2016 has been a tumultuous year for Toshiba. It will be remembered as the year when the Japanese company made the decision to abandon the consumer laptop market and focus exclusively on the B2B market. For business users however, that’s not a great loss as the Satellite Pro, Portege and Tecra ranges are expected to stay around.
The Portege Z30-C-125 is the third iteration of the Z30 series (see our hands-on review of its predecessor here) and differs from the top-of-the-range C138 by offering half the on-board storage, half the system memory and no 4G/LTE support.
The design, however, hasn’t changed much over the years – like other brands, such as Dell’s Latitude range, Toshiba engineers only tinkered with the chassis. There’s not much difference between the Z830 and the Z30-C and yet more than four years separate both models.
The footprints of both are actually the same (316 x 227mm) and they only differ when it comes to the thickness (15.9mm on average for the newer model) and the fact that the Z30-C is a tad heavier (1.2kg). Still, this is a superbly thin laptop although not to the extent of the Dell XPS 13 (which is the same weight but 12mm thick).
And there’s a very good reason for that. This laptop comes with a lot of ports, far more than on the aforementioned Dell flagship laptop. Other than three USB 3.0 ports, it also has a VGA connector, HDMI, a Gigabit Ethernet LAN port, an audio socket, and underneath there’s even a docking station connector.
If that wasn’t enough there’s a smartcard reader and an SD card slot on either side of the laptop. How Toshiba managed to cram so much into such a small volume is an engineering feat – although the truth is that they discovered the formula from day one (well, since the Z830 at least).
The Portege was never destined to be a mainstream laptop and the two legacy ports (VGA and LAN) actually determine the thickness of the base unit, where all the components are housed. Removing these would help shave a few millimetres but businesses and IT admins may not approve.
Ditto for the docking station connector: the port replicator is still very much an essential accessory for businesses who have moved to a laptop-only environment.
Wireless connectivity is handled by an Intel chipset which provides 802.11ac Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0.
As for the laptop design, it sports the same “muted silver brushed aluminium” finish (gunmetal grey or metallic steel grey) as the Z830 from four years ago. This notebook is actually made of a magnesium alloy which adds to its sturdiness (more on that a bit later). Sadly, it does look and feel far more plasticky than the XPS 13.
The latter has set the standard when it comes to premium, high-end laptops. The bezel on the Z30-C’s display is thicker than we were expecting but then again, it allows for the webcam and the microphones to be located centrally at the top of the screen.
Speaking of the display, it is a 13.3-inch full HD non-reflective model with LED backlighting. It is bright but lacks the level of colour vibrancy that we’ve seen on other laptop displays. That’s unlikely to have a negative impact in terms of business scenarios but it’s still worth bearing in mind if you plan to use this machine to watch movies on the move.
The Portege exhibits a lot of flex, far more than we would consider to be acceptable on a model which costs just over a grand. We wouldn’t lift it by the screen corner, as we usually do with the XPS 13. There’s also a rather annoying and even worrying gap between the plastic bezel and the actual panel – a gap wide enough for a business card to be slotted in. Not good in terms of crumbs or dust particles.
The keyboard goes a long way to making up for this slight disappointment, though. It is an island-style affair, and is spill-resistant plus it’s backlit. You can even set up a timer via an onscreen menu, to allow it to switch off after a set period. The keys have an excellent amount of travel and are comfortable to type on although a bit too noisy for our tastes. The further good news is that the keyboard doesn’t exhibit obvious flex when typing.
In the middle of the keys is Toshiba’s own take on the track point; its version has a felt top which is likely to divide opinions. The touchpad is rather roomy but lacks proper mouse buttons and its surface is marginally rougher than we’d ideally like. Note that the status lights are located next to the touchpad on an area that also contains a fingerprint reader.
We also noticed that the touchpad is slightly depressed – by which we don’t mean it’s miserable, but rather it doesn’t sit flat and flush with the palm rest. This adds to the sinking effect when you press on the touchpad’s edges to activate the left/right mouse buttons, and generally speaking makes it a bit more laborious to register your presses.
As expected, this machine comes with Windows 7 Professional with a free upgrade to Windows 10 Professional should the client want it. And if you want to get all the cutting-edge security improvements in Microsoft’s latest OS, then you don’t really have a choice. Speaking of which, the laptop supports TPM 2.0.
Last but not least, Toshiba says that the 4-cell Lithium-Ion 55Whr battery that powers the laptop can keep it working for a whopping 11 hours (based on Mobile Mark 2014, running Windows 10). Sadly, we couldn’t test this but as always, your mileage will vary depending on your operating system and your work scenario.
Open the laptop up (which is just a matter of undoing a few screws) and you will find 8GB of RAM (one DIMM, expandable to 16GB), a sixth-generation Intel Core i7-6500U CPU with Intel HD Graphics 520, a 256GB SSD and no other internal expansion options. So, there are no surprises there.
This is no Latitude (or indeed Tecra) – there’s no spill-proof keyboard or MIL-STD 810G testing involved. Although arguably its seemingly fragile construction could actually subliminally encourage owners to treat this notebook with a bit more care.
If we were in the market for a laptop though, we wouldn’t select the Z30 for one reason; it lacks a DisplayPort connector. We might be in a minority but we are a strong advocate of 4K in the workplace and use it on a daily basis. No 4K is not okay. Swapping the HDMI port for a DisplayPort would make sense although we do understand Toshiba’s reasoning to stick to more popular video outputs.
All is not lost though as you can always grab one port replicator like the Toshiba Hi Speed Port Replicator III. It comes with a full array of connectors (including DisplayPort) and Ballicom International sells it for £138 (around $195, or AU$255).
If the lack of DisplayPort is not an issue for you and you’re in the market for a high-end laptop that is light but also boasts an array of ports, then we wholeheartedly recommend the Toshiba Portege Z30-C-125. It’s worth noting as well that Toshiba offers relatively affordable service agreement packages. Four-year onsite costs as little as £120 (around $170, or AU$220) while a five-year international carry-in warranty extension will set you back a mere £93 (around $130, or AU$170).
You can buy the Portege Z30-C-125 for just under £1,130 (around $1,600, or AU$2,100) at the time of writing (from Ballicom International).
Check out our list of the best laptops for business