Windows 8 Budget Laptops: Lenovo vs. Toshiba

by Reads (43,817)

In this comparison we look at two 14-inch consumer notebooks that come with Windows 8 and have a starting price under $600; they look identical on paper but what are the real differences? We investigate.

Here are the specifications of the notebooks in our comparison:

 

Lenovo Z480

Toshiba Satellite L840

Price

$599.00

$579.99

Screen

14″ glossy (1366×768 resolution)

14″ glossy (1366×768 resolution)

Operating System

Windows 8

Windows 8

Processor

Intel Core i5-3210M dual-core

Intel Core i3-2328M dual-core

RAM

6GB

8GB

Storage

500GB 5400RPM hard drive

640GB 5400RPM hard drive

Graphics Card

Integrated Intel

Integrated Intel

Battery

6-cell li-ion

6-cell li-ion

Optical Drive

Internal DVD burner

Internal DVD burner

Webcam

Yes

Yes

Bluetooth

Yes

Yes

Weight

5.07 lbs.

4.6 lbs.

Thickness

1.3 inches

1.1~1.3 inches

Ports

2x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0, VGA, HDMI out, media card reader, Ethernet

2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0, VGA, HDMI out, media card reader, Ethernet

Warranty

1-year limited

1-year limited

Items highlighted indicate which notebook has the advantage. The notebooks are configured as closely as possible for comparison purposes.

Choosing between these two notebooks on paper would be about as simple as flipping a coin. The notebooks are neck-and-neck except for the processor, RAM and storage drive. The Lenovo IdeaPad Z480′s Core i5 processor can vary its speed unlike the Toshiba Satellite L840′s Core i3 though for everyday usage there will be no perceptible difference between the two. The same goes for the RAM — 6GB vs. 8GB doesn’t really matter. The storage drive is a slightly different story; the 140GB of extra space in the L840 is worth something but in the end isn’t a deal breaker considering that the storage drive can be easily replaced without voiding the warranty. It’s also hard to imagine 640GB of space would be enough if you’re concerned 500GB is too little storage.

Build and Design

Lenovo managed to produce a budget notebook that didn’t scream “PLASTIC” unlike Toshiba. While both notebooks are ultimately constructed of plastic, the IdeaPad Z480 is covered in classy decorative aluminum trim (the metallic gray model, that is; other versions of the Z480 are all plastic). It feels cool to the touch and adds to the overall feeling of quality.

The biggest problem I have with the Satellite L840 isn’t the fact that it’s made of plastic but that it’s glossy plastic, the kind that looks great on a store shelf but immediately suffers from fingerprints, dust and scratches as soon as you get it home (and here I was thinking the glossy plastic notebook fad ended in 2009).

Things I like about both notebooks are the recessed keyboards and rounded edges to the chassis. Overall the nod goes to the IdeaPad Z480 — it just looks and feels so much better.

Keyboard and Touchpad

Lenovo and Toshiba employ “Chiclet” or island-style keyboards on most of their notebooks. Toshiba’s implementation isn’t bad but has a plasticky feel like the rest of the Satellite L840. It’s not a bad feeling keyboard by any means but would benefit from having keys that aren’t so easy to press down. The IdeaPad Z480 has a noticeably better feel than the Toshiba; pressing the keys feels sure and accurate. The tactile feedback is simply better.

The touchpad battle actually goes to the Satellite L840. It has a traditional touchpad with two physical buttons; the IdeaPad Z480 has a button-less “clickpad” which has occasional accuracy issues. Additional things I like about the Toshiba’s touchpad include the obvious physical border (obvious to your fingers that is) and the textured surface.

Performance

I won’t be awarding many points in this section simply because both notebooks are more than powerful enough for everyday usage; i.e. there is no difference between them. The Lenovo Z480 will win if you compare these notebooks with synthetic benchmark tests thanks to its faster Intel Core i5-3210m processor. The storage drive is the slowest component in both cases; a 5400RPM hard drive is as slow as it gets. Fortunately the storage drive can be replaced easily without voiding the warranty.

Battery Life

The IdeaPad Z480 and Satellite L840 both include 6-cell li-ion batteries but it’s the capacity that matters. The Satellite L840 is the real deal and includes a 65Wh battery, nearly 1/3 more powerful than the IdeaPad Z480′s 48Wh. This more or less means the Satellite L840 will have that much more battery life considering the notebooks are similarly equipped. Expect about five hours from the IdeaPad Z480 and over six from the Satellite L840.


Conclusion

This comparison started off with the notebooks more or less identical on paper but after exploring additional areas the title goes to the Lenovo IdeaPad Z480. It has a noticeably better quality chassis and superior keyboard. It also has better performance but that’s kind of a moot point considering both notebooks have more than enough power for everyday usage. The Toshiba Satellite L840 brings a lot to the table; it beats the IdeaPad Z480 in battery life (almost an hour and a half longer) and has a slightly more accurate touchpad implementation. That isn’t enough to make us overlook its glossy plastic exterior and average overall quality though. Unless that extra battery life is vitally important we recommend the Lenovo IdeaPad Z480 over the Toshiba Satellite L840.

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