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Toshiba Satellite U840W-107 review

Verdict

An innovative screen but with limited benefits and niggles elsewhere, it's little more than a sideshow

Review Date: 3 Sep 2012

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £749 (£899 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

The desktop wallpaper on Toshiba’s latest laptop claims the firm is “leading innovation” and, for once, this might be more than marketing department hyperbole. In a world where it’s difficult to distinguish between hordes of identikit Ultrabooks, the Toshiba Satellite U840W-107 stands apart.

Rather than using a screen with an aspect ratio of 16:9, as used by almost every other modern portable on the market, this machine has a 21:9 panel with an unconventional resolution of 1,792 x 768 spread across its 14.4in diagonal. It’s strikingly different, and it’s a design targeted specifically at those keen on watching movies on their laptops. Play a movie and its pesky black borders disappear, but that isn't the only advantage.

Toshiba Satellite U840W-107

When we were working on the laptop, we found the ability to have two documents lined up on the screen, side by side, consistently useful. It makes up for the lack of vertical space, which saw us spending more time scrolling than we would on 1,600 x 900 or 1,920 x 1,080 screens.

Critically, though, image quality isn't brilliant. The gamma level of 1.9 is very close to the ideal of 1.8 and, similarly, a colour temperature measurement of 6,348k isn’t far enough away from the 6,500k ideal to cause issues. Brightness is fine at 344cd/m2, too, but viewing angles aren’t great, and critically the contrast ratio of 232:1 is low. This means movie scenes lack punch and depth, which is hardly ideal.

Toshiba Satellite U840W-107

This is a shame, as the U840W is certainly striking. The wristrest, lid and base are all covered with soft, textured material, and the rest of the machine is clad in brushed metal. We have a few complaints about build quality – there’s a little give in both screen and base, and the Toshiba is a little chunkier than rivals at 20mm thick and 1.7kg in weight, but that's about it.

The backlit keyboard makes a good first impression, but it soon disappoints. The base is bouncy and the keys don’t have enough travel to make for comfortable typing, and Toshiba has used the sheer width of the U840W to fit in extra wide keys rather than a number pad. We found this made it tricky to get to grips with, and it doesn’t help that the right-hand side of the spacebar proved unresponsive.

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User comments

Anyone remember the Sony P series?

At 1600 x 768 that was ALMOST as wide. Although a lot smaller (in those days people moaned about so many dots on a small screen - that was before Apple named it 'retina' and made it cool!)

By PaulOckenden on 3 Sep 2012

"Play a movie and its pesky black borders disappear"

Wouldn't that depend on the aspect ratio the film was shot in?

1.66:1 (VistaVision)
1.85:1
2.20:1 (Super Panavision/Technirama)
2.35:1 (Cinerama/Cinemascope)
2.39:1
2.40:1 (Panavision)
2.55:1
2.76:1 (Ultra Panavision 70)

Of course you might want to watch a classic like "Casablanca", which was made before the era of widescreen (1.37:1)

By Alfresco on 3 Sep 2012

Scope films occasionally fluctuate between 2.35 and 2.39:1, not that it really makes a major difference.

The problem with lower aspect ratio movies being shown on this screen, such as 1.85:1, is that it will have vertical black borders which I find more annoying than the horizontal ones.

The simple fact is that unlike in a cinema where you have masking to hide the parts of the screen not in use, you will always see the borders at home

While there's not denying that a lot of films are shot in cinemascope, it's a simple fact that a significant number (possibly slightly more) are shot in flat 1.85:1.

Screens like this on a laptop are certainly novel, but as a primary driver for watching films i'd still question it

By hjlupton on 3 Sep 2012

Hopefully a niche product

Let us pray that this doesn't become the norm. 16x9 is far from ideal for work, and this would be dreadful. Bring back 4x3.

By tirons1 on 3 Sep 2012

absurd

It's not often I swear, but are you fucking retarded Toshiba? Many of us absolutely CAN NOT STAND the excessive wideness of 16:9 screens as it is. Instead of listening to the masses of complaints and reverting back to the more reasonable and pragmatic 16:10, what do you go and do? ... make it even bloody wider. I despair!

By broccauley on 6 Sep 2012

1 year later £399 with cashback

This surely must be a great deal now! £399 from currys.

By Geddy3001 on 20 Aug 2013

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