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REVIEW / Toshiba Satellite U940, why bother with a touchscreen?

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Alexandre Botella
Rémi Jacquet
Published on May 24, 2013
Translated by Hugh Ehreth
Tristan François
Lab work

SPECIFICATIONS

  • CPU Intel Core i5-3317U
  • Graphics chipset Intel HD 4000
  • RAM 6 GB
  • Screen 14 inches, 1366 x 768 pixels
  • Storage space 500 GB
  • Optical drive NA

OVERVIEW

Today we thought we'd check out the Satellite U940, a 14-inch ultrabook by Toshiba that's selling for £500 to £650, depending on the model. Toshiba decided to stick to the essentials and not give the U940 the—let's admit it—rather superfluous touchscreen most Windows 8 laptops have these days.

DESIGN 4/5


Toshiba Satellite U940 - surface

The Toshiba Satellite U940 is a good-looking computer. The textured plastic on the chassis makes it appear both elegant and robust. It doesn't scratch easily and doesn't seem to collect much grime and dirt. The glossy plastic surrounding the screen, however, comes off a bit cheap and dust loves to cling to it.

Toshiba Satellite U940 - keyboard

The chiclet keyboard has a matte lining. The keys are a little smaller than usual, which takes some getting used to; we made crazy typos the first few times we used it. The keys aren't backlit, which would have been a good addition on an ultrabook in this price range. When it comes to shortcuts (the volume, screen brightness, etc.), Toshiba has learned a thing or two from HP in that, contrary to most laptops, you don't have to hit Fn to use a shortcut; instead, the Fn key has been relegated to the F1-F12 keys.

The touchpad is well sized and recognises two-finger scrolling, zooming and all the Windows 8 gestures.

IMG 0008
Toshiba Satellite U940 - ports

For connectivity the U940 has three USB ports (2 x USB 3.0 and 1 x USB 2.0), an HDMI out, an Ethernet/RJ45 port, a microphone in, a headphone out and an SD card reader. All that's missing is a VGA out and a DVD drive. That said, HDMI and online content (movies, music, drivers, etc.) are so widespread nowadays that most people won't even be put out.

Toshiba Satellite U940 - heat
Heat readings with the components under stress.
Images taken using a Fluke Ti25 thermal imaging camera.

The heat is reasonable and the fan is quiet when at rest; even at full throttle it stays discreet at 37 dB(A). The only complaint we have is that the hot air evacuates out the side of the chassis, so it can get hot when you have the computer sitting on your lap. A better solution would have been to put the vent between the chassis and the screen.

DISPLAY 1/5



What a disappointment. The U940's screen just adds faux pas onto faux pas... First there's the screen brightness, which maxes out at 137 cd/m². That, plus the glossy surface, makes the screen reflect like nobody's business. Then there's the contrast, which never gets above 300:1! That only serves to even further reduce the TN panel's already narrow viewing angles.

Toshiba Satellite U940 - colour tempGrey colour temperature
Toshiba Satellite U940 - gammaGamma
Toshiba Satellite U940 - Delta EDelta E

And then there's the colours, which are way off with a Delta E of 12.9. And the 16,515 K average colour temperature causes heavy blue overtones. Wow.

Our Model: Satellite U940-117

The model we were sent to review contains an Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 6 GB of RAM, an Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset, a 500 GB HDD (5400 RPM) and a 32 GB Express Cache SSD. Everything above applies to all versions of the Toshiba Satellite U940, whereas the remarks below apply only to the configuration we tested (see inset below).

PROCESSING POWER 3/5



Like many of its acolytes, the Toshiba Satellite U940 has an Intel Core i5-3317U processor, which is powerful enough to undertake any task. That said, it isn't the fastest in the Core i5 family—the Core i5-3337U takes on average 10% less time to execute the same tasks.
 
Toshiba went with a spacious 500 GB hard drive for the storage and, being an ultrabook, the Satellite U940 also has a 32 GB solid-state drive. But the SSD isn't there for storing files on; the system uses it as a memory buffer to increase its responsiveness. Concretely, this allows the computer to start up in less than 25 seconds and shut down in 15.

GAMING 1/5



No surprises here. The Intel HD Graphics 4000 chipset is in control, which means, well, it doesn't control much. It's perfectly fine for decoding HD movies, but video games are an up-hill battle. All you'll be able to play on the Satellite U940 are smallish games like FIFA 13. For anything else you'll have to considerably drop the image quality and resolution (1366 x 768 pixels).

AUDIO 3/5



The Satellite U940 is one of those rare ultrabooks to have separate jacks for the microphone in and headphone out. Both provide clean sound with plenty of volume.

Toshiba Satellite U940 - sound
Frequency response: speakers
Green = good / orange = tolerable / white = heavily altered
 
The speakers, however, deliver a rather harsh sound at low volume, despite the fact that the chassis doesn't vibrate. The sound gets better with the SRS on, but then the chassis starts to vibrate. Your choice...
 

MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE 3/5



At 1.72 kg, the Satellite U940 isn't the lightest ultrabook out there, but it's compact enough to fit in your average backpack. As for the battery life, it's a shame it can't take more than four hours of video playback. That's a good hour below many of its competitors (from last year) and three hours less than last year's 13-inch MacBook Air.

Different models, different specs
Toshiba is selling three different models of the Satellite U940 in the UK. Here they are, from least to most expensive.

- Satellite U940-11F (£499): Intel Core i3-3227U processor, 500 GB hard drive, 4 GB of RAM

- Satellite U940-100 (£549): Intel Core i3-3217U processor, 500 GB hard drive, 4 GB of RAM

- Satellite U940-10M (£649): Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 750 GB hard drive, 6 GB of RAM

U940 dessous 350

The chassis opens up on the bottom, giving you access to the hard drive, RAM (two slots for a maximum of 16 GB), Wi-Fi module and Express Cache SSD chip. So if you know what you're doing, you can always up the specs yourself.

PROS

  • Processing power
  • Design and finish
  • Responsiveness
  • Low heat
  • Quiet

CONS

  • Godawful screen
  • Low gaming capabilities
  • Battery life (4 hours)

CONCLUSION 2/5

The Toshiba Satellite U940 has low heat, it's quiet and has a good processor... but the screen and battery life (kind of a key thing in a laptop) are complete flops. Two stars.
2 Toshiba Satellite U940 DigitalVersus 2013-05-24 15:45:00
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