Toshiba Satellite U845W impressions: The Ultrabook with the widescreen

Ultrabooks may be a word Intel invented to help laptops battle back against smartphones and tablets, but even with the name “Ultrabook” attached to it, the Toshiba Satellite U845W is in a category of its own. Unveiled on June 5, the U845W is one of the first Ultrabooks to branch out and try something radical — or at least, different. Though the name “U845W is hardly memorable, our experiences with the laptop were quite positive. Our first impressions are below.

Wide load

Naturally, the first thing you notice about the Satellite U845W is its 21:9 aspect ratio. It’s such a wide screen that movie trailers and cinema-ready films can play natively on it without any letterboxing at all. Not even your home HDTV or most movie theaters can do that. Whether it’s really something you need, or want, is a different story, but it’s certainly fun to watch the new Skyfall trailer take up the entire screen.

The screen itself measures 14.4 inches diagonally with a 1792 x 768 pixel resolution, making it about as wide as a full-size laptop, but a lot shorter. Toshiba reps told me that the short stature of the screen lends itself well to using the laptop on an airplane seat tray, where vertical space is somewhat limited. Multitasking is another advantage.

Custom Window multitasking

One of my favorite advances in Windows 7 was the ability to drag a window to either side of the screen and have it auto snap to take up half the screen. Being a Windows 7 Ultrabook, the U845W is, of course, capable of this, but Toshiba has taken it a step further. Custom software is included that lets you create and choose from Window templates and then easily snap new windows into place. This is done via a small new window button next to the maximize, minimize, and X buttons on the upper right of any window. A shortcut in the task bar opens up an editor that lets you define how you’d like your windows configured, or hot swap between configurations. Of course, you can shut the feature down entirely as well.

Though the resolution is still a bit low, the wide screen seems to increase the number of useful window formations possible. Multitasking remains one of the biggest advantages of Windows over mobile operating systems, and its good to see Toshiba investing in a feature that could prove very useful.

Big sound

Having a screen this wide opens up a lot of space on either side of the keyboard. Rather than leave this space vacant, Toshiba has expanded the speakers, making the Satellite U845W one of the loudest laptops I’ve heard. There are few instances where you really need powerful speakers on your laptop, and these definitely won’t keep a party going on their own, but the Harman/Kardon speakers deliver some impressive sound for such a small package. Toshiba is calling this the “World’s first entertainment optimized Ultrabook.” Though we’re more excited by the window multitasking, the speakers help sell this claim.

Specs

The Satellite U845W meets all of Intel’s Ultrabook specs. It has a 500GB hard drive, 32GB or 256GB solid-state drive, 14.4-inch screen with a 1792 x 768 pixel display, up to 8GB of RAM, 3 USB 3.0 ports, 1 HDMI port, 1 SD card slot, and 1 Ethernet port. It also runs the newest Intel Core processors (codenamed Ivy Bridge) and weighs 3.5lbs (more if you beef it up).

Overall

This isn’t a laptop for everyone. Many will have issues with the super wide aspect ratio in one form or another, but it could develop a cult following if the hardware holds up. Toshiba’s multitasking software is compelling and those who travel may like having a shorter screen, even though it does lengthen the laptop. We’re not sure if we’d go for it yet or not, but with two other (less radical) Ultrabooks hitting shelves soon as well, Toshiba isn’t sacrificing much to branch out.

The Toshiba Satellite U845W will be released on July 15, 2012 and cost $1,000 and up.

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