Ride the Slide to Windows 8
Is the Slider Worth It?
The 1.45kg, 19.9mm thick 12.5-inch Toshiba Satellite U920t is a pretty decent convertible Ultrabook. It is based off a standard compute platform that you've come to expect from purebred Ultrabooks (Intel Core i5-3317U processor, 4GB RAM and 128GB SSD). When compared against other premium Ultrabooks, the Satellite U920t's performance didn't stand out, but it didn't exactly disappoint either.
One area which we found that the U920t could do better is battery life. To keep the weight of the machine manageable for these new class of convertible notebooks, Toshiba equipped the U920t with a rather small battery capacity. Thanks to its lean power consumption, it managed a decent battery up-time. However, compared to true Ultrabook machines which are equipped with larger battery packs, the Satellite u920t is some ways behind. It's not alone as the Sony Vaio Duo 11 is also in the same boat. Clearly, these machines are designed with a different usage pattern in mind, so you would have to be bear this in mind when forking out the dough for these convertible Ultrabooks.
But of course, the biggest selling point of a convertible Ultrabook isn't its performance (since the processing prowess is more or less the same), but it's the fact that you can also use it as a tablet. And like typical tablets out in the market right now, it comes equipped with sensors like an Ambient Light Sensor (ALS), Accelerometer, Magnetometer and Gyroscope. While it’s not slimmest tablet you can find in the market, it does its primary job very well, which is to allow you to fully experience Windows 8 with all input options (keyboard, trackpad and touchscreen).
Due to the convertible notebook design where its screen is permanently attached to its keyboard (and that it's larger than the usual 10-inch tablet), the overall weight of the machine will wear you down when you’re using it as a tablet. As such, you can forget about using the tablet one-handed. In fact, when when we tried using the U920t that way, we could only do so very briefly (less than a minute), before cradling it in both hands. The way we see it, the only comfortable way you could use the Toshiba U920t in tablet mode is when it’s resting on the table, or on your lap.
Using it as a notebook though, was a surprisingly good experience. Even though its trackpad is quite small, the fact that you can poke and slide your finger around on the screen more than makes up for it. Rather than sliding the trackpad around, all you have to do is interact with the screen, which is just a few more centimeters away. Given how the screen rests pretty much next to where the keyboard begins, reaching out to the screen is much closer and easier than a standard notebook with a touch-enabled screen (like the Samsung Series 5 Ultra Touch). You might think we're quite lazy, but it's all these small details that make or break touch UI usability.
Apart from usability matters, the overall build of the notebook has pros and cons. As a whole, it has a pretty good construction (albeit mostly plastic), save for its keyboard that exhibited quite a bit of flex. The ability to prop the screen to a preferred angle is a plus point for flexibility, but it comes at a price where the overall sliding motion to convert from one state to another is nowhere as smooth as the Sony Vaio Duo 11. Further to that, the screen does exhibit stress when the stabilizer behind it comes in contact with the rear of the display, thus causing distortion momentarily. At this point of time, we cannot tell if this will lead to any undesirable long term effects as only time will tell.
With an asking price of S$2099 for the Toshiba Satellite U920t, it's quite a steep price point and you don't even get a full HD screen, nor do you get a premium feel of the product. For the most part, you're indeed paying a quantum sum to be an early adopter to enjoy a convergence device like the U920t and the extra engineering that goes behind the scenes over a regular touch-based Ultrabook. The other biting point is that it goes up against strong competitors which offer better features or build for a similar price points (depending on what you focus upon).