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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 U940-117The 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).
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.
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).
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.
Frequency response: speakers
Green = good / orange = tolerable / white = heavily altered
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.
- Processing power
- Design and finish
- Low heat
- Godawful screen
- Low gaming capabilities
- Battery life (4 hours)
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.