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Toshiba Satellite U920t review


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

Review Date: 3 Dec 2012

Reviewed By: Mike Jennings

Price when reviewed: £748 (£898 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
4 stars out of 6

Features & Design
4 stars out of 6

Value for Money
4 stars out of 6

3 stars out of 6

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.

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User comments

The swathe is a mirage

"with a swathe of innovative touchscreen portables and PCs launched in recent months". Yet the Sony is "the only other Windows 8 hybrid we’ve seen so far".

Lots of announcements, almost no delivery. The Vaio convertible is in the shops - but I don't find it at all compelling.

The Dell XPS 12 has had reviews elsewhere (can we have one from PC Pro soon, please?!), and is available online, but not in shops.

And where are the rest?

The Core i3 touchscreen Asus Vivobook is lovely, but has disappeared; it's only available in its Pentium model, at a higher price than was announced. That in itself shows how poor the current offerings are - the only decent one has been wolfed up. Arguably, that Asus was the only decent *proper* Windows 8 laptop to make it to the shops, and it sold out, and is now commanding a premium price. (By proper, I mean taking advantage of Win 8's new features).

As another poster commented on another page, there's a real story developing here. Where are all the hybrid devices? You say "Windows 8 hasn't been out long", which may be true, and perhaps we've been spoilt by Apple's ability to "announce today, ship tomorrow", but I for one was expecting far more *at launch* - that means on day one, not week 6. Surely the point of Win 8's launch date was to get out in time for Christmas? Even MS can't get its Surface Pro out in time, and the others are all failing too.

I posted elsewhere about the Samsung chap in PC World who initially denied Samsung even make a tablet called Ativ. I told him how slowly the hybrid devices seem to be appearing. His comment was it was software issues with Win 8. I doubt that very much indeed - I'm not sure he was the best informed :) - looks to me more like hardware supply chain problems - time for some good investigative journalism from PC Pro....

By JimmyN on 3 Dec 2012

Bring on the fruit

What we need is apple to make a hybrid. Then the whole field would take off, and everyone could copy theirs. Then there would be lots of competition and lots of lawsuits. Lawyers and computer folk alike would be kept busy for years, arguing and satisfying that insatiable itch to hate as much as possible, and lament the ruination of their lives.

By creechitup on 3 Dec 2012

Too late for Apple

Apple would not make a hybrid now as they can't sue anyone for copying as it would be them copying.

By curiousclive on 3 Dec 2012

Too late for Apple

Apple would not make a hybrid now as they can't sue anyone for copying as it would be them copying.

By curiousclive on 3 Dec 2012

Asus Vivobook S200

@JimmyN. Now available at RRP through Amazon with i3

By adamgashead on 3 Dec 2012

Asus Vivobook S200

@adamhashead. Ah, thanks. Trouble is, ideally I'd like to see some of the others before diving in. But great to know there are some Vivobooks around - currently they're my backstop option, if I can't find a decent convertible ultrabook with more than 1366 pixels...

(Now, will PC World drop their OTT price, if Amazon keep them in stock and at that price?)

By JimmyN on 3 Dec 2012

Still no Asus S400

@JimmyN - I totally agree with you. Considering how long the consumer preview of Windows 8 was available all the manufacturers had plenty of time to get their devices ready.

Yet if you walk into PC World or John Lewis, you'd be hard pressed to even find a normal laptop with a touchscreen, let alone a hybrid device.

And while the S200 is not finally properly(?) available, there is still no sign of it's big brother the S400.

The Surface would sell a lot better if people could actually get their hands on it and play with it. I know several people who are interested but want to try it first.

By Grunthos on 3 Dec 2012

Where have all the convertibles gone?

As pointed out by others where are the legions of Windows 8 convertibles? This format is really what Windows 8 needs to survive and so far only the Sony Duo 11 is readily available; although for a price that is too high for the masses.

Given how long the manufacturers have had, since showing off their wares at trade shows, you would have expected the retailers shelves to be bristling with convertibles for the public to place under their Christmas tree.

Given the current scarcity and price most will just buy an iPad Mini and a discounted Ultra-book to have the best of both worlds!

By bernardm3 on 3 Dec 2012

Apple could make one and sue

The iPod and iPhone were both follower devices. Others had beaten the path and then Apple took a punt and changes the market.

So if they decided to do one, it would in all probability be far better and more expensive.

By kaneclem on 3 Dec 2012

Already recalled

After owning a u920t for a week, it has been recalled by the shop I bought it from (Costco) due to the screen becoming 'dislodged'. Costco is great for protecting their customers. However, my experience with Toshiba has not been great and although I don't really agree with rating a product based on customer service alone, I think it needs to be said that Toshiba is producing poor quality products and not supporting them (I have a 6 month old Z830 in for service that's been there for over a month).
It seems in the race to be the first to market Toshiba has abandoned quality control. That would be less problematic if their customer service wasn't ridiculously poor as well and warranty repairs (which seem inevitable) didn't take months.
Wait 6 months for this technology to mature and avoid Toshiba all together, is my advice.

By rpiddocke on 6 Dec 2012

The modest hardware within does a good job of keeping Windows 8 feeling fluid and responsive.It would be helpful if you could include this in reviews of laptops.

By jenson on 3 Jan 2013

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