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HANDS ON: Satellite U840 – Toshiba’s first Ultrabook for the home

Mid-range price and a great design. From first impressions, Toshiba may be on to a winner

When it first launched an Ultrabook last year, Toshiba concentrated on the business market rather than risk a confrontation with the MacBook Air on Apple’s own turf. It was a sensible decision, as there were few other business-centric alternatives, but now the company is confident it has what it takes to appeal to home users. Enter the Satellite U840.

It’s a mid-range, 14in Ultrabook that rejects angles and sharp lines for curves and brushed aluminium. The sleek, minimalist style is more than a little reminiscent of Samsung’s Series 5, which isn’t exactly a bad thing – we think it looks rather good for a sub-£600 laptop.

Toshiba Satellite U840

That price includes a new Ivy Bridge processor, although Toshiba has had to sacrifice an SSD in order to keep down costs. Instead, you get a hybrid hard disk that uses a small amount of flash memory to speed up boot times and resume from sleep in less than two seconds.

The 14in screen is also limited to a 1,366×768 resolution, but it looked reasonably sharp during our brief hands-on time with the laptop. The glossy finish helps give colours a little extra pop, but we noticed the telltale signs of screen glare with it.

Toshiba Satellite U840

Existing Toshiba owners should feel right at home with the Chiclet-style keyboard – it’s comfortable enough to type on, although we would have liked a little more travel in each key. Its saving grace is a white LED backlight, a very useful feature that’s not often seen at this price.

The touchpad is smooth to the touch, and large enough to comfortably span the entire desktop in a single swipe, but we weren’t very impressed with the integrated touchpad buttons. We would have preferred physical buttons, although they at least worked reasonably well.

Toshiba Satellite U840

There’s ample connectivity, despite the compact size, with two USB ports, one USB3, Ethernet, HDMI, 3.5mm audio in and out and a multi-format card reader.

Toshiba promises an eight hour battery life, which we’ll be sure to test when we get our hands on a review unit. The Satellite U840 should be on sale from the end of August, with a starting price of £600.

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