Now playing: Watch this: Toshiba Satellite U945, the budget ultrabook

Just a few short months ago, Toshiba announced the Satellite U845 and U845W, a pair of ultrabooks sharing a similar-sounding name and specs but very different looks: the Satellite U845 is a standard, somewhat generic 14-inch budget ultrabook, whereas the Satellite U845W is an aggressive ultra-wide-screen 14-incher with a premium look and feel, albeit with an unusual 21:9 1,792x768-pixel display that's probably not for everyone.

Scott Stein/CNET

The Satellite U845W will be making a return engagement for the Windows 8 launch, keeping the same design and specs but with Windows 8 preinstalled. Incidentally, that extra-wide screen seems a little more practical in a Windows 8 tile-based layout, based on a few moments I spent with it during a meeting with Toshiba.

The U845, meanwhile, is being replaced by the Satellite U945, a plastic-bodied design retweak that Toshiba claims will be even more affordable than its predecessor. If that results in a $700 ultrabook, I'm all for it.

The U945 has clean lines when closed. Scott Stein/CNET

The Satellite U945 isn't much of a surprise; it's really just another 14-inch non-touch-screen ultrabook sans optical drive, with either a third-gen Core i3 or i5 ULV processor, large multitouch clickpad, 500GB hybrid hard drive with 32GB SSD cache, and an optional backlit keyboard. A pair of USB 3.0 ports plus an extra USB 2 along with HDMI are included.

Scott Stein/CNET

Maybe the biggest surprise during my initial hands-on impressions of the U945 is that the plastic design seems like an improvement over the plain aluminum look of the U845. The textured "Fusion Finish" plastic feels comfortable, doesn't seem to collect fingerprints, and has a nice grip. The system is flatter and more angular, weighing "under 4 pounds" according to Toshiba (I didn't have a scale), and measuring 0.78 inch (the current U845 is a little thicker at 0.8 inch).

The Satellite U945 is set to debut October 26 in time for the launch of Windows 8, along with a great many other laptops, tablets, and assorted hybrid oddities. It could be odd timing for an even more affordable ultrabook: this would have been the perfect back-to-school product a few months ago. Oh, wait...that was supposed to be the U845.