If you are in the market for a hybrid ultrabook there are dozens of unique design choices available right now. Toshiba’s newest ultrabook, the Toshiba U925T Hybrid, is a perfect example of the variety that exists within today’s marketplace. The system features a hinge design that makes touchscreen computing sensible, a keyboard that is easy to hide behind the display, and a highly portable design.
As laptop manufacturers try to add a dash of tablet to their designs, a lot of options have come out. The release of the Microsoft Surface may have been something of a reference design, but everyone’s going to have their own opinion of how to best interact with Windows 8. One thing is perfectly clear though, and that is the need for touch in this new environment. It’s up to the manufacturer to decide how important that is to the hardware design. Toshiba’s latest Satellite laptop hybrid looks a little stranger than most, but it does a great job putting the screen closer to the user, which is a big deal with touch laptop designs.
When you look at a traditional laptop with a touch screen, the parts of the laptop that you are supposed to be touching are too far away from you if the machine is any larger than 10 inches. It becomes uncomfortable to reach out repeatedly, and users go back to using the trackpad. Ideally, the trackpad on an ultrabook would only be used when the application you are using doesn’t support touch well, like Photoshop. The hinge design for the U925T puts the touchscreen right at the edge of the keyboard, removing all of the space in between the keyboard and screen that is usually there. You reach this position by sliding the screen out and forcibly bending it to this shape. When closed, the Toshiba hybrid looks like a tablet.
Like any good tablet, this Toshiba has the power and volume buttons on the bezel and not hidden in the keyboard. If you wanted to only ever use this machine in tablet mode you could with one exception. The rear camera is hidden in tablet mode, and you need to slide the screen about an inch to expose it. This mild design flaw aside, the power, USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports, and the physical home button are all exposed for you to use any time. All of the buttons require a bit of force to use, which is a problem for the thin and almost sharp power and volume rockers. You’ll have a hard time accidentally hitting these buttons, despite what they may do to your fingers if you accidentally apply force on a corner.
The keyboard on the U925T is one of the best on any Windows 8 ultrabook. Toshiba got everything right — the keys are responsive and separate and they feel great for the size. The backlight is adjustable and isn’t permanently on when the keyboard is on, and the keyboard itself takes up about the same amount of space as one seen on a MacBook. Compared to the Surface Pro‘s Touch and Type covers, this keyboard is an absolute delight to type on. Toshiba has reduced the size of the trackpad on this model when compared to the rest of the Satellite lineup, which makes sense given the purpose of the hardware. Multitouch works very well on this machine, though you are unlikely to ever use it for more than scrolling when you have to.
Toshiba saw fit to give the U925T a 1366×768 touchscreen. The display handles the scaling in Windows 8 well, and touch is perfectly responsive on the display. It’s not a Wacom display like the Surface, so you’ll only be using your finger or an equivalent stylus. This display is unfortunately a much lower quality than that of the Surface Pro or the Samsung ATIV Pro 700T, and the resolution makes performing most tasks on the Desktop less enjoyable. The Modern UI handles the resolution well, but the screen washes out in sunlight, so you’ll only be enjoying this tablet indoors. Since the display is arguably the most important part of a mobile computer, Toshiba clearly chose the wrong place to try and cut back.
The rest of the hardware is standard for the industry right now. The Core i5 handles most tasks well with 4GB of RAM, and the Intel HD 4000 GPU won’t be offering a high-end gaming experience but it will play most modern games without a ton of fuss. The cooling system on the U925T relies on a pair of fans that sound as if they have one speed, and reach that speed almost immediately. They are loud, and stay loud for as long as the computer thinks they are needed. The placement of the fans make it difficult to rest that tablet on its back while watching a movie or playing a game for any length of time. You’ll hear the fans kick on shortly after starting an application and while the speakers on this hybrid ultrabook are adequate they will not drown out the sounds of the fan.
The overall design of this laptop shows a lot of promise. The hinge design seems like a really good idea. The low quality screen and the placement of the fans make it impossible to enjoy the machine in the positions that the hinge seems to suggest you would use it, so it’s hard to tell. Toshiba is currently selling this ultrabook hybrid for $ 1149, which is $ 150 more than the Surface Pro. Selling this machine even for $ 150 less than the Surface Pro or the ATIV Pro 700T makes it very difficult to recommend to anyone.
Now read: 5 great things about the Surface Pro