Build Quality: Thin is In

Probably one of the most refreshing things about the Toshiba Tecra R850 is the fact that it's frankly svelte for a 15.6" notebook. While the recently released Dell XPS 15z is a bold challenger, the R850 is a quarter of a pound lighter...and a business-class notebook backed by a business-class warranty.

Not messing with a good thing, Toshiba has opted for black matte plastic across virtually the entire chassis, with texturing on the lid and palm rest and silver glossy accents on the hinges, touchpad buttons, and the logo on the lid. Inheriting a lot of its design DNA from the Portege R700/R800, the build is incredibly slender, with a thickness that maxes out at just 1.19" and it really does feel very light in the hand.

Opening the lid, you're greeted with a matte plastic bezel and a matte screen. The interior surfaces are all similar and kept clear of excess shortcut buttons. In fact, Toshiba includes only two: a button which switches the power plan to their "eco" power-saving mode, and a button which toggles the monitor output. Everything else is handled through Fn key shortcuts. In fact, the only color you're really going to see are in the green/orange indicator lights and the blue trackpoint nub.

For better or worse, the Tecra R850 inherits the keyboard style of the Portege R700/R800, and this is probably the one bone I really have to pick with the design. The keyboard itself has a smart and easy to use layout that's really among the better ones I've seen, but the keys are a slightly glossy plastic that aren't particularly comfortable to use. There are worse things to deal with, but the keyboard isn't great, and the surfaces of the keys feel too smooth, the travel too shallow. On the plus side, there's virtually no flex in the keyboard to speak of.

Likewise, the touchpad below the keyboard is comfortable to use. I do get frustrated whenever I see the touchpad as part of the same piece of plastic as the palm rest because it looks chintzy, but the difference in texture is at least welcome and again this is an issue that's more about look than feel. The touchpad buttons also have the right amount of travel, and there's a toggle to enable or disable the touchpad just above the trackpoint buttons.

As a whole, I'm mostly impressed with how well-built and slender the R850 is. It's proof that 15.6" notebooks need not be bulky, overweight monstrosities, and that you can still have a sizable screen and keyboard without having to pack so much weight behind it. And despite being so thin, the body doesn't really bend and the screen and lid have minimal flex.

Introducing the Toshiba Tecra R850 Application and Futuremark Performance
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  • Roland00 - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    I meant TG not T
  • Hrel - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    I'd like a notebook designed like this except with the GT555 GPU. 1080p high contrast screen is a must.
  • FlyBri - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    Totally agree. I don't get why it's so difficult to offer a 1080p option. It's not just for watching Blu-Ray movies -- I got my current laptop with a 1080p screen specifically to have more screen real estate for work. And please, for the love of god, give us choices for a high quality screen! It just seems like laptop manufacturers just don't get it...
  • jackpro - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    It would be nice to know if the screen is a


    as it would really help with understanding the colour accuracy possible.
    like this excellent site does
  • Dustin Sklavos - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    For notebooks, it's going to be TN 99% of the time. We'll only specify when it's something else.
  • Pratheek - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    If there were a good 1080p display along much more battery capacity, I would have certainly booked it...
  • nitrousoxide - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    For a 1000-dollar-laptop with a crappy screen.
  • JarredWalton - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    Editor's Choice for a high quality build with great general performance; put on a real screen and this would have been Silver at least.
  • Gigantopithecus - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    I almost purchased an R700 but did not because of three issues: its poor screen quality, the terrible keyboard (the keys had so little travel that typing wasn't unpleasant, it was downright painful), and the fact that it got ball-burning hot. I'm glad Toshiba fixed the heat issue, but it looks like the other two remain.

    I strongly suggest anyone interested in this laptop try it out in the store if possible (Best Buy should be carrying it). That keyboard is imho *terrible.*
  • TrackSmart - Monday, June 6, 2011 - link

    I have the Toshiba R705. It's a great form factor, but yes, the screen is very poor in all metrics (viewing angles, contrast, color reproduction) except for brightness. The other issues are minor by comparison (e.g. the heat is not that bad and the keyboard isn't terrible once you get acclimated). But that screen...

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