Toshiba U920t: Design
At first, the Toshiba U920t looks like a regular tablet, albeit a large one at nearly 1.5kg in weight and 22mm in size. You can use Windows 8 via the 12.5in touchscreen, just like you would with the Microsoft Surface RT, another Windows 8 tablet.
When you need more than the touchscreen, the Toshiba U920t transforms into a laptop thanks to its clever mechanism. The screen slides away from you on runners revealing a keyboard and trackpad. Once it reaches a hinge you can angle the screen upwards in typical laptop-style. It works in a similar way to Sony's Vaio Duo 11 but has the advantage of being able to adjust the angle of the screen. See also: What is an Ultrabook?
Unlike Sony's offering, the Toshiba U920t keyboard has a wrist rest and the backlit keys are larger. There's not much travel on the keys and small wrist rests mean that you have to uncomfortably put your wrists half on and half off to be a suitable typing position.
Since the sliding mechanism doesn't take up much space (it's mostly built into the back of the screen), there's also room for a multi-touch trackpad. It's not as big a one you would find on a normal laptop, in fact it's pretty small at 85x43mm, but it does the job and you have the option of plugging in a USB mouse.
If you're going to buy a hybrid device like the Toshiba U920t, you'll need to accept that it's not going to be the best tablet or the best laptop. When it's the former, it's big and unwieldy, and when it's the latter, things are cramped and a little awkward. It's the price you pay for having two devices in one.
Toshiba U920t: Build quality
We're not convinced by the quality of the Toshiba U920t's build. The device is distinctly plastic and feels very much on the cheap side. Not ideal for a piece of kit which will set you back nearly £1,000.
For example, pushing the physical Windows key below the touchscreen, even with a light touch, flexes the frame very easily. The entire device is just too flexible. Since the mechanism for converting the Toshiba U920t between a tablet and a laptop is mechanical, it increases the chance of something going wrong. It's been fine for us but we're not sure what kind of state it might be in months down the line after hundreds of uses.
Toshiba U920t: Hardware
Toshiba's U920t is a bit cheaper than Sony's rival at £899 which gets you a Core i3-3217U 1.8GHz dual-core processor (the least powerful Ivy Bridge chip of them all), 4GB of DDR3 1600MHz RAM and a 128GB SSD. There will also be a higher specification model with Windows 8 Pro.
In our PCMark 7 benchmark test, the Toshiba U920t scored a middle of the road 3918 points. From a user perspective we found the system to be confident and snappy. Gesturing around Windows 8 was smooth and apps opened quickly.
Those wanting to do any serious gaming will want to look elsewhere. The Toshiba U920t doesn't have a dedicated graphics card so uses the Intel HD Graphics 4000 on the Core i3. We recorded less than ideal frame rates of 21fps and 17fps in Hard Reset and Sniper Elite V2 respectively.
The 12.5in screen has a decent resolution of 1366 x 768 for its size and great viewing angles because it's an in-plane switching (IPS) panel. We found the touchscreen suitably responsive to the touch.
Physical ports are few and far between with HDMI, two USB 3.0 ports, an SD card reader and a headphone jack. In addition there are front and rear facing cameras.
The front facing camera provides up to a 1Mp picture (16:10) for still images and up to 800p (16:10) for video calling like Skype which looks decent. The rear facing camera offers up to 3.1Mp (4:3) for still images and up to 1536p (4:3) for video. The thing about the rear camera is that, since it's behind the screen, it can't be used when the U920t is in its closed position.
Toshiba U920t: Software
As we've mentioned, the U920t comes pre-loaded with Microsoft's Windows 8 operating system. It's the full desktop version rather than the cut down tablet version called Windows RT. This means you get full use of the desktop as well as the tiled Modern UI. Importantly, you can install x86 software which you would normally use on a Windows PC or laptop.
Toshiba pre-installs its usual array of software on the desktop side but goes one step further and pre-empts some apps that you'll want to use in the Modern UI. Apps like Netflix, eBay, Evernote, Skitch and more are pre-installed even if you have no subscription or interest in these services.
The fact you can install regular Windows programs means the U920t has one up Microsoft's Surface. However, our issue with the Modern UI element is the distinct lack of decent big name apps in the Store.
Toshiba U920t: Battery life
The U920t is designed to be portable; after all it’s a tablet and laptop in one. Devices like these like need good battery life to be useful so it's a surprise that Toshiba quotes a maximum of four hours in MobileMark 2012.
We haven't been able to run our battery tests but our colleagues at PC World Australia recorded a result of three hours and 42 minutes while playing a video on loop and full brightness. Their U920t has a Core i5 as opposed to our Core i3.
They said that during general use, the U920t lasted just over five hours, a result better than other hybrid Ultrabook they've seen.