Around the Toshiba Satellite U845W

If I could give an award for "most improved design year over year" to a notebook vendor, I think Toshiba might just have it locked up (with Acer in a close second for finally ditching the floating island keyboard). Every time I meet with Toshiba representatives in San Francisco and see what they have planned, I notice that they're continuing to iterate and improve upon their designs. What used to be a vendor almost criminally obsessed with gloss is now turning out some fairly tasteful notebooks.

It starts with the lid of the Satellite U845W, which features a two-toned aluminum and rubberized/textured plastic design. I'm not usually a fan of brown shades, but the silver and brown finish is both distinctive and appealing, and importantly, it doesn't look or feel cheap at all. They finish it off with a tasteful etch of the Toshiba logo in the corner.

Unfortunately, opening the U845W reveals one flaw that vendors seem hellbent on continuing to make: a glossy screen bezel. We're this close to being rid of glossy plastic almost forever, but they continue to put it in the worst place it can go, the place most likely to get fingerprints and smudges. It's not even for an edge-to-edge glossy display, either; the bezel is bevelled, with the glossy 21:9 display a touch below it.

The lower half of the U845W's interior continues the same tasteful aesthetic of the lid. The chiclet keyboard surrounded by silver aluminum and speaker grills to the left and right, while the clickpad and palm rest employ the same brown textured plastic. The touchpad itself is distinct from the rest of the interior surface, which is appreciated and goes a long way towards making the U845W feel like a smartly designed machine. With all that said, while the clickpad works fairly well (though I still miss dedicated mouse buttons), the LED backlit keyboard is probably the weakest link in the design. The keys feel mushy and too short, similar to the Portege R700/R800/R900 notebooks. I actually had a very difficult time typing on this keyboard, and it's something you'll want to experience in retail if possible before buying.

Finally, the bottom of the U845W is a simple, single plastic surface with the same soft touch texture as the interior palm rest and the lower third of the lid. I understand why vendors don't make the internals accessible in ultrabooks, but I still don't like what it portends, and Toshiba has historically been pretty good about things like this.

I remember being pretty impressed with the U845W when it was previewed to me, and I'm still mostly there. This is a far cry from the gloss factory Toshiba used to be, and I'd actually find it to be a very usable and attractive design were it not for the mushy keyboard. While I'd typically been a fan of chiclet keyboards when they were more rarefied, I'm finding poor keyboards to be increasingly common in modern notebooks and especially in ultrabooks that lack the z-height needed to include a more satisfying keyboard. While the U845W's keyboard is certainly usable, it's definitely the weakest link, and I'm becoming increasingly concerned with the direction keyboards have taken in modern notebooks.

Introducing the Toshiba Satellite U845W Overall Performance
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  • kevith - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    No thanks. Reply
  • Belard - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    This is SOOOO Amiga 2000/4000 and Commodore 64. Reply
  • Exodite - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    To be fair though, the Amiga at least ran much better aspect ratios. Reply
  • StevoLincolnite - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Would have had me on board if:

    * No TN panel. IPS, anything IPS, even E-IPS or even VA would be better.

    * Double the 768 vertical resolution as it is painful regardless of how wide a panel is.

    * Decent Graphics (Refuse to use Intel graphics after the last several decades of poor IGP's with even worse drivers which are still crap today.) or went with AMD's trinity.

    * Better network connectivity.

    As for peoples qualms about the wider aspect, to me it's fantastic but I also game in eyefinity so I'm used to having extra wide screens.

    Unfortunately, companies like Toshiba would never bother reading the comments here at Anandtech to see what people want, instead we get the same let-downs from all manufacturers. :(
    Reply
  • AssBall - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I'm sure Toshiba does care about your comments. Considering 0.01% of their customers read Anandtech, and 1% of those feel the same way you do. It's definitely folks like you who who want a $3500 dollar laptop who drive their billion dollar worldwide mobile computing roadmap. Reply
  • Belard - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Am I missing something here? I really don't see much of a reason for this odd-ball shaped screen, already 16:9 (standard) screens SUCK! 16:10 is better.

    A more usable resolution in 1920x1080, easily possible on todays 13~14" displays.

    You can STILL work on documents side by side WHILE having some height to work with and not get that tunnel vision feeling.
    Reply
  • tomeklutel - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Widescreen laptops just doesn’t make sense. When we spend most of our time working with spreadsheets, text documents, and web browsers, we want a higher resolution with a longer page. Widescreen laptops are actually lower resolution and cheaper to manufacture, so largest companies were convincing that 16:10, then 16:9 is the best format for your eyes. Lot of business people and heavy users still prefer 4:3 screen. Join our community to show your demand for bringing back 4:3 screens to people - https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bring-Back-43-Lapto... Reply
  • Paulman - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    But if you make it WIDE-screen ENOUGH, then all of a sudden you can fit two windows side by side as you work or you can have one big window and still enough screen real estate on the side to have your IM window open, or some video going on the side, or CPU monitor stuff, etc.

    It may not be the most common use scenario, but for some people they might really get a lot out of it. It sounds pretty interesting and kind of attractive to me (I just tried using two windows side by side on my 16:9 HDTV I use as my main monitor and it works pretty well. I'm typing this comment on the right while a Starcraft 2 live video stream with chat box is going on on the left).

    The real killer use-case for this would be when you need to write or edit a document while doing research on the Internet, or working with some crazy-wide Excel spreadsheet, etc. Those kinds of people would be REALLY interested in this kind of ultrabook.
    Reply
  • knedle - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I think that there is one big difference between your scenerio and this netbook.
    You have HDTV monitor, and this notebook has low resolution monitor, which in fact makes many other things difficult. For example web browsing. Websites aren't wide, they are long in terms of height and imagine how much scrolling it's gonna to be on 768 pixels high monitor.
    Reply
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Andrew Cunningham reviewed the U845W for Ars Technica last month. The problem is that most websites (and applications) really want to be at least 1024 wide so it didn't work out that well. H was interested in trying the same thing at 2100x900; which would be wide enough to make side by side generally workable and have a halfway decent vertical resolution as well.

    http://arstechnica.com/gadgets/2012/09/putting-the...
    Reply

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