Toshiba Satellite U840 Ultrabook

Toshiba Satellite U840 review: A 14in Ultrabook with 8GB of RAM and a hybrid storage solution

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Toshiba Satellite U840 Ultrabook
  • Toshiba Satellite U840 Ultrabook
  • Toshiba Satellite U840 Ultrabook
  • Toshiba Satellite U840 Ultrabook


  • Thin and light
  • Decent performer
  • USB 3.0, HDMI


  • Aspects of build could be better
  • Screen could be better
  • Keyboard could be better
  • No Gigabit Ethernet

Bottom Line

Toshiba's 14in Ultrabook offers a good mix of light weight, thin design and useful features. It's a good all-round Ultrabook, but it could use a better screen and keyboard, as well as some tweaks to its build quality. It performed decently in our tests, but it comes with lots of pre-installed software that can sometimes get in the way -- be prepared to uninstall some stuff!

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The Toshiba Satellite U840 Ultrabook (PSU4RA-00Q00C) is a 14in model that's not as thin and light as the company's 13.3in offering — it weighs 1.7kg and is about 20mm thick with the lid closed. It's a notebook that caters to users who want something a little bigger and perhaps more comfortable to use, but it does have one slight drawback in the area of comfort: its keyboard. If you can get used to its shallow and stiff-feeling keys (as we did), you'll enjoy this model. It's a laptop that provides good overall performance for office work and multimedia tasks, and it offers a good set of connectivity features.

Design and build quality

The styling of the Satellite U840 is basic and it doesn't stand out, nor look overly boring — it's definitely not up to the standard of the premium HP Envy 14 Spectre, for example. It feels well made for the most part, although we did notice some slight clicking in the left side of the chassis and sometimes on the touchpad as we navigated, without pressing too hard against it. It is a 'clickpad' type of touchpad, which has the left- and right-click buttons located under the pad, and the whole pad clicks, but the clicking we noticed was not due to this. It didn't happen often though. The hinges that hold the screen could stand to be a little stronger; on some occasions, the screen tilted back a little on its own as we lifted the laptop.

The screen itself is adequate for general-purpose use, such as browsing the Web and working on documents, but it does have shallow vertical viewing angles that cause colour shift and contrast loss when the screen is not perfectly positioned. It's also a glossy screen that will reflect light and possibly cause grief unless you use the maximum brightness level. It has a glossy bezel around it, which counters the brushed style of the base. The native resolution is 1366x768, which is standard, but we wish it was 1600x900 to make better use of the extra screen size compared to a 13in model.

Like many Ultrabooks, the U840 has a sealed chassis, meaning you can't easily replace the battery or any of the components via access panels. Phillips-head screws hold the base in place, and these are concealed with rubber plugs. Vents are located on the bottom, as well as the rear of the base, and warm air is pushed out by a fan through the rear vent. It doesn't make a lot of noise, even when it's running at full speed when the CPU is under a heavy load. That said, you should expect some slight whirring, even when using the notebook for Web browsing. Despite having a conventional, spinning hard drive and 8GB of RAM, the base didn't get excessively warm during our tests. It got moderately warm at the rear — near the heat sink — when used on an uneven surface such as a lap, so you will have to be mindful of the vents and try not to block them completely (cue awkward sitting positions).

Toshiba Satellite U840 backlit keyboard

The extraction vent.

There is a useful array of ports located on the left and right edges of the base, and these include: USB 3.0 (1), USB 2.0 (2), separate microphone and headphone ports, HDMI, 10/100 Ethernet, and you also get an SD card slot. Two speakers are present — one on either side of the chassis — and while they are adequate for casual listening, their quality is not great and the sound separation due to their positioning can sometimes be irritating, depending on how you are sitting.

Keyboard and touchpad

We got used to the chiclet-style keyboard and found it more comfortable to type on as our review period progressed — this was aided by the large palm rest (which is 95mm deep), too. Initially, the keys felt small (they are 15x12mm) and awkward to press, not to mention shallow and a little resistive, and the central location of the touchpad relative to the base and not the space bar put us off a little. We still think the keys could use more travel and sharper response, but we don't think it's a terrible keyboard at all.

Toshiba Satellite U840 backlit keyboard

The backlit keys.

The positioning of the keys is standard, but you do get Page Up, Page Down, Home and End keys to the right of the Enter and Backspace keys, which takes some getting used to; the arrow keys have been given a good amount of space and are easy to feel for. Toshiba has set up the Function keys so that screen brightness, the software Wi-Fi toggle and the media and volume controls are the primary functions. A soft backlight illuminated the keys and it works on a 15sec timer. The light is not affected by the touchpad and will only be illuminated once a key is pressed.

The Synaptics touchpad is 99x62mm in size and it felt smooth and responsive during our tests. Its accuracy was good and it performed two-finger scrolling and three-finger flicks without any hassles. However, we did experience a lot of problems when undertaking right-click drag-and-drop operations; basically, we never succeeded in completing one such operation.

