There are many ultrabooks flying around at the moment, with each company offering slight tweaks on the design to try and differentiate itself from the pack.
Toshiba has gone a little further and has made the Satellite U840W much wider than normal in order to house a screen with a 21:9 aspect ratio, which it reckons makes it better for playing back movies.
Is that worth the relatively high starting price of £899 though? It's due to go on sale sometime next month.
I went hands on with the laptop at a recent Toshiba event, but stay tuned for a full review soon.
Probably the most distinctive feature of the U840W is the screen. It's 14.4-inches on the diagonal but crucially it offers a 21:9 aspect ratio. This results in it looking oddly stretched as it's considerably wider than it is tall.
It might look as though Toshiba has simply resized a normal ultrabook without keeping it in proportion but it's no accident. The wider screen size makes it the same ratio as cinema screens, which means that your movies will be able to be shown off in full screen without any pesky black bars.
It's certainly an interesting move by Toshiba but I'm not entirely sure it's necessary. Ultrabooks are designed primarily with portability in mind, and if you're travelling around a lot, you probably won't be chilling out with a movie. If you care enough about your films to buy dedicated kit like this for it, you'll probably prefer to watch them at their best on your own TV and home theatre setup back home.
However, there's no doubt a die-hard group of movie addicts out there who'd like nothing more than to watch 21:9 CinemaScope films on a train.
It packs a resolution of 1,792x768 pixels which is a little disappointing. Given that this machine is designed with movies in mind, it's a shame that it hasn't been given a full HD resolution to play back Blu-ray discs and other HD content. It's not a long way off though (on the horizontal axis at least) so it's likely that you'll still have a good experience from it.
The display seemed both bright and vivid, although I was only able to have a brief eyes-on in a dark underground bar where even the dimmest of displays will shine brightly, so I'll leave my final verdict on the screen for the full review.
Given that it's housing a 21:9 aspect ratio screen, it'll come as no surprise that the body is equally as long. It's 369mm wide which is particularly big for an ultrabook -- the Asus Zenbook UX31 is only 325mm -- and is 20mm deep which is more than I'd expect.
The awkward size might mean it's difficult to fit into a bag as most carry cases -- like the variety of neoprene sleeves on the market -- are designed to fit regular-sized laptops so you might need to find a bag that can house a 15-inch or bigger laptop in order to squeeze it in. It's only 20mm thick though so you could still probably slide it into one of your bigger messenger-style bags and trot off on your travels.
Around the edges you'll find a generous three USB 3.0 ports, an Ethernet port, HDMI out, a 3.5mm headphone jack and an SD card reader. You'll also spy two large grilles either side of the keyboard, housing speakers provided by Harman Kardon that promise a full sound for your flicks. Whether they actually do or not remains to be seen in the full review.
The U840W might look a bit stretched, but it's generally not a bad looking machine. The lid has a two-tone design combining a grey brushed metal with a black rubberised strip that's apparently designed to make it grippier to hold. I'm not sure that's exactly necessary, but it at least adds an extra element to the look that saves it from looking plain.
Under the lid you'll find more of that silver-grey colour around the keyboard and on the speaker grilles, with black plastic -- sadly not the same rubberised variety on the top -- sitting along the wrist rest. The keyboard uses square isolated keys that seemed adequately comfortable to type on.
In general, it's not a bad looking machine once you get past the initial weirdness of its dimensions and it seems pretty well built so it could probably take a few knocks -- something that I'll certainly be giving it in the full review.
Toshiba wasn't forthcoming on exactly what specs will be offered on the U840W so it's difficult to assess how it's likely to perform without subjecting it to my brutal barrage of benchmarks.
It will be using the latest generation of Intel processors, codenamed Ivy Bridge, which promise to deliver a much better built-in graphics performance than the previous generation. That's good news here as a graphics boost will help in playing back all those movies you're going to be watching on it.
Hopefully it'll be offered in a variety of configurations including the top end Intel Core i7 processors along with around 8GB of RAM to really chrew through media applications and photo editing. Of course, that's probably going to cost you quite a bit so let's also hope it offers it with some more subdued specs for a more affordable price.
The Toshiba Satellite U840W is certainly a bizarre looking ultrabook but the wide aspect ratio does hope to make your movies particularly watchable. If you're not a movie buff though then this probably won't be the machine for you.