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Toshiba Satellite U920T-108 review: Toshiba Satellite U920T-108

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The Satellite U920T is the first attempt from Toshiba at creating a Windows 8 hybrid device. It's designed to let you enjoy the fun of a touchscreen along with a full physical keyboard and laptop components for tackling serious work. By combining tablet and laptop features, hybrid devices could be the answer if you're struggling to decide which to spend your money on.

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6.5

Toshiba Satellite U920T-108

The Good

Fair performance from low-end components; decent build quality.

The Bad

Unpleasant transforming method; low resolution screen; relatively high price.

The Bottom Line

The Toshiba Satellite U920T has a unique way of transforming from a tablet into a laptop. Sadly, it's not a very nice one and together with the low resolution screen and only moderate performance, it doesn't do much to justify the price tag.

All manufacturers have their own take on what they believe to be the best way to make a laptop transform. Toshiba is no exception and is pinning its hopes on a 'slide then fold' format.

My review model came with an Intel Core i3 processor, 4GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. It's available now but with the high price of £868, is it worth the investment?

Should I buy the Toshiba Satellite U920T?

Like Dell's XPS 12 and Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga, the U920T converts from a tablet into a laptop. Sadly, the sliding method it employs is awkward at best, making it the least pleasant transformation technique I've used. Dell's flipping screen is considerably easier to do.

At £868, it might be slightly cheaper than its rivals, but it's still far too expensive. It has a rather dim, low-resolution screen and lower-end specifications that don't justify the high price tag.

It doesn't struggle with the essential tasks, but if you particularly want a Windows 8 convertible then it's well worth splashing the extra cash for the XPS 12. The better performance and luscious Full HD screen make it a worthy investment.

For the same money though, you could buy a great regular laptop. Alternatively, opt for a budget laptop for work use and grab a Microsoft Surface for Windows 8 touchscreen fun on the go.

Design and build quality

The key factor about the U920T is its sliding mechanism. Sadly, it's far from the best attempt at a convertible I've seen. To open it up from tablet mode, you push the screen section forward until it sits above the keyboard. Then you can tilt it up into a normal viewing position.

There are a few problems with the method. For a start, it requires quite a bit of room to do it so if you're in a cramped train seat, you'll probably have to make do with it as a tablet. There's no easy way I could find to do it. If you're holding it as a landscape tablet, then the most natural method is to use your thumbs to gradually ease the screen along. It's quite stiff though and takes time and effort.

Toshiba Satellite U920T-108
The transformation mechanism is awkward, fiddly and anything but perfect.

The other option is to push it up from the bottom and given the rubberised strip in place, that's probably what Toshiba expects you to do. It's still not an easy task though and however you go about it, you'll almost certainly leave behind more fingerprints than an average episode of CSI.

The sliding motion itself feels gritty and unpleasant too, as though you're forcing it to make a motion it just doesn't want to do. The screen folds upright easily though and sits firmly enough to not fold back down when you use the touchscreen.

When upright, you're able to quickly navigate around Windows 8 using touch, switching to the keyboard when you need to type -- typing using an onscreen keyboard is no fun at all.

Build quality is fairly high with no unpleasant bending or creaking when poked. The rubberised wrist rest and solid keyboard tray help it feel like a sturdy machine.

It's hardly a looker, though. If you're big into grey and black tones then you'll be right at home, but it's hardly the most stylish of designs. The carbon-ibre effect of Dell's XPS 12 is more visually appealing or you could opt for the bright orange of Lenovo's IdeaPad Yoga if you want a more garish hybrid device.

The U920T measures 326mm wide and 213mm deep, which is pretty standard. It's small enough to fit into a bag although at 1.52kg, you probably won't want to carry it too far. For watching a quick on the bus you'd be better off with an iPad.

Around the sides you'll find two USB 3.0 ports, HDMI out, a 3.5mm headphone jack and an SD card reader. There's a 128GB solid state drive inside for storing your music and movies.

Keyboard and trackpad

The keys are spread out over the entire width of the keyboard but, like Sony's Vaio Duo 11, don't make full use of the vertical space. If you're used to typing on a netbook's tiny keys then it'll be fine, but the space is a little less than you'd find on Toshiba's full-sized laptops.

Toshiba Satellite U920T-108
Keys are well spread out, but don't make use of the vertical space.

I found it to be fairly comfortable to type on though. The keys don't have much travel, so they require a lighter touch than a typical desktop keyboard would. The trackpad is small but quite responsive and has a satisfying click to it which I always enjoy.

Screen

The 12.5-inch screen provides a 1,366x768-pixel resolution. The Dell XPS 12 packs a Full HD display into its 12-inch frame and even Lenovo's Yoga has a 1,600x900-pixel resolution. It's not that much cheaper than the other two, so it's disappointing not to see a few more pixels shoved into the space.

It's not particularly bright either. Even at its max, I found it looked as though it should go a couple of notches higher. As a result it showed more reflections than necessary under the harsh office lights of CNET UK Towers. It's fairly bold, but doesn't impress nearly as much as some of Toshiba's displays on its regular laptops.

It'll do the job for office tasks and social networking, but if you love kicking back with a few good movies, it's unlikely to satisfy.

Power and software

Purring away inside the U920T's chassis is an Intel Core i3 processor clocked at 1.7GHz, along with 4GB of RAM. That's a lower-end processor than you'd find inside the Yoga or XPS 12 and a lot lower than the Core i7 chip inside Sony's Vaio 11. It should hopefully still have enough power for the essentials.

On the Geekbench benchmark test it scored 5,302, which is a fair score for its specs. By comparison, the XPS 12 scored 7,223 whereas the Yoga only managed to achieve 4,971. The U920T might have lower-end components, but Toshiba has evidently performed some wizardry to squeeze good juice from them.

Indeed, I found it to be perfectly competent for most tasks. Swiping around the colourful Windows 8 desktop was swift and responsive and apps and menus loaded with minimal delay. Web browsing in the Metro-style Internet Explorer 10 was fast too, which helped make working in Google Docs particularly easy.

It also managed to take on the 3D water racer Hydro Thunder Hurricane. Gameplay was smooth and lag-free. It'll handle most mobile games perfectly well, but don't expect to fight through shooters like Crysis 2 or Metro 2033.

Toshiba Satellite U920T-108
Windows 8 is all colourful and different and new, but don't be afraid -- it's easy to get to grips with.

It's running on the full-fat version of Windows 8, meaning you can install any normal desktop you want, as well as download apps and games from the Windows 8 store. The store has a few gems in it, but it's woefully understocked compared to the iOS and Android stores.

Windows 8 is a very different beast to Windows 7. The classic desktop has been replaced by the colourful metro-style grid of tiles. You'll spend most of your time navigating around using various swipes, pokes and gestures. It's easy enough to get to grips with and once you're up to speed, it's surprisingly intuitive. Check out our full Windows 8 review and our 50 tips to learn some tricks.

Conclusion

The Toshiba U920T might be slightly cheaper than its rivals, but it's still not exactly cheap. With an unimpressive low-resolution screen, awkward transforming method and lower-end specs, the price is sadly not justified.