From a design standpoint, the U845 is pretty decent, and much better than I’m used to seeing from Toshiba. The chassis is made of exactly two pieces, just a top half and a bottom half, similar to the unibody style of notebook design. Unlike the traditional unibody, which has a wraparound top half and a bottom piece that mounts up to it (think of the panel on MacBook Pros that covers the entirety of the underside), the U845 has a panel on top that drops onto the wraparound bottom half. The bottom half is plastic, while the top panel is brushed aluminum, a treatment similar to what HP has done for their Envy Sleekbook/Ultrabook chassis (which also has the bottom unibody and top panel construction).

I suspect that it’s simply cheaper to have a plastic bottom unibody with a metal panel on top, because you still get the metal look and feel on the palmrests without having to actually carve the majority of the chassis out of a single block of metal. Having a simple aluminum plate means less material and less machining, which means way less cost. Once you start having to mill out openings for ports, I can completely understand how you would make a financially motivated decision to go with an injection molded plastic part, where creating the tooling is the major expense and things like material cost and machining are comparatively very minor.

The bottom is completely free of easy upgrade access ports, so I suspect that attempting to upgrade this system will be a pain—making the initial upgrade to 6GB memory probably worth it in the long run (though it would be nice to see an 8GB option as well). That’s actually the big downside in unibody designs, particularly ones with wraparound bottoms: you have to take two-thirds of the chassis off just to get access to basic memory and storage components. I thought the way Apple handled this with their unibody MacBook Pros was great, at least until they started making everything non-upgradable.

My chief complaint with the industrial design? The LCD bezel. It’s ridiculous; why companies feel the need to put a glossy black bezel around an already glossy display is something I continually find myself asking. It’s distracting, and it goes a long way towards cheapening the look.

The U845 aesthetic is mostly clean and inoffensive (notable exception: LCD bezel), but it doesn’t have the same premium look as many of the 13” Ultrabooks out there. Which is basically what I expected, but what really surprised me about this design was the build quality. It feels solid and well put together, which is unexpected because, let’s face it, this is a midrange Toshiba. No offense, but over the last half decade or so, the Satellite line hasn’t done a whole lot to inspire respect or confidence. The higher end Portege models have been decent, but the Satellites are a different story—they're generally mediocre systems that tend to be designed and built to standards lower than expected. The U845 is different, and that’s a very good thing.

The unibody construction has done wonders here, helping the entire notebook feel sturdier by having less parts to deal with, and the aluminum upper casing has done the job by keeping the palmrest and interior stable and flex-free. Overall, the system feels reassuringly weighty, and to be honest, I think it’s built better than the Samsung Series 5 Ultra. That’s an important step forward for Toshiba, being able to tout build quality in their midrange notebook products. I’m a fan.

The input device combination is a bit of a mixed bag, with a multitouch trackpad with Synaptics drivers and their standard suite of gesture support. The click is a bit firm for my tastes, but the pad itself is responsive and has good sensitivity. The keyboard is somewhat unfortunate—it looks and feels just like the keyboard from the R700, none of which is good. It’s stable enough in normal use, but it exhibits flex under pressure. The biggest issue is that the typing feel is pretty mushy. You get used to the absence of adequate feedback, but the lack of positive keypresses is still an issue for Toshiba, and the lack of improvement in that area over the last three years is rather disappointing. But other than the keyboard and LCD bezel, the hardware is surprisingly robust, a definite positive for Toshiba.

 
Toshiba Satellite U845: Introduction Toshiba Satellite U845: Performance
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  • Zodiark1593 - Monday, October 08, 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. Reply
  • Yorgos - Monday, October 08, 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.
    Reply
  • Hrel - Tuesday, October 09, 2012 - link

    I think you are very ignorant and should do some research on everything you just said. Reply
  • peterfares - Monday, October 08, 2012 - link

    At least the RAM is a little better than the pathetic 4GB machines have been shipping with since 2009. Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • Belard - Tuesday, October 09, 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.
    Reply
  • VivekGowri - Tuesday, October 09, 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. Reply
  • 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.
    Reply
  • silverblue - Tuesday, October 09, 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? Reply
  • 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.
    Reply

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