At CES, Toshiba showed us its forthcoming 14” Ultrabook, a system that they said would debut alongside Ivy Bridge in Q3. At the time, it was overshadowed by their new tablets (which hit the market as the Excite series), but true to their word, Toshiba dropped off their new 14” Satellite U845 Ultrabook in our labs and gave us a chance to take a look at it. It’s one of the new “budget” Ultrabooks, which hit the low end of Intel’s Ultrabook spec for around $800, with designs that are still very thin and light but typically not as premium as class headliners like the Samsung Series 9 and ASUS Zenbook Prime. It’s a breed that includes the Samsung Series 5 Ultra, HP’s new Envy 4t and 6t Ultrabooks, the Sony VAIO T13, and Lenovo’s U310/410.

Toshiba Satellite U845-S406 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i5-3317U
(2x1.7GHz + HTT, Turbo to 2.6GHz, 22nm, 3MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 6GB (4GB + 2GB) DDR3-1600 (Maximum 8GB)
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(16 EUs, up to 1.05GHz)
Display 14.0" LED Glossy 16:9 768p
LG Display LGD033F
Hard Drive(s) 500GB 5400RPM HDD (Hitachi HTS54505)
32GB mSATA caching drive (Intel Smart Response Technology)
Optical Drive -
Networking Intel Centrino Wireless-N 2230 2.4GHz 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0+HS
Atheros AR8152 10/100 Ethernet
Audio Realtek ALC269 HD audio
Stereo speakers
Headphone/mic combo jack
Battery 6-Cell, 54Wh
Front Side -
Right Side SD/MMC card reader
2 x USB 2.0
Ethernet 10/100
Left Side Kensington Lock
Power/AC Adaptor
USB 3.0
Line-in/microphone jack
3.5mm headphone jack
Back Side -
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit SP1
Dimensions 13.4" x 9.1" x 0.79"
340.4mm x 231.1mm x 20.1mm
Weight 3.90 lbs
1.77 kg
Extras VGA webcam
Warranty 1-year limited international
Pricing $879 MSRP, Online starting at $600

The U845 follows the usual pattern here, with Ivy Bridge ULV processors, a mechanical hard drive paired with an SSD cache, Intel’s onboard graphics, a ho-hum 14” 1366x768 display, and a 3.9lb/0.8” thick form factor. With an MSRP starting price of $749 (our evaluation unit goes for $879), it’s a pretty good representative of the budget Ultrabook market, essentially matching the price and specsheets of the competing Series 5 Ultra and Envy 4t. Of course, that's assuming you have to pay MSRP, and right now the U845 is going for much less than $879: $600 (plus tax) for the i5-3317U equipped version. How's that for a discount?

You get a so-so collection of ports, with HDMI, a single USB 3.0 port, two USB 2.0 ports, and a 10/100 Ethernet jack. At nearly $900 the lack of Gigabit LAN is rather sad; I’d have liked to see Toshiba go with GigE and a second USB3 port. I suppose that it’s not all that common for Ultrabooks to have Ethernet connections anymore, so maybe we should just be thankful for what we were given. As noted above, however, $600 is far more pallatable for such hardware and we're willing to forgive the omissions.

There are three SKUs for the U845, and all of them look pretty similar. The base model U845-S402 comes with an SNB i3-2377M, 4GB memory, and 16GB SSD cache in addition to the 500GB spindle, with an MSRP of $749. Office Depot lists it at $449 with a current $300 discount, however that doesn't show up as being available for purchase right now; B&H has it going for $625. The lack of Turbo on the i3 line plus the use a a previous generation SNB CPU (and HD 3000 graphics) makes the 2377M’s 1.5GHz clock speed look painfully low, so I’d recommend avoiding it. The mid-level U845-S404 model adds $100 to the MSRP and bumps it to the i5-3317M (1.7GHz, with a max Turbo of 2.6GHz), but it's currently the most expensive of the three models at $700 online, so there's no reason to even look at it. Our top shelf U845-S406 model has the same CPU but with a 32GB SSD cache and 6GB RAM, with online pricing starting at $600 at Office Depot, or $680 at B&H.

Before we even get to the performance, it's worth a short tangent to note the drastic price cuts seen on Toshiba's entire U845 line—and such cuts aren't limited to Toshiba Ultrabooks. A quick search on Newegg turns up nine Core i5 Ivy Bridge Ultrabooks priced under $800, with the cheapest Lenovo U310 going for $600. Intel had big plans for Ultrabooks when they first hit the scene last year, but they're not selling all that well with pricing closer to $1000. It's not clear if Intel is helping to reduce the pricing by dropping CPU costs or with other incentives, or if the manufacturers are just trying to move inventory, but $600 is a far more realistic starting point. The U845 we have now hits that same mark, so let's see how it performs along with a subjective evaluation.

