More Competition for Surface Pro 3? Toshiba Protege Z20t


protege z20tToshiba Protege Z20t vs. Surface Pro 3:

As soon as Toshiba announced that it will be releasing its new 2-in-1, laptop replacement tablet – the Protege Z20t – tech blogs started buzzing about how the Surface Pro 3 will now have some tough competition. So, I thought I’d take a closer look at this new tablet that is to be released later this month (ship date from Toshiba is 1/21/15).

It’s no secret that Tim and I love our Surface tablets. When HP came out with its Surface Pro 3 competitor – the HP Envy X2, I took a look and my verdict was…”meh”, at best. So, now I want to see if Toshiba actually produced anything as good as the Surface.

Here are Protege Z20t’s key features as compared to Surface Pro 3:

Toshiba Protégé Z20t Surface Pro 3
Processor Intel Core M 4th Gen Intel Core i3, i5, i7
Weight 1.6lbs tablet and 3.3lbs with included keyboard 1.76lbs
Screen Size 12.5″ 12″
Resolution 1,920 x 1,080 2,160 x 1,440
Hard Drive options 128Gb, 256Gb, 512Gb 64Gb, 128Gb, 256Gb, 512Gb
Pen Wacom digitizer pen N-trig digitizer pen
Keyboard Included with extra battery and ports additional $120
Ports micro USB 2.0, microSD, microHDMI on tablet
2-full USB 3.0, Ethernet, RGB, HDMI on keyboard base
full USB 3.0,  microSD , Mini DisplayPort
Battery Life 9.1 hours; 17.5 hrs with keyboard pack 11.75 hours (from our own test)
Price $1,399 for 128Gb $999 for 128Gb + $120 for keyboard = $1,119

OK, so let’s look at some of these specs and features that Toshiba included in Protege Z20t…

Processor – the Core M processor included in the new Toshiba, indeed, provides very low-power consumption and therefore gives good battery life. Why then does the Protege Z20t battery last shorter than the Surface Pro 3? Only the addition of the second battery in the keyboard dock gives Toshiba the big battery life boost. Also, many would argue that the Core M processor is significantly under powered for performance compared to the 4th Gen i5 and i7 processors, see these benchmarks from So, if you’ve had dreams of playing computer games on your new Toshiba 2-in-1 – good luck…

Fan-less – I know that there have been some complaints about the noisy fans on the i7 versions of the Surface Pro 3 but going completely fan-less? I think that may be a stretch, even for the Core M processors – again, any CPU intensive tasks are going to have an issue.

Keyboard – the powered keyboard is a pretty cool feature, I have to admit. Microsoft also offers a battery cover keyboard but it’s at an additional cost and it’s really aimed at the Surface Pro 2 line.

However, I would worry that the keyboard adds too much weight and bulk to the Toshiba, especially if it’s the only native keyboard option (as it seems to be) – 3.3lbs makes it as heavy as a laptop! The extra ports in the keyboard are nice though, as is the locking mechanism; the security feature is nice too.  So, despite the weight, I would say that the keyboard is my favorite feature on the Protege Z20t. I wish the Surface Pro 3 had a more rigid keyboard with an option to lock it into place.  I still prefer the thin and light design of the Surface keyboard but I do believe that it would be nice if Microsoft came up with something similar to the Toshiba keyboard as another option.

Wacom pen – this is essentially the same pen that the Surface Pro 2s had, and as I said in my comparison of the Surface Pro 2 vs Pro 3 pens, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better digital pen than the N-trig one on Surface Pro 3. So, Toshiba has some catching up to do here.

Resolution – you may have noticed that the Toshiba Protege Z20t has a much smaller resolution than the Surface Pro 3 – why would you have a larger screen size with a lower resolution? I don’t get it. I know Toshiba is targeting the “every day” users but still, the high resolution on the Surface screen makes it fantastic. I don’t think I’d trade it for an extra 0.5″ of screen.

Lack of kickstand – I don’t know about you but I often use my Surface tablet with the kickstand (and no keyboard). I find it convenient and love that it is adjustable. I think Toshiba messed up by not adding one to the Protege – just sayin’...

All in all, I think competition is healthy and there is a need for 2-in-1 tablets, so I’m glad companies, like Toshiba and HP are embracing these technologies. What pisses me off though, is the glorious pre-reviews of the Protege Z20t, while all the Surfaces ever get is negative ones from the media. I just don’t understand that. I mean Microsoft comes out with something awesome and truly innovative and every tech blog gives dubious reviews, while others come out with pale copies of the same thing and they are winners on the blogs – what the hell…?

