Toshiba Satellite U840W review

The Toshiba Satellite U840W ultrabook is the world's first 21:9 laptop

Reasons to buy
  • +

    High quality keyboard

  • +

    Responsive trackpad

  • +

    Good inputs

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Awkward screen

  • -

    Thick build

  • -

    Heavy weight

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The Toshiba Satellite U840W sports a distinctive look thanks to its elongated 21:9 true widescreen display, but is the unusual form factor a good idea?

The Toshiba U840W 21:9 laptop is a dramatic re-imagining (or blatant disregarding) of the ultrabook concept - the premium materials and i5 processor are present and correct but the shape isn't what you expect from the 'ultrabook' tag...

Toshiba U840W: Build

The first thing you'll notice are the dimensions. That's a 21:9 movie style screen you're looking at - stretched to native cinema screen style dimensions. Philips attempted the same (unsuccessfully) with a TV once - the Philips Cinema 21:9.

The rubber and metal build is high quality but means the U840W is thick and heavy against slimmer and lighter ultrabooks with bigger traditional screens like the Acer Aspire S5. 60% of the outer casing is rubber coated, which makes the U840W resemble a Black and Decker chopping board but despite the style, it's not a 'rugged' laptop which some may find puzzling.

Toshiba U840W: Features

Screen aside, there's a backlit keyboard with stretched keys flanked by large Harmon Kardon speakers which do a good job of satisfying the movie buff, despite the lack of a Blu-ray drive.

The Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset helps the i5 processor make demanding games run at a respectable speed and resolution and the 500GB hard drive is backed up by a 32GB SSD drive to keep things moving. The double drive system explains the thickness - this is no SSD based MacBook Air, despite the £900 price tag.

Toshiba U840W: Screen

There's no denying that HD movies and the BBC iPlayer work well but the screen can't compete with the basic display of a MacBook Air (with a non retina display) and many cheaper laptops offer the same screen resolution. Both the new iPad 3 and Sony Tablet S offer much better experiences for movies on the go too.

Toshiba U840W: Performance

There's plenty of grunt under the bonnet - an i5 processor and the Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset work well and the screen doesn't impact general speed but it's unlikely you'll want to play a game on the screen.

The problem is the screen is too shallow for practical use - you can see two pages side by side but the benefit is lost in terms of height. The 21:9 ratio is great for movies but it's not the way the internet was designed to be viewed.

The soft touch keyboard and responsive trackpad work well but, bizarrely, you'll need to sit slightly further away from the screen than usual to view the entire screen without moving your head to scan the screen for folders on the desktop.

Toshiba U840W: Battery

We managed four hours on a full charge which is average for an ultrabook though the heat from the battery means it's not ideal for lap use.

Toshiba U840W: Verdict

The Toshiba U840W is an odd ultrabook. It's powerful but not practical, looks rugged but isn't and is designed for movies but can be beaten by many tablets for screen performance.

We're confused about who the target market is for the U840W, especially as it didn't fit in any of our existing laptop bags and arrives without an Asus-style sleeve. For movie fans, there's a variety of £600 ultrabooks which still leave change from the U840W price tag for a tablet with a better screen.

Toshiba U840W release date: Out now

Toshiba U840W price: £900