Tag: Laptops

Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T Ultrabook Review

Posted by – July 23, 2013

Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T

If you’ve seen any of my previous posts on here about netbooks/laptops etc, I much prefer the idea of a compact laptop with low power processors and decent specifications, rather than a powerful or top-end “netbook”. There seems a lot of cross-over, but my ideal laptop is actually called an “ultrabook” – most cost over £800 new, but a number of recent models, such as the Samsung Series 5 NP530 are available for around £500 new.

The Toshiba Satellite z830-10T is an ultra book that was launched a couple of years ago in late 2011 – a similar age to my Alienware M11x – and had a price of around £800. But is now available second hand for around £250, from ebay, which is where I got mine from. (I also didn’t want a brand new laptop, as I prefer Windows 7 to 8). The Toshiba Satellite Z830 has been replaced by the Toshiba Satellite Z930 (Amazon).

The Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T in a nutshell:

It has an Intel i3 1.4ghz dual core processor, 4gb of RAM (you can upgrade to 6Gb by replacing the 2gb DDR3 stick with a 4gb DDR3 stick for around £30!), 128gb SSD (which the Samsung Series 5 NP530 doesn’t feature), a 13.3″ matt screen, and a backlit keyboard. It’s thin, really thin, and really light at 1.1kg. It also promises around 8hours of battery life, however this will vary greatly on how much you use some of the more intensive battery drains, such as a bright screen, and the backlit keyboard.

Things that are important to me in a laptop: Screen. Keyboard. Battery life. Noise (and speakers). Performance. Size and weight. Warranty*.

So starting with the screen: It’s a 13.3inch screen with a 1366 x 768 resolution. So pretty standard for a small <14″ laptop. The screen is thin / slightly flexible / although it doesn’t seem as flimsy as the previous ultra compact laptop I tried, the Toshiba Portege R500. Viewing angles are better than I was expecting after reading some reviews of the Z830T. Also better than the Toshiba R500.

Toshiba Satellite Z830 Keyboard Lights

The keyboard: It’s backlit, when the lights are switched on, however you can’t see the function labels – as just the letters glow. It can be set to switch on for 15 seconds, then automatically time out when you don’t use the keyboard for 15seconds. I managed 61wpm with 1 mistake on an online typing speed test. The touchpad has a button above it so you can switch it off and on.

Battery lifeThis site says they got 7 hours from it. But how will it perform now that the laptop is over a year old?* It seems to get around 5 to 6 hours but you will get better or worse battery life depending on how bright you have the screen and what you are doing with it. There is a Toshiba Eco Utility app, this will bring power usage down to 7-11w by dimming the screen, keyboard and other things.

Noise: When the fan is off, the laptop is silent. Watching iPlayer for 20+ minutes fullscreen didn’t cause the fan to start. However, there are times when the fan does kick in, particularly in the summer, and it can get quite loud. There are a large number of seemingly unnecessary Toshiba apps that like to auto start and live in the taskbar next to the clock.

Speakers: Stereo speakers and “Dolby Advanced Audio” – at 50, playing iPlayer it’s loud enough for watching in the living room. (The screen is also bright enough and viewing angles are pretty decent). CPU usage was around 14-21% running iPlayer.

Toshiba Satellite Z830 Touchpad

Performance: Windows 7 (64bit) scores: Processor: 5.2, RAM (DDR3): 5.9, Graphics: 5.4, Gaming graphics: 6.1, Hard drive (SSD): 6.6.

Size and weight: This has become increasingly important for me, as I’ve traveled to various countries, and regularly traveled across Britain, with numerous trips down to London. This has made the Alienware M11x seem like a rather fat, chunky, and HEAVY laptop, making a rucksack/backpack feel very heavy for walking around, or just getting from one part of London to another on the tube.

Toshiba Satellite Z830 USB3

It’s thin, really thin… and doesn’t weigh much at all, just over 1Kg , this makes it fit neatly into you bag without adding too much weight.

W x D x H : 316.0 x 227.0 x 8.3 (front) / 15.9 (rear) mm
Weight : starting at 1.12 kg (does it weigh more if you put more ram in or a larger hard drive? or put stickers on it?)