Anyway, off my soap box, I think Toshiba gave this a good try but I don’t think it will compete much with the Surface Pro 3. Despite the innovative keyboard design, it simply is too expensive with too few improvements, while still using lower-end tech on screen and pen and a slower processor.



is a former IT Director for a major public university, who gave up a high paying career to blog full time. She is proud to be a professional geek. Joanna loves all things technology and Surface tablets are her passion. She and Tim created to help others be more productive using these awesome tablets.


  1. Thank you for this excellent comparison. I like your reviews, and your site is great!

    However, I feel that in this case you short-changed the Toshiba in disappointing ways.

    All readers here are likely to agree that MS Surface Pro makes a powerful design statement –it already has influenced the industry. Also, PC makers really have not delivered many products that match up to the Surface Pro line. So, any effort by Toshiba is welcome.

    However, when you compared the two, you did not note that the new broadwell CPU chip architecture used in the Toshiba is more power efficient.

    The speed difference between the Toshiba and Surface Pro 3 cpus does not seem to be as significant as your gaming-related comment would suggest. (The Toshiba CPU is a 2015 successor chip to the Surface Pro 3’s Haswell. It is not logical to think that the new chip would be a poor replacement. It does not seem to sacrifice that much performance…at least according to CPU World’s comparison chart:

    Also, the Toshiba ram is low voltage ram, and that might keep it cooler…without fans.

    One big point is that the Toshiba extra battery in the keyboard is significant. You do have some favorable words for that, but I think they also mis-represent the situation a bit.
    #1. There is NO Surface Pro3 power cover. (The power cover in not “…really aimed at the Surface Pro 2 line.” It’s simply NOT AVAILBLE for the the PRO 3 as an option.
    Microsoft states is more bluntly: “Power Cover is only compatible with Surface 2, Surface Pro, Surface Pro 2.”

    So, comparing the Surface Pro 3 WITH NO POWER COVER, to the Toshiba with a built in power-cover/power keyboard, is a significant difference.

    Also, 17 hours is much more significant than the (non-extendable) NINE (9) hours that MS asserts as its standard time for a full charge of the Surface Pro 3 battery. (The official MS Website declares “..Up to 9 hours of web browsing.”)

    You note that you’ve gotten 11+ hours is great, but not a standard or norm for comparison against the Toshiba standard or norm.

    Frankly, I could leverage my SP3 to get 11 hours of battery life -but that is not the *norm*, and therefore it’s not a fair figure to compare.

    There was one special aspect that was not mentioned in the comparison that I think is germane and will be relevant to many, many readers. The Toshiba CAN COME WITH WINDOWS & PROFESSIONAL installed!

    Setting aside the benefits of Windows 8/8.1 for a moment. There are many who simply want that older software. This gives them a quality hardware experience to use with that software! Significant for many! Our MS Surface Pros are “stuck” with Win8, but but a Toshiba and you have more choices!

    Finally, I have used the Wacom pen/stylus on my old Surface Pro 2, and also on my old Samsung Tablet. Wacom is excellent. Many artists and specialists use the Wacom professionally.

    The new (near-proprietary) stylus for the Surface Pro 3 is also very nice. However, having used both, the difference between them is not significant enough to make it a special plus or draw. Also, if you have a Wacom stylus -you can use it on multiple devices. So far, my SP3 stylus works on a total of one (1) device -the SP3…

    Please keep writing these reviews -they are so very helpful for us and always make me feel good about my MS Surface Pro system (It’s my desktop as well as my laptop -a switch the Toshiba really can pull off by the way!). But please be honest to the hardware and software. You’ve got a high standard and quality website and it does not have slip into the “blind advocacy” level that some other sites use for their targeted hardware or software!

    Thank you again!


  2. OM Goodness -two errors — The Toshiba CAN’T Pull off the switch between being a tablet/laptop and a desktop. . .But the Surface Pro 3 Can! (sorry -I wish we could edit our original posts!)

  3. more painful thing is that Toshiba’s 2-in-1 costs almost $1400 without the digitizer. You need to shell out $1900 to have the digitizer, whereas in that price, you have i7 512GB SP3 with keyboard and digitizer while having some bucks left for your coffee. 😀

  4. HI @Pat.
    In my original reply to Joanna (above) there is a link to CPU World. It compares the new M-5Y71 Processor with the Haswell I5 CPU in our SP3s (and SP2, BTW). The advantage of the M-5Y71 was lower voltage and some architecture. It actually appears to be clocked slower than the I5, but that still might deliver good speed.

    HI @WIns,
    I don’t know where you read that you need a digitizer that cost $500 dollars more? The prices list for all Toshiba Portege Z20t configurations *INCLUDES* the Wacom digitizer pen/stylus. SO you get the writing ability with the base price!

    Toshiba Pro/con:
    Pro: The Toshiba Portege Z20t can meet the tablet and laptop role, longer battery life, probably easier for a lot of typing while away from a desk. . .

    Con: but I don’t see how it can be a “drop in” replacement for desktop machine.

