Neither too cheap nor too cool, the Satellite U845 does a great job of disappearing into the crowd of me-too thin budget laptops this back-to-school season.
The time has come for more reasonably priced ultrabooks, and it seems like every Windows laptop manufacturer has one coming out this back-to-school season. Between the
Or does it? The entry price for the Satellite U845 is as low as $699 with an Intel Core i3 processor, but our review version has an MSRP of $879. Laptops like the Inspiron 14z, IdeaPad U310, and Sony Vaio T are all less expensive for similar specs. Depending on where you buy the Satellite U845-S406, it can currently cost as little as $779, but that's still not bargain-basement: in fact, it's middle-of-the-pack for "budget" ultrabooks. Note: this isn't the same laptop as the
The Satellite U845-S406 does have a backlit keyboard and all the basic ports (Ethernet, HDMI, USB 3.0, SD card slot), plus a slightly larger-than-average 14-inch screen, but it weighs more than a Toshiba Portege R935 (the CPU-upgraded update to the Portege R835 CNET has reviewed), even though the Portege R935 also includes an optical drive and a faster processor. Even more oddly, some models of the new Portege are more affordable.
Simply put, Toshiba has too many laptops, but that's an argument for a different day. The Satellite U845-S406 offers what amounts to, for mid-2012, a solid, standard set of ultrabook specs and features, but in a rather generically designed package, and not at a standout price. It doesn't stand out from its peers. I'd try to get one for as little as possible and pay down for the entry-level model. This type of laptop should cost $750, not $879.
|Starting price / Price as reviewed||$749 / $879|
|Processor||1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U|
|Memory||4GB, 1,600MHz DDR3|
|Hard drive||500GB, 5,400rpm + 32GB SSD hybrid|
|Graphics||Intel HD 4000|
|Operating system||Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)|
|Dimensions (WD)||13.4x9.1 inches|
|Screen size (diagonal)||14 inches|
|System weight / Weight with AC adapter||3.7 pounds / 4.3 pounds|
The best thing I can say about the Toshiba Satellite U845 is that it's clean and minimal -- qualities you don't often find in a Toshiba laptop, where glossy, textured metallic plastic and extra LED lights tend to reign. Silver plastic on the underside and brushed aluminum on the top lid and keyboard deck are understated. Open it up and you get glossy black plastic around the display, a raised keyboard and large clickpad beneath, and that's it except for a single round power button.
The Satellite U845 is not particularly light for an ultrabook (3.7 pounds) nor thin (0.8 inch), keeping within the guidelines for larger 14- and 15-inch ultrabooks set by Intel, but emerging as a heftier laptop than the average 13-incher. It's also heavier than the Toshiba Portege R935, a laptop that includes an optical drive and a faster CPU -- and, in some configurations, costs less. Doesn't make much sense, does it? Welcome to the wide world of Toshiba laptop configurations. (There are four different Satellite U845 configurations on Toshiba's Web site, but more on that later.)
With a laptop this basic -- as with many other ultrabooks and ultraportables -- a lot comes down to keyboard and touch-pad design. Both range from fair to good. The raised keyboard is backlit, and shares the same build as the
The multitouch clickpad forgos discrete buttons to offer more finger room, but the click zone on the bottom of the matte pad is stiffer than usual, and I found it hard to press. The pad's Synaptics software picks up gestures well, and there's more surface area than on previous Satellites, but it's not as big a pad as you'd find on a MacBook, or even a
The glossy 14-inch screen has a standard 1,366x768-pixel resolution, with no greater resolution options. That's not a big surprise. The Satellite U845's picture quality is average: not particularly bright at the brightest setting, while off-axis viewing angles deteriorated quickly. I also found the screen's glossy covering throwing a lot of glare in my office.
Stereo speakers, located under the bottom of the laptop, are decent and loud enough, but nowhere near the excellent quality of the Harman Kardon speakers in the $999 wide-screen Satellite U845W.
|Toshiba Satellite U845-S406||Average for category [midsize]|
|Video||HDMI||VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort|
|Audio||Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks||Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks|
|Data||1 USB 3.0, (w/power-off charge), 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader||2 USB 3.0, 2 USB 2.0, SD card reader|
|Networking||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth||Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
|Optical drive||None||DVD burner|
This Satellite U845 has all the necessary ports for a 2012 laptop: HDMI, a physical Ethernet jack (which was a little loose in our review sample), USB 3.0, an SD card slot, and Bluetooth, plus Intel Wireless Display compatibility. You don't get a DVD drive.
Toshiba offers four different configurations of the Satellite U845, starting at $749. That entry-level model has a third-gen Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive with 16GB solid-state drive (SSD) cache for system files. Our $879 step-up model, the U845-S406, has a Core i5 processor, 6GB of RAM, and a 32GB SSD cache on its 500GB hard drive. You can't venture any higher in configuration cost.
The 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U processor is a third-gen Intel Ivy Bridge CPU, the same processor that's appeared in a ton of other 2012 ultrabooks including the
Integrated Intel HD 4000 graphics are good enough for mainstream gaming with graphics settings turned down to more basic levels; Street Fighter IV, an older game, ran at 25.9 frames per second at 1,366x768-pixel resolution. That's fair but not particularly great; newer games sometimes run better on Intel's latest integrated graphics.
|Raw kWh number||29.99|
|Annual power consumption cost||$3.40|
So, here's the $879 question: how did the battery perform? We were able to pull 5 hours and 37 minutes out of this Toshiba while looping continuous video playback. That's a little worse than the ultra-wide-screen Satellite U845W and Asus Zenbook UX31A, but better than the Dell Inspiron 14z. I expect at least 6 hours from an ultrabook to consider it truly excellent battery life; this is good, but I've seen better.
Toshiba offers a standard one-year warranty with the Satellite U845. Extended warranty plans can be purchased from Toshiba Direct's Web site when ordering directly from the company, at $139 for an extended three-year warranty or $224 for three years plus accidental damage protection. LoJack is another optional upgrade.
The Toshiba Satellite U845-S406 is a capable, innocuous-looking 14-inch ultrabook that's not quite thin and portable enough, nor affordable enough, nor well-featured enough to stand out in a crowded room of ultrathins this season. If you can snag one in the $700-to-$800 range, you'll have yourself a decent deal, but there are plenty of alternatives that can perform equally well -- including Toshiba's own
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Toshiba Satellite U845-S406
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Acer Aspire Timeline U M5-481TG-6814
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M LE / 128MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Western Digital 5,400rpm
Samsung Series 9 NP900X3C (13-inch, 2012)
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB SanDisk SSD
Dell Inspiron 14z-5423
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,333MHz; 1GB (Dedicated) AMD Radeon HD V18 + Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm
Asus Zenbook UX31A
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Adata XM11 SSD
Toshiba Satellite U845W-S410
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 64MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB Hitachi 5,400rpm