I am off to CES in just a few short days, and had originally planned to bring my long-in-the-tooth-but-still-going-strong Chromebook as a laptop solution. Then Gear Diary was invited to review the Toshiba Portege Z930 Ultrabook. The result? I will be blogging with a great deal more power and features during the show!
We’ll have a full review soon, but I wanted to make sure to share my first impressions, and not just the “OH WOW” I had when I pulled it out of the box!
Let’s start with the hardware. This thing is beautiful. It’s not metal like a Macbook Air, but a brushed metallic looking plastic. It feels nice and, as a result of being plastic, is extraordinarily light. I don’t have a scale handy, but subjectively it feels about the same weight as my iPad 3. Considering that this packs in a big, bright screen, plus laptop innards, that’s a remarkable feat of engineering. Even more amazing: it is just barely thicker than my iPad+back cover and Smartcover. If I had a folio-type case on my iPad, the Ultrabook would actually be thinner than that whole package. So purely on a portability standpoint, the design of the Z930 is a huge plus.
I have a Toshiba netbook, and one of the things I love about that computer is the keyboard. The keyboard on the Ultrabook is a roomier version of the same keyboard, with individual keys and solid key travel. That’s a good thing. Within a few minutes of acclimating myself to the layout, I was typing with ease. If you’re used to having Page Up/Page Down by the arrow keys, this keyboard might throw you for a moment, but otherwise it’s fairly typical of a laptop keyboard as far as how many keys and the way they often double up functions.
(From top left: iPad 3, Kindle Paperwhite; Bottom: Toshiba Z930)
There are numerous features to set up and I’ve barely scratched the surface but I am already having fun with the biometric fingerprint unlock option. It’s a bit silly, as I can probably type my password in the same period of time it takes me to properly swipe my finger, but the fingerprint method just feels more 21st Century! And if I can’t have a flying car, I can at least have a fancy way to unlock a computer, right?
Around the outside edges you’ll find the standard features you expect on a computer; three USB ports, an ethernet port, a VGA out port, microphone, headset, AC adaptor port, HDMI-out port, SD card slot, etc. Basically, everything and anything you might want to attach to this laptop you can- with ports to spare. The trackpad is nice and roomy, and I like having the left and right buttons separated by the fingerprint scanner, as that makes it easier to click the correct button without looking. It has been a while since I used a PC regularly, and forgot about the tendency to have an array of lights and alerts along the bottom. Half the time I can’t tell what they mean or if they’re important (other than the power button), but for those that like the visual checkup there is the usual command central along the bottom lip of the trackpad.
Overall, I have nothing but good things to say on my initial first impression of this Ultrabook’s hardware…I wish I could say the same about Windows 8! My first impressions of it are that it is a mess. The new Start Menu isn’t totally awful, it’s just…odd. And there are little things, like the Settings menu sliding in from the right, that are wildly unintuitive. It took me all day to figure out how to call it up on demand, instead of it randomly appearing from hitting the trackpad the wrong way. On the upside, it’s very smooth and quick, so it’s a terrible experience while actively using it. It just feels like a sharp learning curve that hasn’t improved the usability of Windows…which makes me question why the changes exist at all.
Windows 8 gripes aside, I am really excited to spend more time testing out the Z930, and can’t wait to see how it handles CES!