Designed for productivity workers on the go, the Toshiba Portege A30t-C1340 offers a vibrant 13-inch touch screen in a lightweight, 3.1-pound package. The $950 business-focused laptop provides solid performance and some useful preloaded apps, but it lacks the battery life, keyboard comfort and durability of many direct competitors in its price and size range.
Clothed in button-down black business attire, Toshiba Portege's A30t has a sophisticated all-black look that will fit right in, whether you're in the boardroom or at the airport departure lounge. Its lid and keyboard area are made of superstrong magnesium, and I prefer the A30t's textured surface to the more traditional ThinkPad matte finish. However, unlike competitors from Lenovo and Dell, the Toshiba laptop has not been designed to pass any MIL-STD-810G durability tests.
At 3.1 pounds and 12.4 x 9 x 1 inches, the A30t is fairly light, but far from the thinnest system on the market: It sometimes felt chunky in my hands. Several 14-inch competitors, including the Lenovo ThinkPad T460s (3 pounds, 13.03 x 8.93 x 0.74 inches), HP EliteBook 745 G3 (3.4 pounds, 13.3 x 9.3 x 0.74 inches) are a bit thinner. Dell's XPS 13, which is targeted more at prosumers than businesses, is both lighter at 2.7 pounds and thinner at 11.98 x 7.88 x 0.6 inches.
Keyboard and Touchpad
While using the A30t's keyboard, I found the system's flat keys tolerable, but they have a shallow 1.39 mm of travel (1.5 to 2 mm is typical), and offer less feedback than we like. Fast and accurate typing is not one of my strengths, but the A30t's keyboard allowed me to put 43 words per minute onto the screen using the 10fastfingers.com typing test. That roughly matches my average of 45 words per minute.
The 3.8 x 1.8-inch touchpad is smooth, responsive and -- thanks to its discrete buttons -- lacks the annoying jitteriness that plagues some of its buttonless competitors. In my tests, I was able to not only navigate around the desktop with ease but also perform gestures such as pinch-to-zoom.
The 13.3-inch, 1920 x 1,080 touch screen offers bright colors and sharp images. I was able to see subtle details, like the ape's fur, broken rocks and surrounding bushes in the opening Dawn of Man sequence of 2001 A Space Odyssey, and the clip's azure sky really popped.
Based on our tests, the A30t's display can output 112.7 percent of the sRGB color gamut, just behind Dell's Latitude E5470 (113.1), but ahead of the Dell XPS 13 (104), ThinkPad T460s (66.0) and HP EliteBook 745 G3 (84.1). That said, some of the reds looked dull and subdued, while the yellows appeared mustardy at times, and the screen's 3.02 Delta-E error rate (closer to 0 is better) shows that its colors weren't particularly accurate. It's better than the Toshiba Tecra A40-C (5.5) or the EliteBook 745 G3 (3.47) and the XPS 13 (3.13), however.
With a maximum brightness of 251 nits, the Portege A30t's display is slightly above the ultraportable laptop category average of 242 nits and the ThinkPad T460s (240). Still, the system couldn't keep up with the Dell XPS (318) and HP EliteBook 745 G3 (317).
With its speakers on the front edge of the case, the Portege A30t can get surprisingly loud for such a small system. Toshiba's laptop was OK for video conferences and listening to BBC World Service news reports, but music and movies sounded hollow and lacked midrange tones. For example, the banjo notes and ethereal voice on O'Death's "Black Dress" came through loud and clear, but the song's rich guitar chords didn't.
The A30t comes with DTS software for tuning the audio, with presets for enhanced bass, treble and voice, which helped to slightly boost the midrange.
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The A30t mostly kept its cool, even when it was doing intense work. After streaming videos for 15 minutes, the system's underbelly hit a peak temperature of 98 degrees Fahrenheit, which is slightly above our 95-degree comfort threshold. The touchpad and keyboard reached only 86.5 and 88.5 degrees, respectively.
The A30t lacks Intel's vPro manageability technology, making it a nonoption for many corporate IT departments. However, it does include a Trusted Platform Module for encryption, and there's a slew of security software that's preloaded, from Execute Disable Bit (to thwart malware that uses buffer overflow attacks) to Multiple-Level Password Utilities.
Ports and Webcam
It doesn't have any newfangled USB Type-C connectors, but the A30t has three traditional USB 3.0 ports, along with HDMI and VGA-out for connecting to both old and new monitors and projectors. The Portege A30t also has an SD card reader for getting photos off your camera, a gigabit Ethernet port and a 3.5-mm audio jack. For those who like to keep their computer under lock and key, the laptop has a Kensington-type cable lock slot.
