Tue, Dec 04, 2012 - Page 12 News List

Technology reviews

Google/Asus Nexus 7; Acer Aspire S7 Laptop; Toshiba Satellite U940

By David Chen  /  Staff reporter

The U940 is meant to appeal to those who want a lightweight laptop with lots of screen space. It weighs 4 lb (1.85 kg) and has a 14-inch screen. The 1366 x 768 resolution LED display is not bad, but it definitely will feel like a step back if you’ve tried the Acer Aspire S7 (see review) or you use the latest iPad. On the U940, the jagged edges of text and graphics are much more apparent, and the picture becomes unclear at certain angles. Basically, getting what you pay for with this screen.

Still, this laptop gets the job done. An Intel Core i5 chip and 4GB of RAM keep the U940 running swiftly — apps generally load quickly. A 32 gigabyte solid state drive devoted to the operating system helps (for general storage, there’s a standard 750 gigabyte hard drive). Boot-up times are a fast 15 to 20 seconds, which can also be attributed to Windows 8.

CRASH AND BURN

Windows 8, as previously mentioned, is a mixed blessing. With the U940, it was nice — when it worked. I found Windows 8 to be somewhat unstable on the U940 during the week I used it. The OS crashed every other day or so, giving me the “blue screen of death,” usually after waking the computer from sleep by opening the lid. By comparison, the Portege Z830 seem to run without a hitch on Windows 7. But this shouldn’t be considered a fatal flaw for the U940, as such bugs will likely be addressed with future software and firmware updates. Another note about Windows 8 on the U940: while there’s plenty of eye candy with the new Start screen and its animated icons, the lack of a touchscreen makes the experience a bit duller. One can’t help but wonder whether the U940 would be better off with Windows 7.

The U940’s core strengths are hardware and design. The laptop has a plain look with a dark grey, brushed metal casing. Toshiba keyboards also have a refreshingly plain and clean layout. It’s never a struggle to find certain keys, and I’ve always found Toshiba’s chiclet keys to be very comfortable. The trackpad works well, thanks to a combination of good hardware and solid software from Toshiba. Asus and Acer (Acer’s excellent Aspire S7 notwithstanding) would benefit by paying attention to what Toshiba is doing in this department.

Toshiba claims a six-hour battery life on the U940, and I got between four and five when I tested it, which is respectable enough. Overall, it may lack some of the pizazz of Toshiba’s more stylish 13-inch Portege Z830, but the U940 presents itself as more of a workhorse that’s fast enough and covers basic computing needs, and is one to consider if you’re on a budget.

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