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
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
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.

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  • kevith - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

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

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

    To be fair though, the Amiga at least ran much better aspect ratios.
  • 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. :(
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 -
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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