Toshiba Satellite U840W ‘Cinema’ screen
Naturally, its ‘cinema’ screen is the main talking point of the Toshiba Satellite U840W Ultrabook. As mentioned in the intro, it’s a 14.4-inch, 21:9 aspect ratio affair sporting a spiffing resolution of 1,792 x 768 – the same number of pixels as your average 13-inch laptop vertically, but significantly more than the usual 1,366 ones horizontally.
This is genuinely useful for working with multiple windows, and it must be said that you generally don’t realise how annoying the black bars on most movies are until they’re no longer there. In other words, the ‘cinema’ line isn’t without merit; this aspect ratio genuinely enhances your viewing experience.
We’re glad to say that, in most regards, image quality from the U840W’s ‘ultra wide (TM)’ screen is also rather good. There’s very little bleed or unevenness in the display’s backlighting, colours are punchy (thanks in part to a glossy finish which also causes distracting reflections), and while blacks are not the deepest, dark detailing is excellent so you won’t miss much in gloomy movies. Meanwhile the higher-than-average pixel count leaves it nice and sharp.
Taking all the above and its wide aspect ratio into account, the Toshiba Satellite U840W provides a fantastic movie experience – if you’re viewing it from the right angle. That’s right folks, the panel used is of the TN variety. Unlike higher-quality IPS or VA type displays, that means viewing angles are quite poor and you need to carefully judge your viewing position – though if you tilt the screen right you can easily watch with two people.
While we appreciate that there isn’t a huge amount of choice in laptop-sized ‘Cinema’ 21:9 widescreen panels, it’s a real shame that the first laptop of its kind is marred by this kind of niggle. Still, keep in mind that most Ultrabooks use similarly flawed TN panels, with only a few exceptions like the Samsung Series 9 900.
Where productivity is concerned, Toshiba has included a handy little piece of software that pops up an extra ‘button’ on any window, right next to the Minimise, Maximise and Close ones. This button automatically resizes the window to what Toshiba calls a “wide split”, meaning one window takes up two thirds of the screen and the other one third. However, right-clicking on this button lets you ‘switch’ sides or choose a “square split” instead. This really is a nice touch by Toshiba and makes the most of the U840W’s ‘Cinema’ screen outside of entertainment for multitasking.
Toshiba Satellite U840W Speakers
Toshiba laptops - at least the ones that use Harman/kardon speakers - have always been very impressive in the audio department, and the U840W is no exception. In fact, we’re giving it the crown of best-sounding Ultrabook.
Its up-facing speakers to either side of the keyboard (a clever use of the extra width) give you more bass, volume and depth than any slim ultraportable, and combine this with well-defined trebles, all without any sign of distortion. Basically, they’re good enough that movies and games are aurally enjoyable, and put many larger laptops to shame.