Laptop & Tablet Reviews

Toshiba Satellite U920t Review: Not Boring, But Not Quite Good Enough

Technology is boring when everyone is doing the same thing the same way. That’s sort of happening with ultrabooks and, now, Windows 8 convertibles. Except with Toshiba. Toshiba is still up to weird stuff, like super wide ultrabooks, or this weird little Satellite U920t convertible.

What Is It

A 12.5-inch tablet/laptop convertible with a sliding, folding hinge mechanism.

Design

The U920t opens up like a really simple Transformers action figure. Slide the screen back, fold it up, and boom, there’s your laptop.

Using It

Where to start. I never really got used to not being able to adjust the screen downward, past the angle where it locks, just because it looks like it should close in that direction. More than once, I tried to close the U920t like a regular laptop and almost broke it. Others have tried to open it like a normal clamshell, which would be another fine way for your roommate’s boyfriend to break it.

The keyboard is solid, though the keys are a little stiff. The trackpad is actually very accurate, and has a nice grainy finish that makes it nice to touch, but it’s also very undersized (because of the lost space at the read of the hinge mechanism) and strangely, gestures don’t seem to be activated on it.

The small trackpad affects how you use the machine. Because everything is so claustrophobic in the keyboard and trackpad area, you end up wanting to use the touchscreen more, but by design more than decision. Where on the Yoga or XPS 12 it might just strike you to reach up and touch one of the very touchable Modern apps, here, you feel compelled to.

The relatively low-res 1366×768 display doesn’t help there. If you were being shoved into the arms of a beautiful screen, you might be fine with it, but the standard def screen feels like being stuck in a bad marriage.

The Best Part

The build quality. Goofy as it is, the Satellite U920t is very solidly made. You’re never afraid you’re going to break it (unless you accidentally shove the screen the wrong way). It’s also really comfortable to hold, because of its rubberised backside. It’s still bigger than you’d want a default tablet to be, but you can at least see someone at an office picking it up and using it on the go.

Tragic Flaw

The general premise, probably. The problem is, the U920t doesn’t make sense in its state of rest. Meaning, before you activate the unconventional hinge to turn it into a laptop, it’s just a gigantic tablet sitting in your hands. To look at it, it’s just a humongous slate. And that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, really.

This Is Weird

The power button is on the rear of the left-hand side, but its indicator light is on the front right. It makes powering down a little confusing.

Test Notes

  • The screen not bending forward all the way is a bigger deal than it might seem. For example, if you’re sitting on your couch with the laptop on your thighs, you might need to bend it up if it’s angling downward. Same goes for lying down in bed with it. Toshiba is assuming that you’re going to be using the U920t in tablet mode in those instances, but resting it in laptop mode is more convenient a lot of times, since you don’t have to hold onto it.
  • The exposed hinge work on the rear of the laptop when it’s open never bothered me, but for some people, it will be a big turn off.
  • NFC pairing (the sensor is on the left front of the keyboard layer) worked seamlessly, and loaded content right up.
  • 2 hours 11 minutes battery life in our rigorous, wood-chipper of a battery test, which is on the short end of spectrum compared to other comparable convertibles.
  • We’ve noted that some of these machines are running hot, but while doing heavier tasks like gaming, this one ran HOT.
  • There’s a slight lag to using some of the gestures on the touchscreen compared to super fast performers, but they were rarely lost, so consider this in the middle of the pack.

Should You Buy This

It’s unlikely. There are a few cases where it would make sense for you, like if you needed a huge, durable tablet to carry around your office and still be a fully functional laptop, since this is slightly more comfortable to use in that form than the XPS 12 or Yoga 13. But right now, for comparable prices, you can look at those machines, or others, and get a better screen or laptop experience from either. So while we applaud the non-standard idea, it’s just not implemented well enough to recommend yet.

Toshiba Satellite U920t (specs as reviewed)

Display: 12-inch, 1366×768
Processor: 1.7GHz Intel Ivy Bridge Core i5
Memory: 4GM RAM
Storage: 128GB SSD
Dimensions: 326.5mm x 213mm x 19.9mm
Weight: 1.49kg
Ports: 2x USB 3.0, HDMI
Price: $1699 RRP in Australia


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