If nothing else, Toshiba seems determined to not be lumped in with the MacBook clones and iPad ripoffs. Its new Satellite U840W falls in line with its other recent holy crap why does it look like that gear. Which is a good thing! To a point.
The first thing you notice about the U840W, aside from a name that sounds like a grade of diesel fuel, is the 14.4-inch (1792 x 768 resolution) 21x9 aspect ratio screen, which is ostensibly to accommodate films shot and distributed in 2.35:1. But that doesn't really wash. While there's some movement in that direction for, a total move to 21x9 isn't going to happen because it would be a totally extraneous upgrade to an already totally functional standard. Your TV and your dad's TV and your office's TVs are all 16x9. 21x9 is just difference for difference's sake.
It does have its uses, though. The height of the screen is pretty close to that of an 11-inch ultrabook, which is totally workable, so the added horizontal workspace is just extra room for extra apps, like a chat client or a music player. Using it that way actually feels pretty natural; there's enough space to view a website at full width while still accessing an app on the side. Toshiba even has some shockingly useful homebrewed software, which works like snapping windows in Windows 7, but for thirds and sixths of the screen.
Beyond the novelty of the ultra-wideness, though, the U840W is pretty average. The keyboard is decent—hot awful, but nothing special—and the trackpad is a big improvement over the Portege, but still only middle-of-the-road. It's 0.82 inches thick, which is under "ultrabook" spec, but hefty enough to make you wonder why Intel's designation extends so far. It comes with Ivy Bridge core processors, can be configured to 8GB of RAM, has three USB 3.0 ports, and Harman/Kardon speakers.
The U840W will be available in the third quarter of 2012, starting at £599.