Toshiba Z930 Ultrabook Review

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If I had to sum the Z930 up in one word it would be mushy.

On the plus side, the machine is impossibly light and very slim, while still including HDMI, VGA, and Ethernet.  Great so far!  Also, the trackpad is just fine, and the island-style keyboard includes nicely backlit keys.  Here, though, things start to fall apart.  First, the default French keyboard layout that we Canadians are subjected to is just terrible.  You can make a decent bilingual keyboard.  I know, because I once owned an ThinkPad X60s with one, and it was fine.  It is, however, hard to do right.  Even worse than this, though, was that the Z930’s space bar only worked about 50% of the time for me.  I have a light touch, but this has never been a problem for me on a ThinkPad, Mac, or EliteBook keyboard.  The key just had dead spots.  This is unacceptable on any machine, especially a premium system that sells for $1000.

Moving on from the keyboard to the rest of the build-quality, we really hit the skids.  I’m used to ThinkPads and MacBooks.  The flex in this machine was just appalling.  The screen is impossibly thin, as a result, it is frighteningly flexible and bouncy.  I will admit that I am completely spoiled, only buying machines with high build-quality.  The Z930 is nice, but seems terribly fragile overall.

I’m certain it would break if I dropped it.  Flimsiest machine I’ve used since the Toshiba R500.  In fact, it’s probably even flimsier that the R500, as the DVD drive it included forced a certain level of rigidity.

I’m not exaggerating.  If you’re seriously considering this machine and plan to use it on the road much, you really must hold it in your hands for a bit first.  I have no confidence in this machine being used for travelling.  Thankfully, the models here ship with a decent three year warranty that includes accidental drop coverage.

Carrying on to the 13″ screen, you find a resolution of 1366×768.  This is what the 11″ MacBook Air and HP 2170p have.  My 12″ X200s is 1440×900.  I consider this the minimum acceptable screen resolution for a 13″ laptop.  The viewing angles are OK.  Comparable to my X200s, not quite as good as a MacBook Air, inferior to an IPS display.  The screen is fine, better than the keyboard, but certainly nothing to write home about.

As for battery life, the dual-core i5 seemed to get about 4:30 in Linux, so you can expect 5hrs or so in Windows.  Given how thin and light the machine is, this is quite impressive. I’m also happy to report that the machine was silent throughout my testing.  Toshiba’s are usually fairly noisy machines, to this was an unexpected bonus.

Another unexpected bonus was how well the Z930 worked in Linux: it was perfect. Everything just works under Ubuntu 12.04.1 AMD64.  The machine also works well in Windows 8, though hotkeys seem to need a driver that isn’t included.

Overall, if I was rating the system, I’d give it 3/5 stars.  (My X200s and MacBook Air by contrast would get 4.5/5)

Price as tested: $995CDN.  This included 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD.  Following the trend set by the MacBook Air, neither of these components are upgradeable.

GoSaBe Blog - Sep 24, 2012 | Hardware, Linux, Windows