Review: Toshiba Portege Z20t-B

Traditionally, touchscreens tend to have that reflective surface, and while it’s easy on the fingers, smooth and slick, it also means the lighting behind you will show reflection too easily, while working out in sunlight is drowned out from those reflections.

But not the Toshiba Z20t’s screen, a display which offers up an anti-reflective treatment and is very viewable outdoors, making it a really great machine to take out in public when you need to work outside the office.

The screen resolution is decent enough for Windows 8 native apps, too, and the updates to Windows 8’s high DPI support means even the older style of apps are clear on this screen, which will be great news for every Windows user since Windows has more of these available than the “metro” style.

Performance is also decent, hardly a surprise given the inclusion of the very very recent Intel Core M processor Toshiba has decided on. That’s the Intel Core M 5Y71 clocked at 1.2GHz, fast enough to get most of the work you’re probably looking to get done, and a little of something else.

That makes it part of the “Broadwell” set of processors and part of Intel’s fifth generation of Core technology, with part of the design made to use less power and still make it as powerful as some of the processors we saw from Intel’s “Haswell” generation, or last year if you don’t live by the codenames Intel tells us.

This choice of processor means it’ll be great for writing and productivity apps, with the odd game and entertainment application also working here, though the focus for this machine and chip is definitely work. That said, you can expect to get a little bit of gaming here if you want, though without discrete graphics, don’t expect too much going on here.

You don't have to attach the screen to the tablet in the traditional way. You can also make it look like an entertainment machine.

Over to the battery life, and the Toshiba Z20t is one of the better devices we’ve seen in this area, allowing us to keep the charger kept in a backpack for a while and just go on what the keyboard dock has inside of it: a battery that will keep the tablet battery charged.

Yes, there are two batteries here, with one in the tablet section and the other in the keyboard section. The first one is important, because that’s the one that will always stay charged when it’s plugged into the keyboard, which is the second one and the battery that will recharge the first battery, as hybrid tablets often do.

By itself, the tablet section can handle about 7 hours of use from its battery, which isn’t bad at all, but the moment you connect the screen to the keyboard dock, the extra battery in this section will add a good 7 or 8 hours to the charge, meaning you can get around 15 hours of life from the Portege Z20t when it’s used as a laptop.

We’ll just let that sink in for a moment, because 15 hours of battery life is no small feat.

Put simply, the Toshiba Z20t is a dream when it comes to surviving your work day. We wish more computers had this sort of battery life, we really do.

Usability is one area where the Z20t scores points, and big ones at that, for the most part.

Use the tablet by itself, or connect it to the dock to make it a laptop.

Obviously, there are two parts here: a tablet section and a keyboard section.

By itself and just as a tablet, you’ll find the 12 inch screen is quite responsive with your finger, but Toshiba has included a digitiser for you to use in case you like to write or get a little more accurate in what you’re pointing at.

But what if you forget to bring that digitiser? Unfortunately, there’s no slot to keep that not-quite-pen, and so you might leave it somewhere, so what do you do?

Check the bottom of the tablet because inside a small recess you’ll find another stylus, albeit a much smaller and thinner one. Think of this as your “in case of emergency” stylus, just make sure not to lose it!

So that’s the tablet, but remember, there is also a keyboard section here that you can connect up to the slate to get more battery life out of, and of course a keyboard and two extra mice.

Yes, we said two, because you’ll find the typical trackpad here as well as one of those original Accupoint pointing stick that early Toshiba laptops featured.

In case you haven’t seen one for ages, this is a little rubber stick that sits in the centre of the keyboard in between the G, H and B keys with two buttons for left and right click found directly beneath the space bar. This is an older style of mouse that had you touch the stick in small amounts to guide the on-screen mouse, and is an older style of notebook mouse that is generally only seen on Toshiba and Lenovo computers these days.

Toshiba’s keyboard is also a welcome inclusion, providing a solid typing experience that is still — like last time — a little bit shallow — but offers just the right amount of click, and doesn’t require quite a heavy strike.

Writing the review on this keyboard, as well as quite a few notes at several briefings, we found the Z20t was able to keep up with our speedy fingers the entire time with no lost characters, which is good.

Overall, we quite enjoyed the keyboard experience, and even found it was good for long bouts of typing, though if you like more depth in your typing, we suggest trying this keyboard before purchase.

But the trackpad does need some work, with the provided one in the keyboard dock shallow and often hard to press. Fortunately, there are two input methods on the keyboard, and you’re not forced to use either of them, with the touchscreen also part of the features, which together with the trackpad and the Accupoint rubber stick, means there are three distinct input mechanisms working as a mouse.

So that’s at least a positive out of a negative.

Beyond this, the cons are fairly short, with the screen connection on the keyboard dock still a little loose despite the extra pin and anchor connections Toshiba is using, as well as some font size issues that still exhibit themselves with Windows and the Full HD display.

There’s a bug here and there, too, one of them popping up on Toshiba’s own camera software which causes it to crash every time you take a shot, while the regular Windows app is stable. Solution: don’t use Toshiba’s camera app, because then the odd selfie of yours won’t crash.

Conclusion

Toshiba’s alternative to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3 is a solid competitor, offering a lovely screen and a battery that performs beautifully. Some might find that keyboard and mouse a little too shallow, but with three mouse types and a keyboard that you can get used to, these are cons that will quickly fade to the back of the mind.

If you need a machine to last not just the full work day, but possibly even a 13 hour trip, Toshiba’s Z20t has your name all over it.

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