Windows 8 hybrids come in all shapes and sizes. We have twisters such as the Lenovo ThinkPad Twist, detachables like the Asus Vivo Tab, and even flip-screen models such as the Dell XPS Duo 12. However, just like the Sony VAIO Duo 11, Toshiba has chosen to go the slider route with the Toshiba Satellite U920t.
As the company's only initial offering in the Windows 8 tablet/convertible laptop market, the 12.5-inch Toshiba Satellite U920t has a lot riding on it. Mind you, it certainly seems an interesting proposition for those who want to run full-fat Windows 8 without paying an arm and a leg, yet also without the limitations imposed by an Atom CPU.
Looking for other options? Check out our Best Windows 8 Laptops Tablets Convertibles and PCs roundup
For under £850, the Toshiba Satellite U920t gets you an Intel Core i3 machine with 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, along with advanced connectivity like USB 3.0, a roomy keyboard, and an IPS touch screen – all wrapped in a relatively light and slim package.
To keep its price relatively low, a few corners have inevitably been cut: the screen resolution is not Full HD, it ‘only’ offers five-point touch, and there’s no pressure-sensitive stylus support. Still, these kind of specs wouldn’t look out of place on the average Ultrabook, yet you get a higher-quality screen here. So is the Toshiba Satellite U920t the bargain it at first appears?
First, let’s talk about the flip-out mechanics of the Toshiba Satellite U920t. We must admit that the slider is our least favourite tablet/convertible laptop design, as the screen is always facing out and you can’t detach the keyboard to shed that weight when you don’t need it. Speaking of, at just under 1.5kg the Toshiba Satellite U920t is reasonably light for a 12.5-inch ultraportable ‘laptop’.
Even if you are a fan of the slider, however, Toshiba’s implementation isn’t without issues. Unlike the Sony VAIO Duo 11, which just tilts up as you slide the tablet portion back, with the Satellite U920t you need to slide its screen all the way back horizontally before you can angle it upwards. This is pretty awkward when trying to ‘open’ the machine up or switch between modes on a crowded desk, or in tight quarters like a plane/train/bus.
On the bright side, the Toshiba Satellite U920t’s sliding mechanic feels considerably more robust than Sony’s solution. In fact, build quality throughout is quite good. Both the ‘tablet’ and ‘base’ sections feel solid without creak or flex, and only the keyboard displays a little more give than we would like. A combination of magnesium alloy and plastics helps to keep weight down without compromising durability. The hinge mechanism is completely constructed from metal, and not only provides an impressively solid action but is robust enough to put up with some serious abuse. Though this should be avoided with all laptops, you can easily lift this hybrid by its screen.
Visually, the Toshiba Satellite U920t is reasonably attractive. As a tablet it’s a glossy black affair with the usual smooth glass front, a physical Windows button, and a mocha, rubberised lower ‘lip’ which provides a little extra grip and makes orienting this device the right way round easier than with some. It’s not as sleek and smooth as your average convertible, but neither is it ugly.
In ‘laptop’ mode, it becomes obvious that the Toshiba Satellite U920t has stolen quite a bit of DNA from its Toshiba Satellite U840W sibling, which is certainly no bad thing. Just like with the ultra-wide Ultrabook, the U920t has a textured soft-touch finish on its base and wrist-rest area. The former provides extra grip when this hybrid is parked on your lap and when carrying it around, while the latter increases typing comfort.