Toshiba notebooks are usually reliable but my first Toshiba Satellite Z830 died in less than six hours due to a Windows 7 automatic update and a bad BIOS design.
Satellite or Portégé
The Satellite Z830 model number is PT22LA-001001. Our local shops sell it as the Toshiba Z830/001. Toshiba also have a slightly faster Z830 named the Portégé Z830 with a three year guarantee instead of the one year guarantee for the Satellite. The Satellite has an Intel ULV Core i5-2467M running at 1.60GHz and bursting up to 2.30GHz in turbo mode. The Portégé uses an Intel ULV Core i5-2557M starting at 1.7GHz and bursting up to 2.7GHz.
No documentation in the box
The Toshiba does not include diagnostic documentation. The only documentation is a PDF file in the computer and you cannot access that file when you have major problems.
Limited documentation online
Documentation online at the Toshiba Web site is limited and tells you how to perform three types of emergency restarts. One is the standard battery removal technique but you cannot remove the battery without opening the case, which invalidates the guarantee. When the Z830 broke, I tried the other two reboots and neither worked. Nothing appeared on the screen no matter what I did.
After some wild experiments, I worked out the problem was the display. I tried switching the display using the display switch function on the keyboard but that did not work.
Another hair-brain idea. Perhaps the LCD display is broken and I can use an external display to conduct some diagnostics. Bingo, the external display showed something and it was a Windows restarted locked at an error message. I was able to get past the error message then switch back to the notebook screen.
Here is the sequence of events:
- I made the mistake of leaving Windows automatic updates switched on.
- Windows made an automatic update that broke everything (as usual).
- The Windows automatic update rebooted (as usual).
- The Windows reboot did not complete (as usual after a Microsoft .NET update).
- The broken Windows tried to display the reboot message on the wrong display.
- I connected the external display because I thought it was a hardware error.
- The external display showed the stupid mistake by in Windows.
- I bypassed the Windows stupidity.
- The Toshiba display button let me fix the display selection.
Why did Toshiba decide to stop using the normal keyboard display selection and use a different switch? Why did they act even more stupid by using a switch that depends on Windows working. If you switch to an external screen then remove the external screen, you cannot switch back. The same thing happens when Windows decides to display messages only on the disconnected connection.
The Toshiba hardware became unusable in less than 6 hours. It was only luck that I happened to have a spare display to connect. It was only luck that I happened to have a few minutes to try one more test after wasting all my time on the tests listed at the Toshiba Web site. Another hour would have seen the Toshiba despatched by courier to the repair centre. Perhaps Toshiba should move the
How to install Linux page up to the top of the diagnostic pages.
There is no permanent fix for this type of Windows error because no matter what settings you set, Microsoft's automatic updates will randomly ignore many of your settings and reset some your settings. The computer is too new to upgrade to Windows XP.
The Toshiba BIOS should be fixed to let me switch from the external display to the internal display no matter what Windows wants to do. If you are a computer manufacturer, the only thing you control is the BIOS. You know that Windows will always make a stupid decision somewhere. You should give us the chance to override Windows.
Installing Linux is the longest term solution. Bluetooth is the only thing in the Z830 not currently supported by Linux. I rarely use Bluetooth on a notebook and could live with the Toshiba running Linux without Bluetooth.
Infected by Windows
You get Windows 7 Home Premium preinstalled but no disk or documentation. (The Portégé arrives with Windows 7 Pro.) There is documentation on disk but when Windows breaks, you have to repair Windows to read the documentation on how to repair Windows. Talk about stupid. If you want an operating system without documentation, you might as well use Linux.
To get the equivalent of Ubuntu Linux, you would have to upgrade to the Windows 7 Professional edition or the Windows 7 Ultimate edition. I did not bother because I am not going to use the machine on a daily basis. Instead the machine is intended for someone who has to use another computer already loaded with Windows 7. At this stage it is easier to keep the two computers using the same operating system.
One of the things you do not have to do with Linux is waste an hour uninstalling all the spam, worms, and viruses installed by Windows. They are all big brand spam. Microsoft. Adobe. Symantec.
The backlit keyboard is really useful and effective but switches off quickly and you have to touch a key to switch it back on. If there is a way to switch it on permanently when working in low light, the backlight would be perfect.
Asus has an alternative
The Toshiba retail works out at about five percent cheaper than the Asus Zenbook equivalent. The Asus is so new it is not in stock. The Toshiba is in stock in some shops and some of those shops have the Toshiba on sale at about ten percent cheaper than the retail price of the Asus. I will wait for the Asus to get the higher resolution screen, the one real difference between the two brands. I will also wait to see the Asus working next to the Toshiba so I can compare the quality of their colour reproduction.
Asus give you a 1600X900 pixel screen but no backlit keyboard. The Asus is available with the same size SSD, 128GB, or with 256 GB. The 256 GB version is painfully expensive at this point because nobody has any stock. The Toshiba has a regular HDMI socket so you can plug in anywhere using existing cables. The Asus has a miniHDMI socket and requires an adaptor or a special cable.
After using the Toshiba keyboard, I think I would choose the Toshiba keyboard over the higher resolution of the Asus. If only the Toshiba had a 256 GB option at an affordable price.
Apple does not have an alternative
Apple has the Macbook Air in the same market but it is not an equivalent. Although the Mac cost more, it has less and is closer to the cheaper Acer. The Mac also requires a box of adaptors for normal use. Either the Toshiba or the Asus will be the best choice for most people.
There are lots of people running Linux on the Z830 and everything works except Bluetooth. A small number of people tried Linux on the Asus alternative and they could not make the touchpad or suspend work. The Toshiba looks like the best choice for Linux.
The world's first thin notebook was the Mitsubishi Pedion back in 1998. A few years later Intel invented a new range of thin processors and released the specifications for a thin notebook. In 2007 Toshiba launched the R500, the second computer in the world to fit under 20 millimetres and the first thin computer with SSD. Toshiba did not brag about the R500 because the R500 was slightly fatter than the Pedion.
A year later Apple cloned the Intel/Toshiba idea and spent tens of millions of dollars to convince everyone that Apple invented the worlds' thinnest notebook computer. Like the R500, the Macbook Air was fatter than the Pedion. Given ten years to copy the Pedion, two years to read the Intel specifications for a thin computer, and a year to clone the Toshiba, plus the removal of all the connections and the DVD drive built into the R500, all Apple could produce was a thick fat computer.
The Toshiba Z830 drops the DVD drive and adds in HDMI and USB3 connections.
The Toshiba, in Australia, has a one year guarantee including free pickup. The Portégé has the same guarantee extended over three years. You can buy the Satellite Z830 with a guarantee extended out to three years by Toshiba or by some retailers. There are fewer discounts on the Portégé. The best Portégé price is $242 more than the Satellite version. Extending the Satellite guarantee to three years costs $165 through Toshiba or up to $300 from some retailers.