A stroke of genius: hands-on with Toshiba’s first 21:9 PC

More than just “another widescreen panel”, Toshiba has this week unveiled a new laptop sporting a world first 21:9 laptop screen, making it possible to show a widescreen film without the black bars we’re so used to seeing.

The widescreen display using this ultra-wide 21:9 aspect ratio has only had limited appearances, making its way out in one mobile phone from LG and a very select amount of TVs, including the Philips Cinema 21:9.

In fact, the 14.4 inch true widescreen on the Toshiba Satellite U840W Ultrabook goes beyond the duty of just managing to show movies without the black bars, as it can also potentially show more applications on screen at the same time, effectively offering the widest field of view for a machine with a 14 inch size.

“Designed for play as well as work, the Toshiba U840W Ultrabook introduces a new technology category that could change the way people use their notebook,” said Toshiba Australia’s Product Marketing Manager, Justin White. “Taking full advantage of the 14.4 inch widescreen, you can view multiple windows side by side such as social networking while watching a movie or checking emails at the same time as working on a presentation.”

We had a quick play with Toshiba’s new laptop and found it to be very impressive, especially for a first attempt at a new concept.

When you first see the screen, you’re literally unprepared for how wide it is, managing to pack in what looks like a massive amount of width into the 14.4 inch form factor. Stunningly, Toshiba has also managed to make the rest of the form appear thinner, as the laptop is stretched horizontally and lacks much of the depth that laptop bases typically feature.

While we haven’t yet confirmed what type of display technology is being used here, the 1792×768 resolution is huge, allowing you to easily put two applications side by side. Toshiba will also be adding its own driver technology to Windows to make this happen more quickly and without fiddling with window placements, similar to hitting the maximise button in your windows.

In essence, it’s very much like having two monitors on a laptop, extending the typical 1366×768 resolution screen most 13 and 14 inch laptops are shipped with, pushing both the productivity and multimedia purposes for the laptop.

Typical scenarios for this sort of screen include watching a movie and tweeting, or working on a document and keeping a web browser open window.

Outside of the screen, Toshiba’s U840W is crafted out of aluminium with a rubber grip, and as a result of these two materials, sports a two tone colour combination that blends dark brown rubber with a metallic bronze.

Inside, you’ll find a third-generation Intel Core i5 processor sporting that nice and new Ivy Bridge technology, 6GB RAM, three USB 3.0 ports, Windows 7 Home 64-bit, 1.7 kilogram weight, and a 500GB conventional hard disk with some solid state storage running in hybrid mode.

The 500GB mechanical hard drive is, basically, the weaker part of the package, throwing in a slightly heavier and more power draining hard drive, but resulting in a better price point with lots more storage than what we’d get with an SSD.

Even with conventional hard drive technology on-board, we’re expecting the battery life to last at least four to six hours, though we didn’t have anywhere near this sort of time to test.

Toshiba’s Satellite U840W is expected to hit retail in mid-June for $1,499, but this 14 inch CinemaScope machine isn’t the last one Toshiba plans to produce, with more possibilities for this technology hinted at in the near future.