Looking for a laptop for movies on the go but don't want to pay the whopping price for an ultrabook? Fear not, weary traveller, for there are compact, budget-minded options that hope to make the only thing weighing you down on your journey your bulging wallet.
One such new addition is the Toshiba L830-10X. Its 13-inch size makes it great for chucking in a rucksack and its wide screen lets you play DVD movies without those unsightly black bars. It's packing an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and can be yours for £500.
Design and build quality
While many laptops are wrapped in an all-black coat, Toshiba clearly thinks that this world needs brightening up. It offers the L830 in a white shell that makes a refreshing change from the plethora of black and silver computers that come through CNET UK Towers -- although it's also available in black if you're feeling glum.
The whole upper chassis has been given this white treatment, with the lid sporting a subtle grid pattern. The base has been kept black, which is probably for the best, seeing as that will be in constant contact with grubby train tables and office desks with dangerous pools of spilled coffee.
If you're not at all keen on all-white electronics and wouldn't previously have been seen dead carrying Apple's old MacBook around, then it probably won't be the laptop for you. I personally find it rather appealing and wouldn't be ashamed to whip it out in a meeting or a cafe when waiting for a train.
It's an entirely plastic construction, which is pretty standard on a lower-mid range machine such as this. It feels generally quite firm, with only a bit of flex being offered by the lid and on the wrist rest. The black bottom feels particularly sturdy so you needn't worry about laying down some cotton wool before placing it onto a table.
The body itself measures 329mm wide and 221mm deep, which makes it a good size for chucking in a bag and carting off on your journeys. At 30mm thick, it's hardly challenging the ultrabooks or Apple's MacBook Air to a 'who's skinnier' competition. It's about standard for the price range and isn't likely to stretch out your messenger bag too much.
Around the sides you'll spy a VGA-out socket, an Ethernet port, HDMI-out, two USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, headphone and microphone jacks and a DVD drive.
Keyboard and trackpad
Under the lid, things aren't quite as attractive. The keyboard and tray are made from a different plastic that has more of an off-white beige-ish hue, which makes it look a little dowdy compared to the brilliant white surround. It gives the impression that Toshiba has cut corners by using cheaper materials.
The keys themselves are square, isolated little things that don't look particularly classy, but that's nitpicking. Although they're quite easy to press, they don't offer the most comfortable of typing experiences, due in no small part to the large amount of flex offered by the keyboard tray. It's very off-putting feeling it flex beneath your fingers when you're trying to type out a long document.
The trackpad is more pleasant to use. It offers a rough texture that's pretty easy to slide your finger over and it's reasonably responsive too, making it well suited to flicking around your web browser of choice. It also has a rather attractive chrome-effect edging. It doesn't add anything to your browsing experience, but it's always nice to see something shiny on the tray.
Above the keyboard is a white speaker grille. The speakers are reasonably clear but they lack proper bass response and aren't particularly loud. They'll do the job if you just want to play some video clips but if music and movies are on your agenda then you'll want to pair the L830 with a set of headphones.
The screen is a 13.3-inch affair with a rather standard resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. Crucially though, it has an aspect ratio of 16:9, meaning you can play widescreen videos with fewer of those black bars creeping in.
I plopped in my DVD copy of Art of Flight and was very chuffed to see the video taking up the entire screen, without needing to stretch it out of proportion. The same video played on a 4:3 monitor had large black bars at the top and bottom. The L830's screen might not be huge but it makes best use of the available space for video.
The screen isn't Full HD so it isn't going to play Blu-ray quality videos, but you'd be pretty optimistic to expect that on a modestly priced 13-inch machine. It can handle 720p resolution footage though and it's both bright and reasonably bold so it's well-suited for DVDs.
Inside the white jacket you'll find an Intel Core i3-2367M processor clocked at 1.4GHz, with 4GB of RAM. Those aren't exactly impressive specs -- especially as it's using the older Intel Sandy Bridge chips, rather than the latest Ivy Bridge models. Still, as a lower-end machine, it's not surprising that Toshiba hasn't opted for the more recent chips.
To see what it's capable of, I fired up the PCMark05 and Geekbench tests and was given scores of 4,698 and 4,018 respectively. Those scores sadly don't measure up to what I'd expect from a laptop of this price. By comparison, the 15-inch Lenovo Essential G570 achieved over 6,000 on the Geekbench test and can be yours for around £400 -- that's 100 quid less than the Toshiba.
On paper then, it doesn't seem as powerful as others in the low-end bracket, but that's not to say it doesn't have enough juice for the essentials. I found it was quite capable of playing back and streaming high-definition video, even while running other programs like Spotify and Chrome. I was also able to open numerous web browser tabs and flick between them without noticing much in the way of lag, so it seems perfectly suited for handling most office tasks.
Of course, it's not going to be able to handle more intense tasks like video editing -- not without screaming in binary anyway. If that's on your agenda then you should really think about doubling your budget and going for something with more junk in the trunk. If, however, your only real needs from a computer are word processing, web browsing and watching videos, then it'll be fine.
Annoyingly, Toshiba has loaded the L830 up with an enormous amount of extra software including Toshiba Assist, Toshiba Disc Creator, Toshiba Eco Utility, Toshiba Hardware Setup, Toshiba Media Controller, Toshiba Online Product Information, Toshiba PC Health Monitor, Toshiba Recovery Media Creator, Toshiba Recovery Media Creator Reminder -- the list goes on.
Although the odd bit might be of use, it's mostly bundled nonsense that will sit on your drive taking up space and clogging up your background processes. Best to have a sift through when you first turn it on and get rid of anything you're never going to use. I don't know what Toshiba Value Added Package is but I'm pretty sure I'll never miss it.
As a 13-inch machine, you're probably going to want to carry it around with you at least some of the time. You'd therefore hope it could last more than 20 minutes away from a plug.
I booted up my battery benchmark test and found it was able to keep going for 2 hours 36 minutes, which isn't too bad. The test is extremely brutal and involves running the processor at a constant 100 per cent with the screen's brightness set to maximum. If you use your machine more carefully and turn off things like wireless connectivity and keep video use to a minimum, you'll be able to get a much better time.
The Toshiba L830-10X might have an attractive white shell and the wide screen will help for watching videos, but it's let down by poor performance that doesn't justify the price tag. The more powerful Lenovo Essential G570 costs £100 less.
If you particularly want a portable machine for movies on the go then it's worth a look, but for raw power, your money could be better spent elsewhere.