Toshiba Satellite U920t review

3 Dec 2012

Toshiba’s convertible has a good keyboard but a poor screen, and it’s far too heavy to use as a tablet

Price when reviewed: 
898(£898 inc VAT)
4

Windows 8 hasn’t been out long, but it’s already having an impact on the hardware market, with a swathe of innovative touchscreen portables and PCs launched in recent months. Toshiba is the latest to join in the fun with its 12.5in Satellite U920t.

It’s one of the new laptop/tablet hybrid brigade: a device that can be used as a laptop, complete with full-sized keyboard and touchpad, but with a screen that folds flat against its chassis, so it can also be used as a tablet.

Toshiba Satellite U920t

It sounds exciting, and to find it’s slim enough at 20mm to be classified as an Ultrabook is encouraging, but get the Satellite U920t in your hands and it seems entirely less thrilling. To start with it’s too heavy. At 1.5kg it’s 200g heftier than the only other Windows 8 hybrid we’ve seen so far – the Sony VAIO Duo 11 – and it’s a bit of a lump compared to most standard Ultrabooks as well. Pick it up and your first instinct is to rest it on something; we certainly wouldn’t want to use it one-handed.

It makes much more sense in laptop mode. To transform it, you slide the screen slowly up, exposing the keyboard, then when it stops, haul it up into position. The mechanism feels cumbersome compared to the lighter, pivoting screen on the Duo 11, but it’s solid enough and does have one key advantage over its rival: the angle of the screen is adjustable.

Toshiba Satellite U920t

The larger size of the U920t also means there’s plenty of room for a keyboard and touchpad, where the VAIO has only a trackpoint. The keyboard is sensibly laid out, and a stiff base means typing is comfortable whether you’re using it on a desk or propped up on your lap.

The touchpad is less pleasing. It has a smooth surface and it’s responsive enough, but the small size and horribly narrow integrated buttons make it fiddly to use. It lacks support for Windows 8’s edge-swipe gestures; the only gestures that do work are the two-fingered scroll and pinch to zoom in and out. Disappointingly, there’s no sign of a stylus either.

Happily, the rest of the design is far more practical. The screen housing feels robust and it resisted our attempts at twisting it admirably. The base is creaky, but again flex-free, and with the screen folded flat against the chassis things tighten up even further. Considering this isn’t a standard laptop design, we’re rather impressed with how well Toshiba has managed to screw everything together.

If there’s one aspect we’re not so keen on, it’s the U920t’s appearance. With an Ultrabook we expect brushed metal, smooth curves and sleek lines, but this is a rather butch and angular affair, built all from plastic. An ugly muddle of textured and grey finishes contrasts awkwardly with the glossy, glass edge-to-edge touchscreen display, and the only saving grace is the rubbery coating on the rear. This makes it less slippery in the hand than if it had been finished in smooth aluminium.

Details

Price ex VAT £748
Price inc VAT £898
Overall rating 4
Features & Design 4
Value for Money 4
Performance 3

Warranty

Warranty 1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions 326 x 213 x 20mm (WDH)
Weight 1.500kg

Processor and memory

Processor Intel Core i3-3217U
RAM capacity 4.00GB
Memory type DDR3

Screen and video

Screen size 12.5in
Resolution screen horizontal 1,366
Resolution screen vertical 768
Resolution 1366 x 768
Graphics chipset Intel HD Graphics 4000
HDMI outputs 1

Drives

Capacity 128GB
Hard disk usable capacity 119GB
Hard disk Samsung PM830 SSD
Replacement battery price inc VAT £0

Networking

802.11a support yes
802.11b support yes
802.11g support yes
802.11 draft-n support yes
Integrated 3G adapter no
Bluetooth support yes

Other Features

Modem no
3.5mm audio jacks 1
SD card reader yes
Pointing device type Touchpad
Integrated microphone? yes
Integrated webcam? yes
Camera megapixel rating 3.0mp
TPM no
Fingerprint reader no

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use 5hr 40min
3D performance (crysis) low settings 29fps
3D performance setting Low
Overall Real World Benchmark score 0.51
Responsiveness score 0.60
Media score 0.56
Multitasking score 0.37

Operating system and software

Operating system Windows 8 64-bit
OS family Windows 8