Introducing the Toshiba Satellite U845W

It's sometimes very easy to discount Toshiba as an also-ran when it comes to the latest and greatest. They have a strong retail presence as a budget notebook company, and in many ways their first ultrabook, the Portege Z835 maintained that tradition by gaining traction as one of the most affordable ultrabook options available back when Intel first launched the initiative. It's important to note, though, that oftentimes Toshiba has been willing to experiment where others haven't. Toshiba launched a 13.3" version of its Excite tablet to see if the market would be interested in accepting a notebook-sized tablet, and their Portege R700 was an affordable ultraportable option even before ultrabooks themselves became available.

Today we have one of their most compelling experiments on hand. We lament with some regularity the common 1366x768 resolution of notebook screens and its effect on productivity, but vertical real estate continues to be hard to come by. What if we went the other way, though? What if we stretched things out further along the X axis? That's the question Toshiba's asking with their shiny new double-wide ultrabook, the Satellite U845W. This ultrabook is the first widely availabe notebook that features a display with a 21:9 aspect ratio. Was this a wise gamble for Toshiba or a misfire?

Toshiba only adds a W to the model number to indicate the difference between the conventional Satellite U840/U845 (which we've reviewed here) and this new essentially "double-wide" ultrabook, but the differences between the two designs themselves is massive. As you'll see from the spec table below, the U845W is internally very conventional, but the difference in aspect ratio on the display results in some very tangible changes felt across the entire design.

Toshiba Satellite U845W Ultrabook
Processor Intel Core i5-3317U
(2x1.7GHz + HTT, 2.6GHz Turbo, 22nm, 3MB L3, 17W)
Chipset Intel HM77
Memory 4GB Samsung DDR3-1600 + 2GB Samsung DDR3-1600 (on-board)
Graphics Intel HD 4000 Graphics
(350-1050MHz, 16 EUs)
Display 14.4" LED Glossy 21:9 1792x768
CMN N144NGE-E41
Hard Drive(s) Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 500GB 5400-RPM 3Gbps HDD

Samsung PM830 32GB mSATA 6Gbps SSD (cache)
Optical Drive -
Networking Atheros AR8152 PCIe 10/100 Ethernet
Intel Centrino 2230 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth 4.0 + HS
Audio Realtek ALC280 HD Audio
Stereo speakers
Mic and headphone jacks
Battery 4-Cell, 54Wh (not user replaceable)
Front Side SD/MS Flash reader
Right Side Headphone and mic jacks
USB 3.0
HDMI
AC jack
Left Side Kensington lock
Ethernet port
2x USB 3.0
Back Side Venting
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64-bit
Dimensions 14.5" x 7.9" x 0.83"
368mm x 201mm x 21mm
Weight ~4 lbs (1.81kg)
Extras Webcam
Backlit keyboard
Flash reader (SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo)
USB 3.0
harmon/kardon speakers
21:9 aspect display
SSD cache
Warranty 1-year standard warranty
Pricing $999 MSRP (on Amazon for $700)

Toshiba's internals for the Satellite U845W are fairly conservative. The Ivy Bridge-based Core i5-3317U is a capable enough processor, featuring a nominal clock speed of 1.7GHz across its two cores but able to turbo up to 2.4GHz on both cores or 2.6GHz on a single core. Attached to it is 2GB of DDR3-1600 affixed to the motherboard and an additional 4GB in a non-user-serviceable slot. Storage duties are handled in the typical budget fashion, with a 500GB 5400-RPM mechanical hard disk being sped up through the inclusion of a 32GB SSD cache; Toshiba offers models that do skip the caching and go directly to a 256GB mSATA SSD, but those start at a much pricier $1,249 in retail.

Where things feel unusually skint are in the peripheral ports. Three USB 3.0 ports (and no USB 2.0) are generous, and I can forgive a basic Intel Centrino wireless solution that only has support for 2.4GHz networking, but why in 2012 do we have a dedicated ethernet port capable of only 10/100 speeds? And this is common across the line; there are no gigabit ethernet capable U845W notebooks. Skimping on gigabit ethernet pretty much defeats the purpose of including a dedicated ethernet port; copying our testing suite over through the wireless would take the same amount of time as using a wired connection.

