Introducing the Toshiba Satellite U845W

It's sometimes very easy to discount Toshiba as an also-ran when it comes to the latest and greatest. They have a strong retail presence as a budget notebook company, and in many ways their first ultrabook, the Portege Z835 maintained that tradition by gaining traction as one of the most affordable ultrabook options available back when Intel first launched the initiative. It's important to note, though, that oftentimes Toshiba has been willing to experiment where others haven't. Toshiba launched a 13.3" version of its Excite tablet to see if the market would be interested in accepting a notebook-sized tablet, and their Portege R700 was an affordable ultraportable option even before ultrabooks themselves became available.

Today we have one of their most compelling experiments on hand. We lament with some regularity the common 1366x768 resolution of notebook screens and its effect on productivity, but vertical real estate continues to be hard to come by. What if we went the other way, though? What if we stretched things out further along the X axis? That's the question Toshiba's asking with their shiny new double-wide ultrabook, the Satellite U845W. This ultrabook is the first widely availabe notebook that features a display with a 21:9 aspect ratio. Was this a wise gamble for Toshiba or a misfire?

Toshiba only adds a W to the model number to indicate the difference between the conventional Satellite U840/U845 (which we've reviewed here) and this new essentially "double-wide" ultrabook, but the differences between the two designs themselves is massive. As you'll see from the spec table below, the U845W is internally very conventional, but the difference in aspect ratio on the display results in some very tangible changes felt across the entire design.

Toshiba Satellite U845W Ultrabook
Processor Intel Core i5-3317U
(2x1.7GHz + HTT, 2.6GHz Turbo, 22nm, 3MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 4GB Samsung DDR3-1600 + 2GB Samsung DDR3-1600 (on-board)
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(350-1050MHz, 16 EUs)
Display 14.4" LED Glossy 21:9 1792x768
CMN N144NGE-E41
Hard Drive(s) Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 500GB 5400-RPM 3Gbps HDD

Samsung PM830 32GB mSATA 6Gbps SSD (cache)
Optical Drive -
Networking Atheros AR8152 PCIe 10/100 Ethernet
Intel Centrino 2230 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 + HS
Audio Realtek ALC280 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Mic and headphone jacks
Battery 4-Cell, 54Wh (not user replaceable)
Front Side SD/MS Flash reader
Right Side Headphone and mic jacks
USB 3.0
HDMI
AC jack
Left Side Kensington lock
Ethernet port
2x USB 3.0
Back Side Venting
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit
Dimensions 14.5" x 7.9" x 0.83"
368mm x 201mm x 21mm
Weight ~4 lbs (1.81kg)
Extras Webcam
Backlit keyboard
Flash reader (SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
USB 3.0
harmon/kardon speakers
21:9 aspect display
SSD cache
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing $999 MSRP (on Amazon for $700)

Toshiba's internals for the Satellite U845W are fairly conservative. The Ivy Bridge-based Core i5-3317U is a capable enough processor, featuring a nominal clock speed of 1.7GHz across its two cores but able to turbo up to 2.4GHz on both cores or 2.6GHz on a single core. Attached to it is 2GB of DDR3-1600 affixed to the motherboard and an additional 4GB in a non-user-serviceable slot. Storage duties are handled in the typical budget fashion, with a 500GB 5400-RPM mechanical hard disk being sped up through the inclusion of a 32GB SSD cache; Toshiba offers models that do skip the caching and go directly to a 256GB mSATA SSD, but those start at a much pricier $1,249 in retail.

Where things feel unusually skint are in the peripheral ports. Three USB 3.0 ports (and no USB 2.0) are generous, and I can forgive a basic Intel Centrino wireless solution that only has support for 2.4GHz networking, but why in 2012 do we have a dedicated ethernet port capable of only 10/100 speeds? And this is common across the line; there are no gigabit ethernet capable U845W notebooks. Skimping on gigabit ethernet pretty much defeats the purpose of including a dedicated ethernet port; copying our testing suite over through the wireless would take the same amount of time as using a wired connection.

Of course, if you're looking at the U845W it's because of the unique display. Despite being advertised as a 14.4" ultrabook, the U845W is actually an inch shallower than conventional 14" ultrabooks due to the odd aspect ratio of the screen. As for the display itself, that's a relative unknown. It's clearly a TN panel, but we'll have to examine it further to see if it has the same unfortunate specifications that inexpensive ultrabooks typically do.

And speaking of inexpensive, in an effort to make the U845W more accessible, Toshiba has actually made it available in retail at an affordable price. Niche products tend to command higher premiums, but $699 for an ultrabook with an extra-wide display (for the only ultrabook with an extra-wide display) actually seems pretty fair. The $999 starting MSRP doesn't even seem that bad for specs that are relatively within the realm of expectation for an ultrabook alongside its unusual selling point.

Around the Toshiba Satellite U845W
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  • Mugur - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    It happend with several HP ProBook 6560b or EliteBook of the same generation (Sandy Bridge). When the USB needs a driver that's not in Windows, it boots from it but you cannot install afterwards... Reply
  • processinfo - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    sigh... Reply
  • robmuld - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    16:9 is bad enough, how dumb is it to release something even worse? How about somebody pay 5% more and use a 4:3 panel? Now THAT would be listening to your customers Reply
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    They used to make 4:3 laptop monitors. My co-worker had a 1400 x 1050 laptop on a 15" display on an older Dell laptop. It was very nice, even back when displays for laptops weren't as advanced as they are now. You had a lot of vertical space, without the pixels being too small. Reply
  • TegiriNenashi - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I assume half of customers would return this thing. Who needs a device capable only displaying embrasure view of the world, and fortified warfare is hopelessly obsolescent. With amazon generous return policy who wold carry the cost of returns, them or manufacturer? Reply
  • twtech - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I like the idea of this form factor for notebooks because it should allow for bigger keyboard on a smaller device. Unfortunately, it seems that's not what they did with it here. Reply
  • dcuccia - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Would see HUGE benefits for this on the plane. I can't even open a 13" 16:9 laptop in a standard economy seat these days. Reply
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I fly a lot, so get free economy plus seating on United, where I can open up my 17" 1080p laptop without any problems. I had a 17" 1920 x 1200 laptop before that. I tend to do more work at the gate or in a hotel room, versus when I;m on plane. Reply
  • jihe - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    One of the more stupid 'innovation' I've seen in PC history. Reply
  • VTArbyP - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I haven't read all the above comments, apologies if I'm repeating someone.

    I would SO prefer a 7x4 screen!! That is: 1792 x 1024. Better yet, I'd like a pivoting 7x4 screen.
    Yes, with 2 eyes our field of vision is wider than it is tall, so wide is good for scenic photos and film / video. I can also appreciate having a very wide screen for work that is naturally wide, spreadsheets being the major example of that.
    However, with so many of our documents formatted at 17 x 22 (8.5x11 letter size ) or 17 x 28 (8.5x14 legal size) doesn't anyone else want to see a full page at once?! Substitute A4 and B4 sizes for letter and legal sizes if you use them instead. I refused to buy a personal computer until the screen width was 80 columns of characters - the number of characters that fit easily on letter or legal width paper. I am still waiting for displays that show a full size page in both width and height - not even my 1920 x 1200 lcd does that quite properly. Hmm, anyone for an 8x7 (2048x1792) display with me? That would allow for two legal pages side by side with menus and special "bars" above and below. Sheesh! I gotta stop drooling for a screen that will never be. Maybe a strong projector wouldl allow that... One can hope so anyway. 8-)
    Reply

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