Specifications and performance

On the inside, Toshiba has created an engine room consisting of an Intel Core i5-2467M CPU, 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM, integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics, and a hybrid storage solution. This storage solution consists of a 320GB, 5400rpm Hitachi hard drive (HTS543232A7A384), and a 16GB SanDisk U100 solid state drive. The system felt responsive during our tests when launching applications and multitasking. A cold boot took 56sec, which is slower than we expected and a consequence of all the extra software that Toshiba has pre-installed on the system, including a version of Clickfree backup software, Splashtop Streamer and Norton Internet Security. The laptop took 4sec to awaken from sleep mode and bring up the Windows 7 Home Premium login screen.

In our Blender 3D rendering test, the system completed our four-thread workload in 60sec, while in the iTunes MP3 encoding test, it recorded 1min 10sec. These results are exactly the same as the HP Envy 14 Spectre, but a dash slower than the HP Folio 13 and Toshiba Satellite Z830 Ultrabooks, which all use the same CPU. Its graphics performance of 4286 in 3Dmark06, is a better showing than most Ultrabooks put up. In our file transfer tests, the hard drive averaged 55.78 megabytes per second (MBps), which is also a good showing, while in CrystalDiskMark it recorded a read rate of 74.89MBps and a write rate of 73.49MBps.

Heavy processing tasks such as video transcoding can be undertaken on this notebook, although it's not really designed for them; in our AutoGordianKnot test, in which we convert a DVD file to a 1.5GB Xvid file, the U840 took 1hr 10min to finish, which isn't too bad. A high-end notebook can do it about 15-20min quicker.

Battery life

The battery in the Satellite U840 has six cells and it lasted 4hr 4min in our rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi (an Atheros AR9485WB-EG 802.11n adapter), maximise screen brightness and loop an Xvid-encoded video. It's a time that is not as good as the Spectre, for example, and we were left wishing that it was longer. You can play with Toshiba's Eco utility to get more out of the battery, as well as gauge power usage.


The Satellite U840 is a good Ultrabook that should suit most portable computing needs. It feels reasonably light and well built for the most part, although there are some aspects of it that could use refining, such as stronger hinges, a better screen and more responsive keys, not to mention a Gigabit Ethernet controller instead of a slower 10/100 controller. We like its configuration (except for the lack of Gigabit) and performance, but wish it didn't have so much pre-installed software and, consequently, unexpected pop-ups when performing tasks such as plugging in a USB drive (looking at you, Clickfree). It's a notebook for Web browsing, office productivity and multimedia tasks, that would suit home users and students, and even small business users.

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I have just owned this laptop for less than one month, after taking into the recommendation by an OfficeDepot staff. It has been working OK (vs. my 4 year old ACER laptop). Keys are hard for me a woman who can type very fast on the other laptop :-(
Then my IE session was constantly frozen while the humming noise came underneath the keyboard. As soon as I ended the IE from Task Manager, the humming noise disappeared. No one at Toshiba technical support can explain what caused this problem...They told me to do a "recovery" to factory default which means all other software I purchased and installed will have to be reinstalled...and they did not even know if the problem can be fixed.

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Nice screen and sound
Keyboard, memmory, battery,etc
• • •

I bought this laptop a year ago and I am using it for at least 8h every day. As I noted, it has nice screen and sound. It is also very light and slim.

However, it's only one year and I already have several problems.

1. It is very slow. The specs do not correspond to the real performance of the laptop. It is slow and it has very low memory.
2. The Ethernet and a usb port were not operational from the beginning. I had to change them
3. the keyboard is awful. It is very hard to use and after the first 10 months the keys started to peel off. The most amusing is that Toshiba service claims that keyboard replacement is not covered by the warranty, even if i never spilled any liquids on it and I never misused it.
3. There is no indication when you change the sound from the keyboard. Therefore you can not see the level of the sound at a given point. I know that it is not a big deal but it is frustrating.

Concluding, I am extremely disappointed by this laptop and generally by Toshiba. At least in Greece the service of Toshiba is no helpful at all and they is extremely slow. I am convinced that I will never purchase a Toshiba laptop.




Horrible Lapptop, but it looks ok on the table
Slow , noicy , bad screen and horrible keyboard
• • •

This is the absolute worst lapptopp i have ever used! Its slow ,even with a klean windows installed.
It gets terrible warm, no mather what you use it for. The fan makes alot of noice.

You can't use this lapptopp in your lap, because it gets so hot in just minutes.

The screen is horrible bad ! Inside the house , if its sunny outside i have problem seeing what's on the screen. I have used it to photoshop pictures, but when i see the resut in another screen they all looks horrible. Something is seriously wrong with color/light in this screen.

I will try to change te hybrid disk to a SSD from Intel. If its bether i will give it to my kids and buy me a new. Otherwise it's garbage.

I'm so dissapointed by Toshiba after bying this. My father also have the same problems with his Toshiba, and that is also another modell that is more expensive. I have tried to contakct Toshiba to try to find a soluting and get help so i can get it faster but they don't even reply :-(




Light weight, professional appearance
too noisy fan
• • •

I am using this laptop, 8h a day for six months now. In general it was a good value for money purchase. Of course the battery is not lasting as much as Toshiba claims, but I can use it easily with Wi-Fi on for 4-5 h with quite high brightmess (5 out of 8) . The problem is that it has low memory and the fan is unbelievable noisy. I am considering on turning to the support to see if I can change the fan or something. Otherwise I am satisfied for the money that I paid.

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