Toshiba launches super-widescreen Ultrabook

Today Toshiba announced its new line of laptops based on the recently launched Intel Ivy Bridge platform. There's no shortage of great looking, well-specified laptops in Toshiba's new range, but the one that really stands out is the Satellite U840W Ultrabook.

When the Ultrabook platform launched last year, Toshiba raced to the front of the pack with its Z830, and that model is being updated with the new Intel platform as part of this launch. But the Satellite U840W is a different beast altogether, setting itself apart from the competition with its very special screen.

While most notebook displays employ the same 16:9 aspect ratio as a TV, the U840W has a 21:9 screen, much like a 3.4:1 movie screen. Toshiba highlighted movie watching as the big advantage of this screen, pointing out that there would be no black bars when watching a movie.

However, there are no movies encoded in a 21.9 aspect ratio, whether on DVD or Blu-ray, so the only way to fill the full screen on the U840W would be by employing some clever zooming and cropping. On top of that, there is no optical drive in the U840W, so even if you could get 21:9 aspect ratio Blu-rays, you wouldn't be able to play them.

There was mention of a specific movie download service for the U840W, so perhaps those films will be correctly encoded for the screen ratio, but don't go thinking that you'll be able to rip your existing movie collection to the U840W and watch them in all their Cinemascope glory.

Putting movies to one side, the U840W is a very exciting device. That 14.4in 21:9 screen has a native resolution of 1,792 x 768, which is an impressive amount of desktop real estate. Yes, there have been Ultrabooks with smaller screens and higher resolutions announced, but without very good font scaling, a screen really can have too many pixels for comfortable viewing.

The super-wide nature of the U840W means that you could easily fit two documents side-by-side, making this an ideal notebook for anyone who needs to read from one document, while writing to another. In my case, this could be the ideal mobile computer for that reason alone.

Of course, the U840W will come equipped with an Intel Ivy Bridge CPU, along with up to 10GB of DDR3 RAM. Storage comes courtesy of a hybrid SSD/HDD configuration, no doubt taking advantage of Intel's Smart Response technology. There will be a 500GB hard disk, backed up by a 32GB SSD for caching - this should give some of the speed advantages of an SSD, coupled with the higher capacity of a hard drive. Of course battery life will still be affected by the inclusion of a mechanical drive.

Despite the svelte dimensions - 368.5 x 200 x 20.8mm (WxDxH) - Toshiba has still managed to stuff an impressive amount of ports into the U840W. You get three USB 3.0 ports, including one sleep-and-charge, a full size Ethernet port, a mini-HDMI port and a memory card reader. There's also 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0 and thanks to the Intel Ivy Bridge platform, Wireless Display technology too.

As far as weight goes, the U840W weighs between 1.57kg and 1.81kg, depending on which part of the press release you believe. I'll get confirmation on the weight from Toshiba, but I'd hope that the actual weight is close to the former number.

The Satellite U840W will be hitting the streets in Q3 2012, with a recommended price of £899. That makes it a serious contender against other Windows Ultrabooks and the MacBook Air. Check back soon for the full review of the Toshiba Satellite U840W.