    I can (and do) use my Surface Pro 3 as a tablet, and a laptop. Now I also use it as my desktop machine. Just use a dock on my desk and the Surface Pro 3 is a great desktop! Very convenient having one common system to access anywhere.

  5. Hi @Wins

    OK, got it thanks! I see where you got that! You are right, that review stated the extra cost.

    However, I am not sure that the reviewer was entirely correct. It seems incorrect for two reasons.
    # 1. No Wacom stylus is that expensive! Maybe a propietary digitizer PAD could be $400, but I have not seen any stylus/pen costs that much $400…
    # 2. Also, some other sites that covered the machine indicated that the stylus comes with the machine!

    Check out CNET’s report from CES2015. In that report, Dan Ackerman reviews the tablet. He notes two things.
    #1.that the new Intel chip is specifically designed NOT to NEED A FAN (so that explains the fan issue a bit more).
    #2. that there are actually TWO stylus that come with the computer! A big chunky one, and a smaller one that *fits into a built in slot* on the tablet.
    That is a good feature that I did not see before. . .(Is this all the same machine?) Here is the CNET link:

    Actually, this does look nice. $1399 for 17 hours of use. Paying $170 more, but getting more battery, a more stable cover, a newer processor (btw, I note the MS price for the SP3 cover lists at $129.99, NOT $120 )


  6. Hello Everybody,

    First I would like to say that I do not want to start a troll 🙂

    In my opinion, I would say that, I, do not want a mix between a laptop and a tablet like pieces of both worlds put together but something that provides me the same functionalities with nice design, portability, good user experience, something, more, seamless.

    As already said, the extra battery on Toshiba can be interesting but I am never to far form a electrical plug to plug in my SP3 (Home, Work, Airport, Coffee houses, etc). No need to run full res the latest game of the moment for 8 hours on battery.

    A LAN RJ45 port, at home I have WiFi (which I four more convenient than LAN) and at work as well (and in a lot of different places). Even If there is no WiFi at work connected to the corporate LAN I can use the docking station.

    VGA display port maybe a little outdated compared to display port, an adapter to carry, I agree, but you have choice between VGA or DVI.

    The difference between the 2 CPU. ‘K what our needs are really?
    Games consumes a lot in terms of battery power, RAM, and Graphics. Personally I do not play games but I understand that other people do. To be realistic, I think it is difficult to expect to play “hungry” games with stunting graphics and still have portable and long lasting devices, maybe not right now.

    FAN vs FANLess: I would tend to be fan less which consume less power but I have to say that the one from the SP3 did not bothered me already.

    The Pen, I have tried the pen with Adobe Lightfoot, software I mostly use with the SP3 and I have no complain. I will try with PhotoShop. I need a different feeling I own a Wacom tablet. If you need to have a good feeling for designing, I suggest you get a Wacom tablet.

    Toshiba maybe targets different people and maybe the world of hybrid devices is not already well define as the consumers desires and needs are not as well. I guess for the moment, companies try to guess what would suit us best proposing different model of hybrid devices.

    Last but not least, I would like to finish saying that it not easy to find actually in this hybrid world what suit us best.



    • Good points! [Although if you do international flights like 12-16 hours the extra time *is* valuable to have on the batter!] The good news is that manufacturers are now starting to offer more variations to see what works in the market! Great! The more the better.. The Surface does set the standard, but I am eager to see what will try to beat it! 🙂

  7. So Mark,

    Tell me, don’t you feel the need to sleep during such long flight? Or even watching movies or playing games with the plane entertainment system? 🙂

    Check the plane model and the company to see whether they have AC power inside 🙂

    For such long fight guess they will have some available 😉

    Btw I am also eager to see what will be the next smart products.


  8. I haven’t seen anyone mention the one thing that I don’t like about Surface Tablets. Have you ever tried to use one with a keyboard in your lap?!? Useless. It flops around and wants to fall over every time I’m on the couch or recliner using it. I always joke that it’s called a surface because you’d better have one to use it on.

    I find that in IT I often might not have a desk available (small server room for example), and using the device in my lap is essential. This is why I have only been shopping for fixed-hinge 2 in 1 devices. If Microsoft had a fixed-hinge docking keyboard for the SP3, I might be sold on it…. But they DON’T.

  9. LOL what is this ??? 1920×1080 is too high resolution for any screen below 15″. Try to run any IDE or other software with DPI scalling of 200% (I have Surface Book and I know that pain of having stupid high resolution so just stupid people will think that it is “high-tech screen”. BS. I have also Toshiba which has a matte screen, very bright, with great colors. Resolution doesn’t say anything about the quality of a screen, especially when DPI is way too low to use it without any scaling (unless you’re just using browser, but still higher resolution has bigger impact on CPU/GPU/battery life).

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