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Toshiba Satellite U845T review: Great battery life and a slim body for only $799

ackermandan-square

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.

Toshiba_Satellite_U845t_35566940_05.jpg
8.1

Toshiba Satellite U845T

Pricing Not Available

The Good

The <b>Toshiba Satellite U845T</b> is thin, with a decent brushed-aluminum body, a 128GB SSD, and better performance and battery life than the competition.

The Bad

The keyboard has squeezed-down keys, a small spacebar, and some flex under heavy typing. The low screen resolution feels dated in a midsize laptop.

The Bottom Line

While it's not going to dazzle anyone, the Toshiba Satellite U845T is a great example of exactly how much laptop $799 should buy in 2013.

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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
Graphics Intel HD4000
Operating system Windows 8
Dimensions (WD) 9.1x13.5 inches
Height 0.8 inch
Screen size (diagonal) 14 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 3.6 pounds / 4.2 pounds
Category Midsize

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).

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

With a 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U CPU, the Satellite U845T performed a tiny bit better than some other recent slim midsize laptops in our benchmark tests, most of which have a slightly slower Core i5-3317U processor. But the performance difference is slight, and for everyday use -- Web surfing, social media, HD video playback, basic productivity -- you'd be hard-pressed to tell the difference.

Sarah Tew/CNET

One area where the U845T does stand out, however, is battery life. In our video playback battery drain test, the system ran for 6 hours and 4 minutes. Any laptop that tops 6 hours is impressive, and for a $799 14-incher, that's even more impressive. HP's similar Pavilion 15 Sleekbook ran for only a little more than 3 hours on the same test.

Conclusion
Every once in a while, a laptop comes along that's just a great example of what a shopper should be able to get for a specific price. While it doesn't massively overshadow what other PC makers offer in the same category, the Toshiba Satellite U845T is exactly what I'd hope for in a midsize $799 laptop right now. It's thin, with a decent brushed-aluminum body, a 128GB SSD, and even slightly better performance and battery life than the competition gives.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Toshiba Satellite U845T-S4165
446

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Toshiba Satellite U845T-S4165
241

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Toshiba Satellite U845T-S4165
121

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Toshiba Satellite U845T-S4165
364

Load test (average watts)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Toshiba Satellite U845T-S4165
39.4

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System configurations:
Toshiba Satellite U845T-S4165
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

Asus VivoBook S500C
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 500GB HD + 24GB SSD

HP Pavilion TouchSmart 15 Sleekbook
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/sp 1; 1.8GHz AMD A8-455M APU; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 512MB (Shared) AMD Radeon HD 7600G; 750GB Seagate 5,400rpm

Dell Inspiron 15z
Windows 8 (64-bit) w/ SP1; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 500GB HD + 32GB SSD

Toshiba_Satellite_U845t_35566940_05.jpg
8.1

Toshiba Satellite U845T

Pricing Not Available

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 8Battery 9Support 7