Toshiba has taken a slightly different approach with its newly launched Ultrabook, the Satellite U840W. Weighing in at just 1.68 Kg, it’s lightweight and sports a sleek design. What makes it stand out in the crowd is its display—the U840W is the first to feature an UltraWide display with an aspect ratio of 21:9. Along with this, you get a pair of Harman/Kardon speakers, which clearly make this laptop best suited for entertainment, and of course, enhanced productivity courtesy the extra screen real estate. While the Ultrabook is a head-turner for sure, we need to peer a little closer to find out how it performs.
The first laptop to feature a 21:9 UltraWide display
Design and features
The elongated design and slim form coupled with a sober colour theme lend the U840W a very elite look—all the more because of the brushed metal on the lid as well as the area around the keyboard. The dark brown strip that runs across the trackpad and the top of the lid has a textured rubberised finish. The base of the chassis has the same finish, which gives you a good grip when you’re carrying this laptop. Overall, the Ultrabook looks and feels like it means business, while evoking images of a teak and mahagony desk in a carpeted corner office.
Striking design, very different from the rest
At the heart of the U840W is the dual-core Intel Core i5-3317U processor clocked at 1.7GHz. You get a slightly higher amount of RAM than the standard 4GB that come installed in most laptops these days. The U840W has 6GB of DDR3 memory and a 500GB HDD. The configuration excludes a discrete graphics processor, which would have allowed casual gaming and helped accelerate certain applications. Here, you have to make do with the integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics that comes from the processor. The configuration is moderately powerful, which should easily allow you to multitask and do basic photo and video editing in addition to everyday tasks and media playback. The hardware config makes it clear that Toshiba is targetting a suave urban professional with this Ultrabook.
A pair of USB 3.0 ports and a Gigabit Ethernet port on the left side
The 14.4-inch display has a resolution of 1792 x 768, which is very odd compared to the usual resolution of 1366 x 768. The height of the screen is about the same as that of a standard 14-inch laptop, but it’s 30 percent wider. The main purpose of the UltraWide display is to allow watching UltraWide videos, which will fit perfectly in this display, sans the black bands on the top and bottom of the video like you would see in any standard 16:9 resolution. However, full HD videos will have black bands on the sides, and if made to fit to the screen, they’ll appear stretched. Apart from media consumption, the wider desktop is useful for opening two web browser windows or documents or spreadsheets side-by-side. If you use an image or video editing application, you’ll like working with a longer timeline view.
Island-type keyboard and large trackpad
The keyboard is island type with backlit keys. We found typing a tad uncomfortable due to shallow key travel and average tactile feel. On the other hand, the trackpad is comfortably large and has a clickable design. The speakers reside beneath the grilles on the sides of the keyboard. As you can see in the picture, these are by Harman/Kardon, which means great audio quality.
A USB 3.0 port, HDMI output and audio jacks on the right side
The sides of the laptop are home to three USB 3.0 ports, HDMI output, a Gigabit Ethernet port, a Kensington slot and jacks for headphones and microphone. The card reader is placed on the front right side for convenient access. For wireless connectivity you have Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.
Build quality and ergonomics
The U840W feels quite sturdy thanks to the rubberised finish and the use of metal. There isn’t even a square inch that feels plasticky. However, we had only one complaint, which could be the problem with this specific unit that we received for review. The hinges felt slightly flimsy and because of this the lid didn’t feel as stiff as it should have been. A tiny niggle, but a niggle nonetheless.
As for the comfort, it takes some time getting used to the shallow travel of the keys. The trackpad is comfortable to use and has a good tactile response. The ports are placed on the sides for convenient access. We like the thought of placing one of the USB 3.0 ports on the right side.
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