When the netbook arrived it changed our perception of laptop pricing. No longer was it necessary to spend more than $1,000 for a machine light and small enough, with the battery power to go the distance.
But what about more powerful machines with bigger screens, that you can use as your main computer? There's a huge price gulf between entry level laptops with an Intel 2nd generation Core processor at around $700, and the other end of the scale - specialised machines for gaming and home entertainment with Blu-Ray, powerful graphics and 17in screens, and advanced ultraportables like Toshiba's just-announced Portege R830, a business machine for which prices range from $1895 to an eye-watering $4400.
In the case of Toshiba's new Portege R830, what are you getting?
Like the older R700 and R600, the R830 is an ultraportable machine, tipping the scales at 1.5Kg. This is by no means a world record (the Macbook Air is 1.06Kg) though considering the extensive bells and whistles in the chassis it's nothing to sniff at.
The R830 has a specialised case construction and design - there are lots of little touches, from the magnesium alloy casing to a "window" in the lid that Toshiba claims allows wireless signals to pass through uninterrupted. From what we can tell so far, the R830 doesn't appear to be rated to survive drops of certain heights, like Panasonic's Toughbook series, but it's handy to know this machine should in theory stand up to bumps and knocks a bit better than many other laptops.
SSD is something you'll find in several of the new Portege R830s, starting from the $2,667.50 PT321A-01L002 which has a 128GB SSD. The benefits of SSD have been covered extensively - you should notice fast boot times and load times for applications.
What's not always obvious about cheap laptop deals are the features that aren't on the spec sheet. The R830 has plenty of bells and whistles, though it's interesting to see that some of the features Toshiba is pushing are filtering down to cheaper consumer laptops, like USB 3 and HDMI ports.
The Toshiba goes for the royal flush though, packing in USB 3, HDMI, embedded 3G, Active Management Technology, a one touch port replicator, a shared platform with the other machines in the R800 series, and a 3-year warranty.
A balance of battery life and performance
Depending on your usage habit, this is one of the most important features of all. Again, Sandy Bridge Core i7 has filtered down to cheaper consumer laptops, but there is something to be said for seeing one of these CPUs in a small, portable 13.3in machine with a battery life on the spec sheet of up to 8 hours.
Toshiba also mentions a special cooling system it claims reduces fan noise. That's good news; we remember testing a Portege years ago that ran extremely hot.