Toshiba

Toshiba Satellite U940, from $799.

As students head back to school, it's time to look for a notebook that won't break your back or your budget.

Both of these Windows 8 notebooks tip the scales at about 1.8 kilograms and sport 35-centimetre, 1366 x 768 widescreen displays, offering good portability and usability.

For $799, both notebooks offer an Intel Core i3 processor with 4GB of RAM, which might suffice for basic day-to-day tasks but will frustrate those who push their computers a little harder. Dell's alternative is to step up to the $1199 model with a more powerful Core i7 processor, 8GB of RAM and AMD graphics, rather than Intel's built-in graphics chip. This could be overkill for students. It also relies on a small but fast 128GB solid-state hard drive, which might not be enough storage for some people.

Dell Inspiron 14z, from $799.

Dell Inspiron 14z, from $799.

Meanwhile, Toshiba's $999 Core i5 model sports 4GB of RAM and NVIDIA graphics. You'll also find a 500GB hard drive accompanied by 32GB of solid-state storage, offering the best of both worlds. Alternatively, there's a $999 Core i7 model that relies on Intel's built-in graphics.

Before you write off the Dell, it's worth noting that - depending on Dell's current special offers - it might come with Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 pre-installed along with McAfee security. Toshiba only pre-installs a trial version of Norton security along with Microsoft Office Starter, which has limited versions of Word and Excel. Upgrading to a full version of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2010 will cost you a minimum of $100, plus at least another $50 for a Norton subscription.

The verdict

A Core i5 Toshiba Satellite U940 offers the best value for money, unless Dell throws in a full version of Office and McAfee with its Core i7 model. Even then, keep in mind the Core i7 Dell is limited to 128GB of built-in storage.

Toshiba Satellite U940
from $799
mytoshiba.com.au

Dell Inspiron 14z
from $799
dell.com.au