Scott's Column
Toshiba Z835, iPod Touch vs. Zune HD

December 1, 2011
By Scott Lewis

This month I continue my pursuit of an UltraBook style laptop with the Toshiba Z835. I also take a closer look at my Zune HD and a 16 GB iPod Touch. Which is better? Can I live with just one? What about when I get a new phone? Can an iPhone or an Android phone replace both the iPod and the Zune?

Current Topics:

Toshiba Z835

To continue our search for an Ultra Book that is worthy of comparison to the MacBook Air... this month we take a look at the Toshiba Z835.

CNet Review of Z835
LAPTOPMAG Review of Z835

I must say, I am a little disappointed with the Toshiba for its plastic construction. Acer did the same thing with their Aspire S3. And I assume this had a lot to do with Acer getting the price down to $899. But if you watch the video on CNet's review of the Z835... they flex the lid/screen pretty far. It leaves me wondering if this will feel like a premium product, or just cheap.

Granted... the Toshiba is the lowest priced of the currently available UltraBooks at $799. That's $100 lower than the Acer Aspire S3. Yet the Toshiba still provides a 128GB Solid State Drive (SSD), whereas Acer cut corners here as well by only using a 20GB SSD in conjunction with a standard hard disc drive (HDD).

On the plus side the Z835 is just 2.4 lbs. making it the lightest laptop I would consider. And its battery also lasts the longest of all the Windows base Ultrabooks CNet has tested.

Toshiba was kind enough to include backlighting for its keyboard, but CNet's reservations about the typing experience on the keyboard will have me waiting until I can experience one first hand before making a decision. Laptopmag must have reviewed a different unit, because they praised its sturdy construction with this, "The lightweight lid also feels really sturdy."

The Toshiba includes an Ethernet jack... built in... not using a USB adapter, like the Asus UX31. This is a plus for me. Since I will be using this laptop for travelling... I will be copying large amounts of data to it before a trip, and again when I arrive. I love being able to plug a laptop into my Gigabit router and getting blazing fast transfer speeds to my server and desktop computer.

Like the Acer, Toshiba cut corners to get the price under $1,000. Probably the biggest cut was the use of a Core i3 processor... while all the other Ultrabooks use a Core i5 or i7. So performance from the Z835 with a 1.4-GHz Core i3 CPU could be an issue.

The Protégé includes 4 GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD at the $799 price. Remember, the Acer used a 20GB SSD to in conjunction with a standard hard drive to get to its $899 price point.

I have used Toshiba products in the past. I had one laptop that had a mild overheating problem, but others that were very reliable. I will have to get down to Best Buy to handle one of these in person. It does have possibilities.

Next month... I saw the Samsung Series 9 at Best Buy for $1,199... and then it was on sale for $999. At $999 this is definitely a laptop to consider. I will be taking another look at the Series 9 to see how it stacks up against the Current UltraBooks. Plus, HP is getting an UltraBook ready as well.

Stay tuned.


iPod Touch vs. Zune HD

My youngest son got an iPhone 4 on Sprint. Not a 4S, just a 4. He saved the money up himself. I was very proud that he saved enough money to buy a phone and not blow it on some Transformer or Halo toy.

A couple of years ago we went half and half on a used iPod Touch. When he got his iPhone I got the old iPod Touch since it was supposed to be half mine anyway.

Now I have a 16 GB iPod Touch and a 32 GB Zune HD.

I recently wrote about my Zune becoming obsolete. Let's take a look at that. What does the Zune do for me that the iPod touch does not:

1) Play HD video. It can play 720p videos on its 16:9 screen, and play them through an HDMI cable on a HDTV.

2) Play music.

3) Play Podcasts.

That is about it. That is all I use it for. I have a bunch of movies that I converted to a format the Zune works with. I used the MP4 format because iPods could also use it, in case my sons wanted the videos on their iPods.

My used iPod Touch can play all the videos that I have been formatting for my Zune, except the HD videos. And it can't play them on a HDTV either. Even though my HD MP4 files play in iTunes... iTunes won't sync them to the iPod claiming they are not in a format the iPod supports. So HD video is exclusive to the Zune.

Podcasts. This is the number one thing that the Zune got right... way above the iPod. I currently have 6 audio podcasts I listen to. I would like to find more, but it seems difficult. Regardless, the Zune handles these absolutely beautifully. It downloads and syncs new podcasts when I plug the Zune into my desktop for charging. It also removed any podcasts I have listened to. All of this is done automatically. In fact, if a podcast does not have any episodes available... it will remove the entire podcast from my Zune. This is wonderful. When I touch the Podcast menu item I only see what I have to listen to... not stuff I have already listened to.

So far... my experience with the iPod Touch and Podcasts is that it is a completely manual affair. I tried three podcasts, and I had to manually drag them onto the iPod, then it did nothing to mark them as read when I got back to my computer. Since I have my iPod set for manual syncing this may be part of it.

However, the iPod Touch can run a significant number of iPhone apps. The Zune can't do that. I have been playing WSOP Hold'em on the iPod Touch to feed my poker addiction. Over the next couple of months I will probably be migrating some of my video and music to the iPod Touch. Memory is going to be a big problem. Video takes up quite a bit of space. And I have about 15-16 GB of music on my Zune... all at the same time. I know, I can't listen to that much music all once, but I don't have to think about it... I just play whatever playlist I am in the mood for.

With the limited memory of the iPod I will have to micro manage my music and videos. I am using the Zune to re-watch Smallville episodes while I work out on the treadmill, and at my desk at lunch. I normally load an entire season at a time on my Zune. The iPod won't hold that, plus music, podcasts and apps.

Over the next couple of months I hope to learn how well iOS can work as my only device. Ultimately I will get a new phone. Should I get an iPhone or an Android phone? And do I still use the Zune for podcasts and video... because it is the best device for that?

I think it is time to look into third party Podcast software... for iOS and Android.

I'll keep you posted.



That's it for this month. I have a new project underway... but I am going to have to keep it a secret for a while. I am going to be partnering with a friend, and we will have to create a company. So it will have to be hush-hush until we are far enough along that I know someone won't read about it hear and steal our idea.

I may drop a couple of hints in the coming months... and I will certainly write about it when it is up and running.

For now...