There's a reasonable chance you'll end up hearing about the Toshiba Satellite U845T on a semiregular basis from us. That's because, at $799 for a 14-inch laptop that's ultrabook-thin, with a touch screen, Intel Core i5 processor, and 128GB solid-state drive, it's about as middle-of-the-road as laptops get.
For the moment, that makes the U845T the perfect example of a midsize, midprice laptop, and thanks to a sharp aluminum design and lack of any overly annoying or deal-killing flaws, it may end up being our default laptop recommendation for a lot of readers.
This is an especially important comparison when we look at Atom-powered touch-screen laptop-tablet hybrids. Those systems usually have small screens, slow performance, and compromised designs, but can cost just as much when you include the optional keyboard docks and other accessories. A handful of Core i5 touch-screen laptops are available for about $100 less, usually with bulkier, plastic bodies, and adding $100-$200 gets you into premium territory, such as the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga.
The U845T isn't perfect -- the keyboards on most Toshiba Satellite laptops are oddly squeezed, with especially small spacebars, and only one of the three USB ports is of the current 3.0 variety. But it's right in that midprice sweet spot, so if you're looking for a decent all-around laptop for under $800, this is a great place to start.
Editors' note: The second specs chart in this review has been corrected from its original version to show that the Toshiba Satellite U845t does not include built-in Bluetooth. We apologize for the earlier error.
|Price as reviewed||$799|
|Processor||1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U|
|Memory||6GB, 1,600MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||128GB SSD|
|Operating system||Windows 8|
|Dimensions (WD)||9.1x13.5 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.6 pounds / 4.2 pounds|
Design and features
If you think of a typical laptop design on the "nicer" side of the fence -- as opposed to the plastic, budget side -- you'll probably picture something that looks and feels a lot like the Toshiba Satellite U845T. Despite the midsize 14-inch screen, it's thin (0.8 inch), light (3.6 pounds), and solidly built. Spend more, and you can shave off some size and weight, but these 14- and 15-inch ultrabooks no matter what are sort of skirting the definition of everyday portability with their larger screens, as least compared with 13-inch models.
The brushed aluminum on the lid and keyboard tray is upscale without standing out. If you took the mirror-finish Toshiba logo off of the back of the lid, this could be a laptop from any number of PC makers. Open the lid, and the interior is minimalist, with only a couple of indicator lights and a backlit power button to accompany the touch pad and keyboard (OK, and a bunch of Intel, Energy Star, and EPEAT stickers).
The backlit keyboard has black keys set against a gray keyboard tray. Like other Toshiba Satellite laptops, the actual island-style keys are more rectangular than round, but the end effect is that each key is slightly squashed, giving the keyboard a cramped feel. Many Toshiba laptops have unusually short spacebars, as is the case here, which can interfere with some typing styles. Add a small but noticeable amount of flex in the center of the keyboard, and you get a keyboard that's usable, but not my favorite part of this laptop.
The large clickpad-style touch pad fares better. With no separate left and right mouse buttons, there's more room for multitouch gestures, and two-finger scrolling is reasonably smooth.
The 14-inch display is one of the few lower-end components here. The 1,366x768-pixel native resolution is on the low side for a midsize laptop, and henceforth we'll likely see this resolution in fewer and fewer laptops, outside of the least expensive budget systems. Interestingly, while the U845T has a touch screen (and a perfectly responsive one at that), this is one of the only touch-screen laptops without an edge-to-edge glass overlay over the entire inside surface of the lid.
|Toshiba Satellite U845T||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
Connections, performance, and battery
The U845T continues its streak as a perfectly average laptop, with a perfectly average collection of ports and connections. There's only one video output, HDMI in this case, and also only one USB 3.0 port (it has two USB 2.0 ports), but I always like getting a built-in Ethernet jack and separate audio-in and -out jacks. Note that the single USB 3.0 port is of the sleep-and-charge variety, which means it can use the laptop's battery to charge devices such as a phone, even when the laptop is asleep or powered off.
While this Satellite U845T is a fixed-configuration $799 laptop, Toshiba does offer another model, also for $799, that swaps out the 128GB SSD for a standard 500GB, 5,400rpm hard drive. If you need a lot of storage space, that might be a good idea, but I'd stick with the SSD for its advantages in speed, power consumption, weight, and heat.