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first_imgAs the ultrabook category of computers grows more crowded, these machines will need to do three things well in order to survive: They will need to not look like a Macbook AirBest Price at Amazon, to demonstrate that they are ready for Windows 8, and to come in at a good price without sacrificing quality.This requires a delicate balancing act, and while some manufacturers are opting to just throw a fist full of models at the wall in the hopes that one sticks, Toshiba is sticking with their time-honored business model of releasing a single mid-range and a single high-end machine. The Satellite U845Best Price at Amazon is their mid-range ultrabook, and it was designed to meet the three requirements listed above.External hardwareLike most Toshiba laptops, the U845 is a grey slab with the Toshiba logo in a shiny material. At 0.8 inches thick and weighing in at 3.9 pounds, the U845 is neither the thinnest nor the lightest option, but it is still a highly portable machine. Unlike many ultrabook manufacturers, Toshiba has demonstrated that they’re capable of making a machine that is thin and light but still has a solid feeling and functioning hinge. I can open the Ultrabook with a single finger, and the hinge glides the lid to where I position it without moving the rest of the laptop. When I pick the machine up and move around, the screen doesn’t move at all.With a 1.5GHz Intel Core i5-3317U and 4GB of RAM, the U845 is the mobile computer you’ve always dreamed of. Combined with a 500GB SATA drive clocked at 5400RPM, the U845 will seem much slower during the boot sequence than any SSD-powered machine despite having a 32GB SSD on-board for cache. Alongside the full-sized HDMI port, a 7-in-1 card reader and three USB ports (one of which is USB 3.0) fill up the sides of this ultrabook. With these features the machine is ready for just about anything, including impromptu presentations and being used as a multimedia device. The speakers on this model were exactly average in my opinion. As laptop speakers go, there was nothing spectacular about the sound they produced.The bottom of this laptop doesn’t have much in the way of breathing holes. There’s a few speaker ports and access to the RAM, in case you wanted to upgrade from 4GB to 8GB, but that’s about it. On the rear of the device, there’s a ventilation section that fits nicely in between the two hinges. This design supports the ability to use the machine when laying on a couch or bed without it overheating. Unfortunately, you don’t actually need any help making this machine warm. Any amount of strain put on this ultrabook will begin to send warm air out of the back of the device. If you watch a movie or play a game for any significant amount of time, beware of the heat that comes out of that vent.Screen, keyboard, and trackpadToshiba saw fit to give the U845 a screen that outputs at a maximum of 1366×768, despite having it connected to a graphics card that outputs at 1080p via HDMI with no problems at all. On an Ultrabook with a 14-inch screen, this resolution is very one-task-oriented. Your websites are going to take up most of the screen when you open them, and you aren’t likely to take advantage of running very many apps side by side. The screen itself offers terrific viewing angles and great color, even in sunlight. The finish on the screen is neither overly matte nor violently glossy, rather a well designed balance of the two.The keyboard on the U845 offers a unique experience. They keyboard itself is recessed just enough that the keys are just barely raised above the rest of the lower case, but the keys are raised higher than is normally seen with ultrabooks. The individual keys feel almost spongy when you press them in, but they rebound to their starting position quickly. As a keyboard user that prefers a mechanical feel to his keyboards, the U845 was surprisingly comfortable to type on. The layout of the keyboard is slightly different than is normally seen, with Page Up/Down keys placed to the far right of the keyboard.As with the keyboard, the 2.45×3.75-inch trackpad on the U845 is slightly recessed. This creates the gap needed at the front of the ultrabook to open the hinge to fluidly. The recess isn’t quite as steep as the keyboard, but offers enough that you know without a doubt when you have wandered off of the trackpad. Multitouch on this trackpad, specifically for scrolling, was fluid but lacked hardware acceleration. This is a limitation commonly seen on Windows where the pad will scroll at the same rate no matter how fast you sling your fingers across the pad. The left and right click zones are defined by painted on lines, and so you will occasionally mis-click one for the other.Windows 8 ready?When Windows Vista came out, there were several Windows XP machines that labeled themselves as “Vista ready”, but consumers quickly learned that the stickers placed on those machines held little value. In terms of hardware and performance, the U845 should be able to handle Windows 8 gracefully. Because the Ultrabook has a quality touchpad, Windows 8 will be a much easier experience on the U845 than many other machines in this category. The 1366×768 resolution screen will not greatly affect usage in Windows 8, and since the new OS focuses on full screen applications the resolutions will likely not be noticed often. As long as Windows 8 doesn’t do anything to affect the 6.5 hours of battery life that comes from normal use, the U845 will convert to the next version of Windows nicely.It’s not always easy for ultrabooks to stay below the $1,000 mark and still be high quality. The U845 has made cutbacks in some critical areas, and as a result has made a highly portable machine for $850. The U845 is not spectacular in any one way, but altogether Toshiba has made a mid-range ultrabook that is both well assembled and enjoyable to use. This machine will survive the next version of Windows, and is capable of performing reasonably well during typical day-to-day use.last_img read more