is yet another aspect that’s different from the Ultrabook norm. Rather than the buttonless glass pads we’re used to seeing, here we have a traditional buttoned affair. This leaves less room for the pad itself, and it’s a tad smaller than even the S3’s. Thankfully, it’s responsive and pleasant to the touch, while its buttons are nice and crisp. Our only criticism is that their chrome-effect finish is partial to fingerprints.
Getting to the display, we can’t emphasise enough how much we want IPS panels to become standard on a high-end category like the Ultrabook. After all, when everything else is premium, it’s disappointing to keep finding the same sub-standard screen – yet most manufacturers continue to use cheap and cheerful TN panels with the rubbish viewing angles and poor colour accuracy these entail. So far, only LG and Lenovo (with its Yoga) have shown a commitment to higher quality Ultrabook displays.
As you might have guessed already from this mini rant, we’re not wowed by the Satellite Z830’s 13.3in, 1,366 x 768 screen, despite the love we have for its matt finish. Contrast is decent, with only the subtlest dark shades on our greyscale remaining indistinguishable. Colours, though somewhat muted, are reasonable, and there is little sign of backlight bleed or excessive unevenness. However, poor viewing angles spoil these good points, with strong contrast and colour shift both vertically and horizontally.
Toshiba has a proud tradition of providing its laptops with some of the best speakers going but the Z830 (almost inevitably, given its slimness) bucks this trend. Though they do go louder than those of most Ultrabooks and sport Dolby Advanced Audio processing, the efforts here lack bass and distort badly even when not at maximum volume. We do wonder if Harman/Kardon involvement would have made a difference, as we were ever so impressed with its results on the Toshiba NB550D netbook.