Traveling: the Toshiba Portege is probably not right for you

A few months ago, my father in law wanted to switch from his Acer One netbook to something more powerful. His requirements were pretty straightforward:
  • Light:  As he travels extensively to areas riddled with cobblestones and dirt roads, the wheeled carry-on was not an option.  He therefore needs to carry the laptop in a backpack;
  • Powerful: This computer is his portable office, and he needs to run all of his software from a single place without the benefit of a big desktop or more powerful machine in a permanent location;
  • Great Screen: Why put an extra strain on your eyes?  Get a laptop with a great screen
  • Battery Life: Crop fields are very scarce on electric outlets, and so are airplanes.  A battery life of at least 5 hours was key
  • Carried by Best-Buy: If your time is limited, and you cannot be without a computer for more than a day, brick and mortar stores are still your best option.  They usually have an in-house customer service and technical support team, and they have their own warranty system that can exchange your laptop for you if you need it.  That's why I still buy my more expensive electronics with vendors who have a real store front in my area.  Best-Buy is my go-to store in Miami
After reviewing all of the models in Best-Buy, we chose the Toshiba Portege Ultrabook (TPU).  It worked as expected, powering up quickly thanks to its solid state drive, and there were no software issues.  It didn't crash for the first month and ran great.  If you won't be traveling, this is a good machine.

This is the Portege with its cracked screen

This is the Portege with its cracked screen

However, traveling with the TPU was a different story.  During the second business trip, the screen cracked.  Best Buy's Geek Squad warranty worked like a charm, and they replaced the computer for a new one.  Unfortunately, After a few more trips, the screen cracked again.

Portege Screen Close UpNow it was time to figure out what was going on.  In the first machine, Best Buy had noticed there was a small dent in the monitor frame, so when it happened again, I looked for it again, and there it was, right next to the black blob of monitor death.  Why is this happening?

  Portege - Poor designPortege - The Dent that caused it

In their quest for a light computer, Toshiba is enclosing their screen in a flexible plastic frame.  This, coupled with their keyboard inset design, is the cause of the problem.  When the laptop is closed, the monitor's frame is pushed on the keyboard inset, and any additional pressure will cause it to crack.  If you leave it on your desk, it'll be fine.  If you put it in a laptop backpack, you're in trouble.

The inset design differs from other manufacturers' because it is a 2 sided ditch (front and back), rather than a four-sided ditch (front, back, and both sides).  By having the keyboard in a 4 ditch design, other manufacturers are ensuring that the monitor's frame will not be pushed further than a flat position.

Although the computer ran well, I would be concerned with kids around it, or traveling with it, which is usually the point of an ultrabook.  My recommendation: Do not buy.

On a positive note, I can only recommend buying through Best Buy after their great customer service.  The Geek Squad warranty may sound expensive, but when you use it, you'll be glad you purchased it.

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