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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  • Mugur - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    It happend with several HP ProBook 6560b or EliteBook of the same generation (Sandy Bridge). When the USB needs a driver that's not in Windows, it boots from it but you cannot install afterwards...
  • processinfo - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

  • robmuld - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    16:9 is bad enough, how dumb is it to release something even worse? How about somebody pay 5% more and use a 4:3 panel? Now THAT would be listening to your customers
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    They used to make 4:3 laptop monitors. My co-worker had a 1400 x 1050 laptop on a 15" display on an older Dell laptop. It was very nice, even back when displays for laptops weren't as advanced as they are now. You had a lot of vertical space, without the pixels being too small.
  • TegiriNenashi - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I assume half of customers would return this thing. Who needs a device capable only displaying embrasure view of the world, and fortified warfare is hopelessly obsolescent. With amazon generous return policy who wold carry the cost of returns, them or manufacturer?
  • twtech - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I like the idea of this form factor for notebooks because it should allow for bigger keyboard on a smaller device. Unfortunately, it seems that's not what they did with it here.
  • dcuccia - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    Would see HUGE benefits for this on the plane. I can't even open a 13" 16:9 laptop in a standard economy seat these days.
  • kmmatney - Wednesday, October 17, 2012 - link

    I fly a lot, so get free economy plus seating on United, where I can open up my 17" 1080p laptop without any problems. I had a 17" 1920 x 1200 laptop before that. I tend to do more work at the gate or in a hotel room, versus when I;m on plane.
  • jihe - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    One of the more stupid 'innovation' I've seen in PC history.
  • VTArbyP - Tuesday, October 16, 2012 - link

    I haven't read all the above comments, apologies if I'm repeating someone.

    I would SO prefer a 7x4 screen!! That is: 1792 x 1024. Better yet, I'd like a pivoting 7x4 screen.
    Yes, with 2 eyes our field of vision is wider than it is tall, so wide is good for scenic photos and film / video. I can also appreciate having a very wide screen for work that is naturally wide, spreadsheets being the major example of that.
    However, with so many of our documents formatted at 17 x 22 (8.5x11 letter size ) or 17 x 28 (8.5x14 legal size) doesn't anyone else want to see a full page at once?! Substitute A4 and B4 sizes for letter and legal sizes if you use them instead. I refused to buy a personal computer until the screen width was 80 columns of characters - the number of characters that fit easily on letter or legal width paper. I am still waiting for displays that show a full size page in both width and height - not even my 1920 x 1200 lcd does that quite properly. Hmm, anyone for an 8x7 (2048x1792) display with me? That would allow for two legal pages side by side with menus and special "bars" above and below. Sheesh! I gotta stop drooling for a screen that will never be. Maybe a strong projector wouldl allow that... One can hope so anyway. 8-)

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