Underneath is a gem that you only get with business notebooks: a proprietary docking connector. It allows you to snap the A30t into Toshiba's $200 Hi-Speed Port Replicator III, which offers six USB ports, along with DVI, HDMI, DisplayPort and VGA connections, along with an AC adapter that charges the laptop.
The full-HD Web cam leaves systems that use 720p resolution cameras in the dust. Its images are colorful, bright and detailed, but only under good lighting conditions. When the lighting was low, the cam displayed lots of dithering and artifacts, and any intense light source, like a halogen lamp, caused blooming. The Portege A30t also has a pair of microphones that can effectively cancel out some background noise while running videoconferences.
With an Intel Core i5-6200U processor, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, the Portege A30t-C1340 configuration we tested could handle just about anything we threw at it. Over a two-week test period that included a one-day business trip, it never lagged or froze, even when I had four or five apps running at once.
The A30t scored 5,840 on Geekbench 3, a synthetic benchmark that measures overall performance. That's ahead of the AMD A8-powered HP EliteBook G3 (5,494), but behind the ultraportable laptop category average of 6,271, the Core i5-6300U-enabled ThinkPad T460s (6,796) and the Core i5-6200U-powered Dell XPS 13's 6,391 mark. With its quad-core Core i5-6440HQ, the Latitude E5470 was quite a bit faster, scoring 9,760.
The Portege cruised through our OpenOffice spreadsheet test, which involves matching 20,000 names with their addresses, in 4 minutes and 31 seconds. This is well ahead of HP's EliteBook 745 G3 (6:36) and the category average of 5:33. It was in a virtual tie with the Dell XPS (4:28), but couldn't keep up with the 4:13 that the ThinkPad T460s achieved.
The A30t's conventional 500GB hard drive copied 4.97GB of mixed-media files at a rate of 41.9MBps, which was far slower than SSD-equipped competitors like the ThinkPad T460s and Dell XPS 13, both of which were more than 100MBps faster.
The Portege is hardly the gamer's system of choice -- you run the risk of getting laughed at by your friends with a 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited score of 53,939. That's ahead of the category average (45, 358), but slower than the ThinkPad T460s (68,448) by a sizeable margin.
You'd expect long battery life from an ultraportable business system, but the Toshiba Portege A30t doesn't deliver it. The laptop lasted just 7 hours and 1 minute on the Laptop Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness. That's well short of the category average (8:11) and the touch screen-enabled XPS 13 (8:08), but about on par with the ThinkPad T460s (7:21). The nontouch XPS 13 blew it away with 11 hours and 54 minutes of endurance.
While the A30t doesn't offer extended-range batteries like some laptops -- for example, the ThinkPad X260 -- it does have a removable battery, with replacements that cost $99.
Software and Warranty
The Portege A30t comes with a sober mix of software and utilities that emphasizes on-the-road productivity over fun and games. In addition to a trial of McAfee LiveSafe with a month of updates, the system has apps for getting the most out of your battery (eco Utility), adjusting the display settings (Display Utility) and making sure the system is operating properly (PC Health Monitor).
Toshiba stands by the Portege A30t with a one-year warranty, which you can extend to three years for $69. The company provides a "quality guarantee," which states that if a "major hardware component" fails during this period, you get a replacement laptop rather than just a new part. However, the fine print on its website says that the replacement will be a "new unit or product that is at least equivalent to the original product," so there's no guarantee you won't get a refurbished system.
The A30t-C1340 we tested had a 1920 x 1080 touch screen, Core i5 CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive. The less expensive ($884) A30 has the same processor and storage, but packs a less attractive display that is not only nontouch, but is also a step down, with a 1366 x 768 resolution.
Toshiba markets the Portege A30t as a business system, but the product lacks several key features that both IT departments and productivity workers want, including vPro manageability, MIL-STD 810G durability and a comfortable keyboard. Both corporate and home users will be disappointed by the laptop's below-average battery life.
If you want a very lightweight business system, consider the ThinkPad T460s ($1,353.60 as tested), which has a much better keyboard and stronger chassis. If you don't need vPro manageability, consider the XPS 13 ($799 starting, $1,149 as tested), which weighs a lot less and lasts up to 11 hours on a charge. However, if you want a lightweight productivity laptop with a vibrant touch screen and a decent, sub-$1,000 price tag, the Portege A30t is worth considering.