Thanks to Windows 8, even enterprise machines are getting all touchy-feely. The Toshiba Portege Z10t - portable meets protégé, we're guessing - is the new convertible ultrabook built for the business traveler crowd. It's a do-it-all design that wants you to leave your iPad at home, and it's on sale right now.
We had the opportunity to sit down with a couple of every preview units of the Portege Z10t, builds running Windows 8 and Windows 7. That's right, even though this touch-friendly convertible was obviously built with Microsoft's latest OS in mind, Toshiba knows that not every IT department is ready to embrace Windows 8.
While Toshiba won't actually be selling any Z10ts with Windows 7 pre-loaded, it will be offering Windows 7 driver support that will make your rollback nice and smooth. That should hold customers over until Windows 8.1, aka Windows Blue, arrives, if that's what they're waiting for.
Toshiba is offering both i7 and i5 models, and the option of a 128GB or 256GB SSD, with 4GB of DDR3 RAM. Configurations begin at $1,499.
What it all hinges on
At just 3.1lbs, the Z10ts is pound for pound an ultrabook. It's light and thin enough to compete with a MacBook Air or any other skinny computing solution.
It would also look like a laptop, pure and simple, if not for that big honking hinge. It may stand out like a sore thumb, but it gets the job done. As we poked away at the Windows 8 UI, the display stayed in place, with no risk of a backward tumble.
This is an accomplishment, since the Z10t's tablet display is actually thicker than the keyboard portion. Despite that, it doesn't feel top-heavy at all.
Maybe it's to keep the machine balanced, but our one complaint would be that the display didn't lean back as far as a laptop's screen. We've seen this on a lot of convertible PC systems; there might be some trouble getting the Z10t at an ideal angle for sitting at a desk.
Toshiba recognizes that users often split their time between between a laptop and a tablet. Depending on your vocation, your laptop might be your primary workhorse, while your tablet is your coffee break device.
The goal with this new Portege is to produce one device for both tasks. Toshiba knows that your IT manager would love to worry about just one device, not two.
The Z10t's detachable display is full HD, and has a light, matte-like finish that helps to repel fingerprints. Its backside is crafted from a heavy duty resin that feels pretty good to the touch. It's not as sleek as an iPad, but probably isn't as scratch-prone, either.
It's a bit chunkier than Apple's tablet though. It's a half-inch thick, and weighs almost two pounds. However, all the extra functionality from its ports have an iPad beat.
It also has not one but two styluses. The larger, primary stylus has an eraser on one end. It does away with pen strokes like an undo function. The smaller, backup stylus has more limited functionality, but tucks into the body of the tablet. Toshiba says both will come with purchase.
Unless you're already invested in the ecosystem, Windows 8 may actually be the Z10t's biggest liability as a tablet. We know that Android and iOS users tend to stay in their own walled gardens where their purchases mean something. It might be hard to get them to step out of those ecosystems, unless they have a lot of Kindle books and a Spotify subscription.
Thin keyboard, shallow keys
The Z10t's keyboard is thin to a striking degree. This makes it light, and the hinge folds down so to prevent it from catching on something in your bag.
However, that keyboard was so skinny typing on it felt shallow. The keys didn't offer as much press as we'd like. Typing large documents on the Z10ts may takes some getting used to, but any road warrior who's worked in a darkened airplane cabin will appreciate its backlit keys.
The touch pad was nice and smooth, and we always like the choice of either touchpad or nub (trackpoint, accupoint, call it what you will) mouse.
The no dongle zone
We were pleased to see that the Z10ts had a ton of ports. Toshiba said that its goal with this new Portégé was to create a "a dongle-free environment." This was music to our ears, since we frequently haul laptops to trade shows, and forgetting an adapter can be a nightmare.
On the keyboard dock you've got full size HDMI, VGA, ethernet and USB 2.0. On the tablet part there's a full-size SD card slot, USB 3.0, micro-HDMI, and a headphone jack. The goal here seems to be making it easy to connect to whatever presentation setup you encounter, be it monitor, projector or HDTV.
Toshiba also plans to market a stand designed for quick connectivity. This accessory will include an extra power cable, and packs two USB ports, HDMI, headphones and ac adapter port. This way you can keep the stand attached to power, mouse, keyboard, display, whatever, and simply drop the BLANK in the stand with minimal fuss.
Since the keyboard is shallow, this is an excellent way to substitute a more comfortable typing solution for long word processing sessions.
When you're trying to make something ultrabook small, corners start to get cut. Just ask anyone who has an ethernet dongle or SD card reader sticking out of their MacBook Air. The Portege Z10t looks to be a truly complete system when it comes to getting the job done.
The support Toshiba pledged for its latest Portege impressed us. Drivers for Windows 7 as well as a great stand accesory right out of the gate make the Z10t seem like a product with full manufacturer support.
While you won't need extra dongles with the Z10t, will you still pack your iPad or Nexus tablet? It's a strong possibility. The Z10t is a bit chunky, we're curious to see what it's like to use it for an extended reading session, and what the battery life will be like.
And since users may still opt for their own tablets, will the extra expense of a touch convertible be worth it to companies looking to purchase en masse? That's what we'll be evaluating in our full review.