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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  • 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.
  • 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'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).
  • 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).
  • 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
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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

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