Of course, if you're looking at the U845W it's because of the unique display. Despite being advertised as a 14.4" ultrabook, the U845W is actually an inch shallower than conventional 14" ultrabooks due to the odd aspect ratio of the screen. As for the display itself, that's a relative unknown. It's clearly a TN panel, but we'll have to examine it further to see if it has the same unfortunate specifications that inexpensive ultrabooks typically do.

And speaking of inexpensive, in an effort to make the U845W more accessible, Toshiba has actually made it available in retail at an affordable price. Niche products tend to command higher premiums, but $699 for an ultrabook with an extra-wide display (for the only ultrabook with an extra-wide display) actually seems pretty fair. The $999 starting MSRP doesn't even seem that bad for specs that are relatively within the realm of expectation for an ultrabook alongside its unusual selling point.

Around the Toshiba Satellite U845W
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  • Alexo - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    What about people that want to WORK on the road, not just watch movies. Bring back the vertical space!

    I would be ready to pay a premium for a system similar to the old T61 but with more modern components (Ivy Bridge) and better battery life.

    The X230 could have been a great solution for me if it could be had with a higher resolution 4:3 (hell, I'll even agree to 16:10) screen.
    Reply
  • ATC9001 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I know this isn't a perfect IPS panel with 1920x1080 or 1200 or even going 21:9 with 1080 or 1200 in the vertical, but I think it's a HUGE step up from anything with a 1366x768 panel. If you think about the average joe six pack user/laptop in this market segment (500-1000) VERY few come with anything bigger than 1366x768 when 15.6" and below, this laptop has decent enough hardware (yeah optimus would be nice, but if you're not gaming it works) with the extended horizontal workspace. Wide screen is the way of future, with 2 windows open at once you have a much larger work area and the more this goes into the general public the more people will want the higher resolution.

    I give toshiba props for trying this radical concept...it's not perfect but it's a step in the right direction IMO. I'd be interested in buying one (granted I'd rip out the 32gb mSATA and throw in a 128 drive) for graduate school...only thing holding me back is i'll probably just splurge on a zenbook (but thats 400+ more).
    Reply
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    If they are going to do anything "radical", I'd like to see a 16:10 display instead. It would be radical, since they don't seem to make 16:10 laptops any more (much less 4:3 laptops). Reply
  • rickon66 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    The all new Toshiba Bunker View Mega Scroll Ultra Book, featuring a screen no bigger than the firing slot in a WW1 bunker, amuse yourself with the endless delight of scrolling constantly to see any real web content as you enjoy the vast empty fields of space on each side. 21:9=fail Reply
  • deamon0 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I am looking forward to buy a ultrabook sometime this year end. Hence I am eagerly watching out for ultrabook reviews, needless to say the reviews here are informative, reliable and extensive. I love reading it.

    We know that in the coming months we will have a many new varieties of ultrabooks, it seems as though the race for the best ultrabook between popular brands has just begun. While it is good that consumers are spoilt for choices and now with the entry of Windows 8 some of them are also looking to multi-task as tablets. Though I'm not too keen on this type ultrabooks, if they can keep up the important features of a good ultrabook then they're most welcome.
    Basically I think what consumers want (or at least what I want) from a ultrabook are :

    1. Above average Performance
    2. Good Display, resolution and battery life.
    3. Good design with sufficient number of ports (like inclusion of Ethernet)
    4. Lastly a "worth it" price point.

    Hoping to find a ultrabook that satisfies above needs the best.
    Reply
  • KPOM - Thursday, October 18, 2012 - link

    "The lower half of the U845W's interior continues the same tasteful aesthetic of the lid."

    Apart from the 5 annoying badges on the left and the (hopefully easy to peel) large sticker on the right. I get that Intel requires this for the Ultrabook subsidy, but some manufacturers put them on the bottom or at least make the colors blend into the color of the palmrest.
    Reply
  • Iketh - Friday, October 19, 2012 - link

    I got excited at the headline, then I stopped reading at the specs...

    Why bother with this design if you're gonna provide less than 1920 pixels wide?

    And then why bother if you're not going to make use of the extra keyboard space...

    Use this form factor if you're providing 2520 pixels wide and a full sized keyboard... then i'll be all over this
    Reply

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