LAS VEGAS--While Toshiba usually has a flood of new laptops every year, the company surprised us this CES by highlighting a single model.
Even more unusual, instead of a ready-to-ship product, it is a still-unnamed 14-inch ultrabook prototype. The unit we saw had a Satellite logo on it, rather than the Portege branding we saw in last year's Z835 (a 13-inch ultrabook currently available for a rock-bottom $799).
Otherwise, it looked very similar, with Toshiba's standard business/consumer crossover look of a gray brushed-metal lid, rounded corners, and an inset screen with a too-thick black plastic bezel.
The keyboard was a standard island-style design, with Toshiba's custom row of page navigation keys along the far right side. We haven't had a chance to use it more than briefly, but the large clickpad looked interesting, with small left and right clickzone indicators etched into it.
The tapered body was very thin for a 14-inch laptop, but still felt like a different class of system than the paper-thin 13-inch ultrabooks we've been playing with lately. It is still, however, markedly slimmer than Dell's recent "thin" 14-inch XPS 14z.
With the first generation of ultrabooks--Intel's proprietary term for these Window-based MacBook Air-a-likes -- locked in to 13-inch designs (with one or two 11-inch models on the side), it's clear from what we've seen that many PC makers are going to push slightly larger 14-inch versions in 2012. Intel's ultrabook spec allows for these 14-inch models to be thicker and heavier than the 13-inch ones, which could make them easier to design and manufacture.
At first glance, they're not quite as eye-popping as the 13-inch ones, but with bigger screens, it's more likely you'd be able to adopt a 14-inch ultrabook as your everyday work machine, especially as they allow for more ports and connections, including Ethernet and HDMI, which are missing from some 13-inch ultrabooks.
Toshiba doesn't have a final name or release date for this system yet, but we look forward to checking it out in more detail later this year.