Warranty: *On checking the Toshiba warranty information, the laptop shipped Mar 2013, so is around 15 months old, and came with a 1yr warranty. Which is debatable, as all products shipped in the UK/European union should be fit for purpose, with companies such as Dell now providing as standard a 2yr consumer warranty (but not for business purchases, go figure).

Other stuff that I like: USB3.0 port. SD card slot (essential). HDMI port, and two standard USB ports at the back.

Overall: The Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T is a stylish, compact laptop, with good performance, and it doesn’t weigh much or compromise too much on features or design. The matt screen is so much more pleasant to use than a reflective gloss screen, and a backlit keyboard is extremely useful in dim lit environments. The speakers are very good, the keyboard is quite good to type on and perhaps the biggest complaint I would have is the noise of the fan when it does kick in. However, for the price it is available for second hand, it is an excellent buy.

Full Toshiba Satellite Z830-10T specifications. (Toshiba)

Alienware M11x (Dell) Ultra Compact Laptop Review

Posted by – June 7, 2011

It’s a tiny laptop with an 11.6 inch screen, ultra low power CPU, and a monster Nvidia graphics card. It has 4gb of ram (DDR3), a 500gb hard drive (7200rpm, Seagate), and no optical drive. It’s got cool colours too, like a light up alien on the back of the monitor, a glowing alienware logo, an alien head power button, a glowing keyboard and bright glowing speaker holes at the front of the laptop.

The keyboard is almost exactly the same size as a full size laptop but touch typing is a little more difficult at the keys are flatter than normal and the gap in-between the keys doesn’t seem as large.

Dell Alienware M11x

Alienware M11x - Reflective Screen

It’s got one of those gloss reflective screens – and it’s MASSIVELY reflective. If you are running on the battery then the default brightness is so low you only see yourself staring back at you, and you have to turn the brightness up. It seems much more reflective (read: worse) than the gloss screen on the Samsung Q430 that I recently had. The blacks aren’t very black, there seems to be a lot of “backlight bleed” with the whole screen looking mostly grey. The default black wallpaper doesn’t give a good first impression of the screen – as all you can see is yourself in the reflection. (If I wanted to see myself I would have bought a mirror!)

Also it’s LOUD – after running the Windows Experience index two times, the fan in the laptop stayed on for a long time … and has not yet shut up, despite CPU usage hovering around 10% while I’m typing this. You can overclock the processor in the Dell BIOS – the options are Overclock : Enable, and Disable (which is the default).

Alienware Lights

Alienware Lights

The speakers built into the laptop seem very good. 50% volume is too loud for close use. The volume of iPlayer for example can easily be set to be louder than the volume of the fan, however it’s not very silent – and doesn’t tend to stay silent when watching.

The default speed is 1.3ghz, you can overclock the laptop in the BIOS, see here, for the scores and much more information about the laptop. Boosts CPU / RAM score from 4.1 / 4.8 to 4.6 / 5.4. GFX for both desktop and 3D is 6.5 and disk score 5.9. I think you can even turn down the performance of the GFX – perhaps this would make the laptop quieter?

Windows Experience Scores: M11x: CPU: 4.1 RAM: 4.8 GFX: 6.4 3D GFX: 6.4  HDD: 5.9 (Nvidia, CPU 1.3ghz)
Windows Experience Scores: Q430: CPU: 6.3 RAM: 5.9 GFX:4.9 3D GFX: 5.9 HDD: 5.9
Windows Experience Scores: 1510:  CPU: 4.8 RAM: 4.8 GFX: 3.5 3D GFX: 3.5  HDD: 5.1
Windows Experience Scores: R500:  CPU: 2.8 RAM: 4.2 GFX: 2.2 3D GFX: 3.0 HDD: 5.1

Yes – you can switch between graphics cards the NVidia GeForce graphics, or the “discrete” built in graphics – using FN + F6 – the built in graphics being “Mobile Intel 4 Series Express Chipset” / “Mobile Intel GMA 4500MHD” with 64mb dedicated memory.

