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
HDMI
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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  • chrnochime - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Why bother coming to the comment section anyway if the product disappoints you so much? Reply
  • flashbacck - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    because we have the very slimmest of hopes that laptop designers will see the comment and consider for their next design?

    Probably not. But we can hope!
    Reply
  • Galcobar - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Count me in on the thin hope of a manufacturer reading the review and noticing the universal disdain for such a poor screen.

    I'll pay the extra $50 to get a decent screen. Workloads vary, but what makes for a good user interface really doesn't. I want thin and light, but I refuse to purchase a computer with a screen which will so greatly hamper my productivity.
    Reply
  • Samus - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    Unfortunately, we AT readers are the 1%. 99% of people don't really care about screen quality.

    Infact 90% of them don't even know what screen resolution even is.
    Reply
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    I agree. This trend will never be mended unless the people that spec new laptops hear people's complaints about these things. Reply
  • howneat - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    1366x768 just doesn't cut it these days. If the low end ultrabooks had 1440x900 displays they'd be worth a look. Reply
  • KillerFry - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    Agreed!

    I too saw the resolution and moved along, nothing to see here.
    Reply
  • Marburg U - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    I know it sounds boring, but i stopped at "768p".

    My Acer from 2004 came with a 1280x1024 screen, which is 1.25 times more than 95% of modern laptops displays.
    Reply
  • The0ne - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    The first thing I look for is the display spec. Nothing else matters as much to me anymore. It is a shame but what can one do. Reply
  • Old_Fogie_Late_Bloomer - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    My workplace has a Toshiba laptop floating around, screen size in the vicinity of 15", that has a resolution of 1600x1200. I'm happy with my 1600x900 14" laptop, but you look at what used to be out there and you're like, "WHAT HAPPENED!?" Reply

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