Toshiba Satellite U845W Hands-On: Super-Wide 21:9 Mutant Ultrabook

If nothing else, Toshiba seems determined to not be lumped in with the MacBook clones and iPad ripoffs. Its new Satellite U845W falls in line with its other recent holy crap why does it look like that gear, which is a good thing! To a point.

The first thing you notice about the U845W, aside from a name that sounds like a grade of diesel fuel, is the 14.4-inch (1792x768 resolution) 21x9 aspect ratio screen, which is ostensibly to accommodate films shot and distributed in 2.35:1. But that doesn't really wash. While there's some movement in that direction, a total move to 21x9 isn't going to happen because it would be a totally extraneous upgrade to an already totally functional standard. Your TV and your dad's TV and your office's TVs are all 16x9. 21x9 is just difference for difference's sake.

It does have its uses, though. The height of the screen is pretty close to that of an 11-inch ultrabook, which is totally workable, so the added horizontal workspace is just extra room for extra apps, like a chat client or a music player. Using it that way actually feels pretty natural; there's enough space to view a website at full width while still accessing an app on the side. Toshiba even has some shockingly useful homebrewed software, which works like snapping windows in Windows 7, but for thirds and sixths of the screen.

Beyond the novelty of the ultra-wideness, though, the U845W is pretty average. The keyboard is decent — not awful, but nothing special — and the trackpad is a big improvement over the Portege, but still only middle-of-the-road. It's 21mm thick, which is under "ultrabook" spec, but hefty enough to make you wonder why Intel's designation extends so far. It comes with Ivy Bridge core processors, can be configured to 8GB of RAM, has three USB 3.0 ports and Harman/Kardon speakers.

The U845W will be available from July 15 starting at $US1000. We'll keep you posted on Australian availability.

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