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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  • Dorin Nicolaescu-Musteață - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I'd rather have a proper „editing block” (i.e. Home, End, PgUp, PhDn etc.)
  • DanNeely - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    same here.
  • Samus - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I know, amazingly the only real flaw with this thing is the typical Toshiba keyboard layout. Other than that, $700 for this type of machine is reasonable if you can adjust to the location of the keys (I can't, if it isn't a Thinkpad editing block I can't do it)
  • noblemo - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I had the same thought initially. According to PCMag the space is used for "sweet sounding" Harman/Kardon speakers.
  • Poopship - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I've always wanted a super wide screen laptop with a tn panel at a stupid low resolution. I also hate it when my videos fill up the whole screen because black bars are awesome. It would be perfect for movies released in 2.37, i'll just pop in a blura-- oh.
  • MobiusStrip - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Wouldn't matter. Blu-Ray doesn't support 7:3. You'd still wind up with 16:9 material with black borders, or you'd have to zoom in and lose resolution.
  • Rick83 - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Since the display is neither 1920 pixels in width, nor 720 pixels in height, you will always be using non-native resolutions.
    The advantage with the wider aspect ratio, is that you can crop some of the 1080 vertical pixels (i.e. those in the letter box) and scale the result to 1792 pixels of width (or just crop the borders, if you prefer using the native resolution, and don't mind losing 64 pixels left and right (and about 30 top and bottom)

    I hope that we get decently sized wide desktop screens soon.

    Some 3840x1600 32" displays would be awesome. I'd be willing to plop down about $2.5-3k for such a display, if it can do localized contrast and brightness control, 10/12 bit color and decent grays, as well as be well calibrated. S-PVA or S-IPS with multiple high-frequency PWM ccfl backlights, or Adobe-RGB color LEDs.

    And bloody USB (or displayport, thunderbolt) remote control! It's been done ten years ago, the cost is negligible, but not having to reach across the desk to use some god forsaken OSD to manage the screen is so worth it. Especially if the screen were to support advanced features.
  • rarson - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    Aspect ratio and resolution are two different things. You all are confused.
  • kmieciu - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    perfect for some retro side-scrolling platform games
  • Stuka87 - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    Dude, I was thinking the same thing! You could see like half the level!

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