GeForce GT 335M – dedicated video memory 1024mb – switching between the modes is quite quick although if the graphics processor is in use, it asks you to close the program before it will switch. There is a slight degradation of image quality when switching to the Intel graphics – and it’s noticeable on the external display more than the internal laptop screen (Seiko / Epson Laptop Display) – for example on an external 22inch screen. The text isn’t as crisp, but the display is quite stable.

Using the Intel graphics seems to keep the laptop quiet(er). Watching iplayer even – (the laptop CPU usage averages around 29%) – the laptop settles down to a nice quiet purr. There is still a fan running, but it’s nice to see that there’s a quiet mode as well.

More on the screen – it’s very fingerprint prone – so not only is it super reflective, you also need to make sure you don’t touch it. It also has a large border and dare I say it, it looks kind of 90s – like Star Trek The Next Generation – trying to be futuristic but in reality looking kind of dated. (More to be added…)

+ Good value for money now that Dell are offering it for £498
+ Switchable between Intel gfx (quiet, low power), or Nvidia (loud, good for games)
+ Overclock friendly – need more speed, switch it on in the BIOS
+ Built in SIM card slot! (Firewire, PATA)
+ Metal bottom to laptop, alienware fabric sleeve
+ Excellent battery life

– Can be really loud when using Nvidia graphics
– Not entirely convinced by the keyboard (yet)
– Reflective gloss screen (although it’s less reflective with a brighter wallpaper)
– SD / Memory cards stick out when in the reader
– Keyboard marks the screen when the laptop is closed

Toshiba Portege R500 – a real laptop alternative to a netbook? (Laptops)

Posted by – March 9, 2010

The Toshiba Portege R500 – a couple of years ago – before the netbook world took off – the ultra compact Toshiba Portege R500 was a premium £1600+ laptop – it features a 1.2ghz (or 1.33ghz) core 2 duo processor, built in DVDRW, 12.1″ screen, wireless, 2gb ram, 160gb hd, and even the option of solid state hard drive, before these even were heard of. So it was a fully featured mini laptop rather than a stripped down large netbook. And what’s even more important, and relevant today, is that it is available for around £300 second hand on ebay, which is the price you will pay for a new mid-range netbook. But instead of minimal features, memory, and built to a budget price and build quality you get a premium ultra compact laptop, with premium features.

However, is it any good? Or would you be better off with a “modern” netbook with low power and efficiency built in? Or perhaps even a small laptop with a 12 or 13 inch screen? Continue reading below to find out…


Dell Vostro 1510 Laptop Review (Laptops)

Posted by – March 26, 2009


The Vostro 1510 from Dell.com/uk – £316 including VAT and Postage (with £50 off, plus a further 10% off). It’s very dark in colour, and not very shiney from this angle. After the faulty advent I think I’ve finally got a bargain of a laptop to replace the Inspiron 1300.

The laptop scores well in Vista, although is let down slightly by the graphics, and 3D graphics scores. Aero is supported, but scores would be higher if a dedicated graphics card was chosen. The Vista experience scores are: CPU: 4.8, RAM: 4.8, GFX: 3.5, 3D GFX: 3.5, HD: 5.1 – giving an overall score of 3.5.

The Dell Vostro 1510 features a 1.8ghz Core 2 Duo, 2GB RAM, 250GB HD (WD), Vista Home Premium, DVDRW (slot loading TEAC), 15.4″ widescreen, SD/MMC/MS/Pro memory card reader, 4 USB ports, WIFI (plus physical on/off switch), Firewire, a shiney sparkly black lid, a catchless closing mechanism (magnets? weighted shut?), a nice blue circuit board with easy access to the CPU and memory.

Some pros and cons, starting with the pros:
+ EXCELLENT price!
+ Good screen, clear, bright
+ Good sound (quite loud for a budget laptop)
+ Little installed software (Google gadgets, toolbar easily removed)
+ Very easy to access memory, CPU etc
+ Quiet – very little fan noise (as far as I can tell)
+ Plays Spore

– \backslash key is next to the forward slash key on the right!
– Mouse buttons are too deep – it’s like pressing a key (I prefer a firmer click)
– Drivers out of date according to Windows update.
– lacks a scroll wheel (some games require this)

originally posted Sep 2008 (on another site)