The Toshiba Satellite U845W-S410: A Mini-Review

The Toshiba Satellite U845W-S410 sticks out
like a sore thumb from all other laptops (let alone ultrabooks) because of one
outstanding feature: Its LCD display is in a 21:9 aspect ratio (or 2.39:1 for
you cinephiles out there). What does that mean? Well, we’ll get to that laptop part in a bit, but for
now, here is the requisite specs report of the rest of the laptop components.

This Toshiba Satellite comes with a 1.7 GHz
Intel Core i5 processor, 6 GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500 GB hybrid solid state drive,
and an Intel HD 4000 integrated graphics chip. It has 3 USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI
port, Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities, a couple of Harman Kardon stereo
speakers, and yes, a 14.4 inch screen at 1792 x 768 pixels. This being an
ultrabook, there is no dedicated GPU or an optical drive. There aren’t any
upgradable Toshiba laptop
replacement parts
available. The selling price is at $999.

The aforementioned Harman Kardon speakers
are actually quite nice, sounding very near in quality to the premium speakers
in higher end Toshiba Satellites. The bass tends to get distorted at higher
volumes, but that’s more or less par for the course with laptop speakers. For
what they are, they’re pretty much near the top of the pack.

 

But let’s talk about the screen, since it’s
pretty much this ultrabook’s selling point. As stated, it’s wide enough to
accommodate an aspect ratio of 2.39:1. This is otherwise known as Cinemascope
in movie parlance; or in laymen’s terms, the widescreen-of-choice for
blockbuster movies. With this Satellite’s integration of such a screen, it
seems to be announcing that it’s made primarily with movie-watching in mind.
But how well does that work out for it, exactly?

First things first: If it’s a
film-viewing-designed laptop, why hasn’t Toshiba seen fit to include a Blu-ray
optical drive? A good question indeed, and one which may boggle the mind at
first; but when explained, will actually make sense.

Movies encoded onto Blu-rays are
non-anamorphic, meaning that they don’t stretch to fill a whole screen with
images, but that’s because they don’t really need to. To understand this, let’s
dial it back for a bit, back to when televisions at home were still in the
almost-square, 4:3 aspect ratio.

                          

When DVDs began emerging as a viable
mass-market product, not a few people became somewhat adept at the aesthetical
appreciation of movies. This appreciation included a clamouring for movies to
be seen at home in their native aspect ratios. That is, if a movie was shot in
widescreen, then it should be seen at home in widescreen as well.

Problem was, TVs back then were in 4:3. To
solve this, home video manufacturers began releasing widescreen movies with
black bars at the top and bottom to retain the widescreen aspect.

This was working for a while there, but
then widescreen HDTVs suddenly began appearing in homes. Because widescreen
home videos were non-anamorphic (not stretchable) and simply had horizontal
black bars, this made them appear rather small on widescreen TVs, with black bars
not just horizontally but also at the sides of the image. To solve this, home
video manufacturers then began making widescreen movies anamorphic.

However, this only applied to 16:9
widescreen movies, since HDTVs were also at 16:9. For 21:9 films, horizontal
black bars were still a necessity; the same reasoning as when all widescreen
films were made to fit on 4:3 TV screens.

What I’m trying to say here is that, even
though this Satellite model has a 21:9 screen seemingly fit for 21:9 movies,
Blu-rays encode these films non-anamorphically. Therefore, 21:9 films will
still retain the horizontal bars, along with vertical bars, in the same way
that non-anamorphic 16:9 films were on 16:9 HDTVs. This in turn means that
Blu-ray playback is not exactly ideal for this laptop, eliminating the need for
a Blu-ray drive.

I do hope you got all that.

That said, it shouldn’t be too long before
21:9 screens become the new standard, just as 16:9 is now. Also, some 21:9
movies and trailers made available on the net have the horizontal bars removed.
If you happen to find one, view it on the Toshiba Satellite U845W-S410 to get a
taste of what the future might bring.

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