Toshiba Satellite U845: Design
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  • Zodiark1593 - Monday, October 8, 2012 - link

    At $600, I can almost forgive the bad screen, but the fact that cheaper tablets are shipping with vastly superior displays want to make want to go to a Best Buy, and smash all their laptops (with eww displays) with a baseball bat.
  • Yorgos - Monday, October 8, 2012 - link

    the funny(actually it is ridiculous) thing is that a smartphone at this price range has a 720p screen that costs about 30 $(not retail).
    imagine how people would react to a product that has 4 of those screens, even if there are bezels in the screen and give you a 1280+1280X720+720 screen, that's a 2560X1440.
    we have seen many crazy staff going on with the computers, that's one that is going sell like hell.
  • Hrel - Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - link

    I think you are very ignorant and should do some research on everything you just said.
  • peterfares - Monday, October 8, 2012 - link

    At least the RAM is a little better than the pathetic 4GB machines have been shipping with since 2009.
  • Calista - Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - link

    I have been playing around with computers for almost two decades and as a role of thumb a computer should support three times what can be considered a 'normal' amount of RAM to not be memory starved before the rest of the system has reach it's useful end of life.

    So in 2012 a laptop should support 12 GB of RAM even if only 4 GB is needed right now. But who knows, maybe we have made computers disposable too a much larger extent since they are so much more affordable today than ten years ago.
  • Belard - Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - link

    "it’s quite disappointing to see the lack of emphasis on notebook display quality. Let's hope Windows 8 changes that."

    Why would windows8 change anything? It's software. The point is to get sales from people who tend to not know the difference. Same with the $1200-1500 slates with windows7... How is 8 going to change the price of the hardware... It doesn't.

    Hence win8 tables are already fail.
  • VivekGowri - Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - link

    Just from the Windows 8 systems that have debuted, it should be pretty clear that manufacturers are completely rethinking the way PCs are designed and built. If you haven't realized that yet, I'd suggest paying a bit more attention.
  • Belard - Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - link

    I've been paying attention.

    MS came out with the Surface, blaming their partners for making crappy tablets... in which case, please point out a tablet-oriented OS MS has ever shipped? WP7 was only for phones.

    I completely understand WHAT and WHY Microsoft is doing with Windows 8. They did it wrong. They hired untalented brain-dead middle-management to design a new OS UI called Metro, which at best - works on phones.

    I too think the Desktop as we know it, will become a very rare thing in the homes 5+ years from now. Win8 is a bad mixture of a consumer mobile UI and a classic desktop that has been cut off at knees.

    Ultrabooks are just think notebooks, nothing more. For 1/3 the price you gain about 1.5lbs and about 3/4 of an inch. They have been selling badly since Intel has started pushing it. Typical PC notebook sales are in the $350~500 range. A low end gamer notebook can be had for about $750~900. If you really want something thin and light, a tablet with a keyboard will do.

    WART tablets are really no different than WP7/8 are "Windows". They are going to sell for $400~600 to go against Android and iPads... *yawn*. bait and switch there, when the buyer realizes he doesn't have a "windows" device at all and would need to spend $1000~1400 for a good Slate.
    (In case you missed it, Ultrabook sales are tanking) So with ZERO compatibility with actual Windows Software, why bother? Then why bother with a $1200 Win8 tablet when you can get an iPad with a better screen for $500?

    Lets see those Win7 tablet sales... not exactly flying off the shelf there, are they?

    The same people who didn't buy WP7 phones, won't be buying WP8 models either. MS is in a battle 3rd place with RIM... and that is sad.

    The bad consumer experience many/most people will have with Win8's METRO will NOT generate sales of WP8/WART devices.

    The success of WP8/WART *IS* based on the reception of Windows 8. (Which I have running all by itself on a notebook)

    How do I feel about Windows8? I finally replaced my Q6600 desktop with a new i5-3570K build with SSD, 16GB of RAM, etc this week. Installed with a $140 Win7Pro, as I have ZERO plans of spending a dime on Win8. I have 4 various WinXP Retail discs from PC's retired long ago. So getting the $40 Win8 is a none issue. I would like to have gone for the deal, but Win8 isn't worth $1 to put onto my hardware.

    So again... Windows8 *WILL NOT* change the sales of Ultrabooks.
  • silverblue - Tuesday, October 9, 2012 - link

    Well, let's put it this way. Windows 8 is Microsoft's first REAL entrance into the consumer touchscreen market, so now, we're talking touchscreens aplenty on not just laptops. Secondly, you get tablets with extremely good screens and resolutions and you're not having to spend the earth on them anymore. Finally, Microsoft Surface is coming in two flavours, and chances are it's going to rip Intel's Ultrabook strategy out from under its own feet. Why wouldn't you at least attempt to make a viable product?
  • Belard - Wednesday, October 10, 2012 - link

    Ultrabooks are bombing... What Win8 tablet sells will only eat into Ultrabook sales.

    Remember the Netbook craze from 3~4 years ago? Cute little portable notebooks that were $250~300. The iPad murdered the market.

    I was in FRYs yesterday... the Ultrabook section has lighted displays... $$$ being spent by Intel. I was the only one there, I walked by - I think I touched one. *meh*. Most of the customers and sales staff were in the $350~500 notebook isle and I saw two people at the gaming notebook area.

    Ultrabook is sad.

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