At one point in time, there were only desktops and laptops. Then, the laptops were segmented into personal laptops and business laptops (and of course, the mobile workstations). And then came the Ultrabooks – with feather weight, unprecedented performance and attractive styling. And now, we finally have business Ultrabooks too.

But really, what are the things that take a device away from the personal computing segment into the business computing one? In my opinion, a business laptop should be very light, or at least light enough to be carried around without being a pain. It should also have an extremely fast processor – business folks need faster calculations, after all. Also, it should have a long battery life, because business can’t be interrupted by the need to find a power outlet.

I know what you’re going to ask – isn’t an Ultrabook all of these? Then what’s a business Ultrabook? The answer is simple, it’s an Ultrabook that lighter, runs longer and performs better than other Ultrabooks. And it is also supposed to keep precious data as secure as possible.

So I added these parameters on my usual Ultrabook testing checklist, and for over a week I have been playing around with the Toshiba Protégé Z930 Ultrabook, to see if it really is quintessentially a business Ultrabook.

Design

Toshiba’s Protégé series is known for being very light and portable, while not compromising on performance. And this one sticks to the lineage too. My first reaction after taking the Z930 out of the box was, “Whoa, this is light! Very light!” And this Ultrabook warrants this kind of reaction, as it weighs only 1.12 kgs. At that weight, it sits inside backpacks and messenger bags without being a bother at all. It is also one of the slimmest Ultrabooks around, being only 15.9 mm at the thickest points.

My immediate reaction was to check for the build material, for such weights can be acquired mostly with plastics and fibres. I was happy to note that the Z930 has a magnesium alloy build. This alloy has proven itself to be a good material for consumer electronics – most of the high end DSLRs which are made to withstand abuse (Natural and man-made) have magnesium alloy skeletons. Oh, and by the way, magnesium is lighter than aluminium, which has become a very popular building material for Ultrabooks, as we saw with the new Samsung Series 9.

I don’t think many would disagree with me if I said that a business Ultrabook’s styling is just as important as its portability and performance – styling definitely makes an impression in the boardroom. The Protégé Z930 has a very desirable styling in its own ways. The brushed metallic grey unit (which Toshiba calls Ultra Silver with Hair-Line pattern) looks like a mechanised folio – straight lines all along and almost no curves anywhere. That said, the design is very neat.

The only chrome plated parts visible on the outside are the 13.3-inch screen’s hinges and the company’s badge in the middle of the lid. The screen is an LED back-lit WXGA HD TFT display with anti-glare type coating and supports up to a resolution of 1, 366 x 768 pixels.

Open the lid and you meet more straight lines. The backlit island style keyboard is laid out with the correct amount of room between the keys and not compromising on the size of frequently used keys.

The palmrest isn’t too wide, but enough for comfortable long working hours. The pointing device, however, is a bit off tradition. Unlike most Ultrabooks, this does not have a single trackpad input device. The Z930 sports the laptop style touchpad with physical left and right click buttons (with a fingerprint scanner nestled between the two).

Tech onboard

So while I was very happy with the Z930 being slim and light, the sceptic in me was worried if there had been any compromises with the tech inside. A quick glance at the spec-sheet told me that Toshiba has stuffed in as much tech as is possible to in this compact form factor.

I was happy to see the same 3{+r}{+d} Gen Core i5 processor on the Z930 that I was quite impressed with on the Intel Form Factor. The Intel Core i5-3427U low voltage processor clocks 1.8 GHz and with Intel’s proprietary Turbo Boost technology overclocks up to 2.8 GHz.

But this Core i5-3427U is also married to vPro technology. Now, vPro isn’t something that adds to the clocking speeds or performance, but is a feature that Intel had introduced with multi-core processors as a security feature. What vPro adds is a robust security system to the Ultrabook with common features like Identity Protection, Threat Management, Data Protection along with unique features like Remote Repair.

The memory options on the Portege Z930 add to the good specs. The unit I reviewed came with a primary memory (RAM) of 6GB, which is more than Series 9 and MacBook Air’s 4GB RAMs. Since the memory is laid out in 4GB + 2GB DDR3 layout, Toshiba could’ve made it 8GB, putting it right on top of the RAM table with the ThinkPad X1 Carbon and HP Envy Spectre. Storage memory comes in the form of a 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD), which, like any other Ultrabook of this class would prompt the user to have good cloud storage space or a portable HDD.

Connectivity on this Ultrabook is offered in terms of 2 USB 2.0s (1 Port supporting USB sleep-n-charge), one USB 3.0, a full Ethernet (RJ45 Port), HDMI, VGA and an SD card reader slot. For wireless connectivity, there’s Bluetooth v4.0 and WiFi. The Z930 also sports a front facing HD Webcam with microphone.

Performance

Now all that banter about the tech inside is fine, but how does it perform? So to begin with starting up – the Z930 comes to life within 13 seconds of pushing the power button, which is exactly what the manufacturer claims. The wake-up time from sleep is 2 seconds, which again is exactly what is claimed. I wasn’t really surprised by this, as I had seen this performance with the Intel Prototype with the Core i5-3427U low voltage processor with a 128GB SSD. A second or two more than this would’ve seriously disappointed me.

The usual office applications and data transfer ran quite smoothly, without a lag ever in multitasking or while using RAM heavy applications. For the most part of the testing period, I used the Z930 to process pictures from a DSLR, and heavy RAW and JPEG files could be processed on Photoshop CS4 Portable and Photoshop Elements very easily.

Graphics and entertainment lovers would be a tad bit disappointed to note that the Z930 doesn’t come with a dedicated graphic card and has only the default integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000. Also, the speakers are loud, but sound fidelity is just average. This might make Toshiba lose a few points with the competition as Asus has Bang and Olufsen Speakers installed on its Zenbook range, HP has incorporated Beats Audio on the Envy Spectre models, while Lenovo uses Dolby Speakers on its Ultrabooks.

On our standard Novabench benchmark test, the Protégé 930 averaged a score of 628 points, exactly what the Intel Form Factor scored. This is 10 points below the new Samsung Series 9 and way below Lenovo ThinkPad X230’s 676. The Z930 scores well in the memory operations, but falls behind in the graphics department.

On our usual testing parameters, with surfing, applications and watching videos, the Z930’s 8 cell lithium ion battery had enough juice to work for 6 hours, which in my opinion is quite good for mobile professionals. The device can retain more charge without entertainment media playing.

We say

So, back to the business Ultrabook checklist - The Protégé Z930 is light, slim and hence very portable. It also performs well with office applications and more, with a very good processor and security features. Moreover, a 6-hour battery backup (on moderate-to-heavy usage) is good enough for professionals on the move. So if you are looking for a powerful machine inside your business cases and bags, the Z930 can be on your To-Check-Out list.

Love – Good memory and processor, ultra-portable design

Hate – average graphics and sound

Rs, 96,250 onwards

sabyasachi.b@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 14, 2012)
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