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Toshiba Satellite U840W Review

By on November 12, 2012
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Ultra-widescreen ultrabook for your entertainment needs.

Good: Full screen cinemascope videos; Split screen multi-tasking; Built-in GPU powerful to play recent games; Light weight and stylish; Backlit keys; harman/kardon speakers are very impressive.
Bad: Screen is not IPS; Keyboard dents when typing; Niche appeal.
Price: AED 3,900
* The price is the Suggested Retail Price at the time of review. Please call a retailer to confirm the latest price for this product.

With the advent of ultrabooks, it would have been a mighty shame if all manufacturers just focused on slimness and lightness for their products. Leave it up to the likes of Toshiba then, to create something that caters to the needs of movie lovers.

Before I get to the screen itself, let’s look at what else the Toshiba Satellite U840W has to offer. For starters, our review unit came with the latest, 3rd generation Intel Core i5-3317U Ivy Bridge processor, running at 1.70GHz with 4GB RAM and 320GB hard drive. Additionally the hard drive has a 32GB SSD used to cache regularly used programs, so rest assured, your Windows booting time as well as working with your regularly used programs will be close to SSD speeds.

Build

The 14.4-inch screen has a resolution of 1792 x 768, so everything from text to pictures to HD movies looks very sharp. Sadly the viewing angles on the TFT screen aren’t so great; strange considering the entertainment focused deign of the U840W. I would have much preferred an IPS panel to really highlight the advantage of having such an ultra-wide display, especially for movies.

As with any other ultrabook, the Toshiba Satellite U840W comes in a slim profile 1.8cm body that weighs 1.81kgs. The dark silver brushed aluminum body looks great, especially with the rubberized dark brown trim. The chiclet keyboard is also backlit, unfortunately it depresses around the center area if you type a bit enthusiastically.

As far as connectivity is concerned, there are three USB 3.0 ports, which allow for charging your USB devices even when the U840W is in sleep mode, and a memory card reader on the front right. There’s also an HDMI and two audio ports, although I doubt you’d need to plug in your headphones much as the built-in harman/kardon surround sound speakers do a surprisingly great job for movies and music.

The battery life isn’t bad at 7.5 hours of just browsing online, and 5 hours of mixed usage from watching HD videos to browsing the net to listening some music.

Display

The Toshiba Satellite U840W is an ultrabook designed with a 21:9 display screen, rather than the regular 16:9 widescreen we see on almost all laptops and HDTVs. One of the most useful applications of the extra wide real estate was making it act like a dual monitor setup. The built-in Toshiba screen utility allows easy customization of setting up windows in different sizes. Once a certain profile is setup, you can then easily snap the windows to either part of the screen.

Apart from increased productivity for work, the U840W’s ultra-wide screen is also great for gaming. Granted the integrated Intel HD 4000 GPU isn’t a powerhouse, even at lowest settings, games like TF2 look great onscreen. Then obviously titles like Torchlight II will run on mostly high settings and look even more beautiful running on native resolution.

Viewing

At the end of the day the Toshiba Satellite U840W is basically made for movies with the 2.35:1 or 21:9 ratio to eliminate the black bars we see on the top and bottom of our current widescreen (16:9) monitors and HDTVs.

Of course, the flipside to this ultra-wide angle is that most content that’s designed for 16:9 videos will have black bars on the left and right of the U840W’s screen. So pretty much all current TV shows, a handful of movies by oldschool directors like Spielberg, as well as most animated films, will have black bars on either side of the screen.

Conclusion

It’s a tough choice, and therefore the decision on whether to buy the Toshiba Satellite U840W will depend purely on the type of media you consume. If you’re looking to watch a lot of movie on the go, then the 21:9 ultra-widescreen of the U840W makes perfect sense. However, if most of your media consumption is based around TV shows, then perhaps a regular 16:9 sized ultrabook is what you need, of which Toshiba has a lot of varieties to choose from.


About

From auditing to editing, I now test and analyze the latest gadgets and games instead of the latest financial statements. Both jobs are equally intense and rewarding. When I'm not burning up hardware in the name of science, you'll find me nuking in DOTA 2 or engineering in TF2.

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