3 Windows 8 ultrabooks: Lightweight and powerful

We examine the HP Envy TouchSmart, Sony Vaio T13 and Toshiba Portege Z935 to see how these new Windows 8 ultrabooks shape up.

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Toshiba Portege Z935-P390

Not quite ready to take the plunge with a touch-screen computer? Toshiba's Portege Z935-P390 is an ultrabook with a 13.3-in. display that lets you get the most out of Windows 8 without lifting a finger.

The Portege is slimmer than the Envy or Vaio T13: it measures 0.6 in. thick in the front and 0.8 in. thick in the back. It has a more businesslike, squared-off gray case with bright chrome accents on the hinges and around the touchpad. Its footprint measures 12.4 x 8.9 in., making it slightly deeper but narrower than the Vaio T13, which has the same size screen.

Toshiba Portege Z935-P390
Toshiba Portege Z935-P390

Weighing 2.4 lb., the Portege is remarkably light. With its AC adapter, the Portege has an enviable total weight of 3 lb., more than a pound lighter than the Vaio T13; happily, it requires only a two-prong outlet to power it up.

The Portege's display was quite clear and offered rich colors; it was about as bright as the Vaio T13. Because it lacks a touch screen, the Portege relies on a 3.4-x-2-in. touchpad, which has a nice texture to it and a button for turning it off when doing a lot of typing. It was able to bring out the Windows 8 Charms Menu with a swipe of a finger right to left and let me zoom in by pinching an image, but I needed a bit of practicing before using it became second nature. The comfortable keyboard is backlit for late-night work or gaming.

Inside the Portege is the same 1.7GHz Core i5 processor that the Envy uses. It also includes a 128GB SSD and 6GB of RAM.

The system's assortment of ports includes two USB 2.0 and a single USB 3.0 connection. It also has an HDMI port, SD card reader, audio port and old-school VGA port. The system comes with a Gigabit Ethernet connection as well as Wi-Fi. Its WiDi system was able to connect to a projector at a range of 37 feet, 9 feet short of the Envy's range.

Along with Windows 8, the Portege includes Norton Internet Security with 30 days of file updates as well as a handy Toshiba PC Health Monitor for observing the system's components. It comes with a one-year warranty.

Test results

The Portege scored 1,680.9 on the PassMark PerformanceTest suite, right in the middle of the pack. Its CineBench 11.5 processor score was halfway between the those of the Envy and the Vaio T13, while the system's graphics score of 14.51 fps was 13% less than the Vaio T13's score of 16.62 fps.

The system's 3,000 mAh battery was able to go for 4 hours and 22 minutes on a charge. Unlike the Vaio T13, the system is sealed and has no way to swap batteries.

Bottom line

It might lack a touch screen, but the $999.99 Portege Z935-P390 provides a bridge between the old and new worlds with a thin, lightweight, high-performance system.

Conclusions

All three of these new ultrabooks are well made, reliable and are worthy of consideration for a place in your notebook bag.

At heart, I am a cheapskate, eager to save money on anything I buy. This time, however, my choice is the $1,300 Sony Vaio T13, the most expensive of the three. It has a great touch screen, the best configuration, excellent performance and the ability to run for nearly five hours on a charge. Of the three, it offers the best balance among size, weight and abilities.

Brian Nadel is a frequent contributor to Computerworld and the former editor in chief of Mobile Computing & Communications magazine.

Copyright © 2012 IDG Communications, Inc.

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