Compaq Presario CQ57-366SA

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 Compaq Presario CQ57-366SA

The Compaq Presario CQ57-366SA won’t win any awards for its looks, but does offer the things we look for in a budget machine. It’s solid with a decent screen and great speakers, and the sort of internal specifications we’d expect at this price.

However, even though this is a budget machine, we’d still appreciate something a little nicer to look at.

The Compaq is a solid black brick seemingly devoid of colours, shades or textures. It’s boring and uninspired but, as mentioned above, solidly built – with only a small amount of flex detectable around the chassis.

We were also pleased to discover that it’s not as heavy as it looks, but it isn’t the lightest at 2.5kg.

Leaving the aesthetics behind, usability is perfectly acceptable. The keyboard has wide buttons and a good depth of travel but, despite the amount of space on the chassis, feels cramped. There’s no numeric keypad or quick-access hotkeys to be found, but, like most laptops, you can alter volume and media playback by holding down the Function key and using the F-keys.

While the touchpad is responsive, it’s also the exact same shade of black as the rest of the chassis and therefore wonderfully camouflaged.

Where the Compaq picks up again is with the screen. It’s got a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, meaning you can enjoy 720p HD videos – although the full 1080p experience is out of reach. We found that although the screen was very bright, it wasn’t as sharp as we’ve seen elsewhere. The Super-TFT coating helps, but ultimately we’d pick this for working on documents rather than watching Avatar.

Having said that, the Altec Lansing speakers are very good indeed – so we’d definitely be listening to music while we worked.

£350 won’t buy you the greatest components on the market, but the basic user will find everything they require here. The first-generation Intel Core i3 processor is backed up by a capable 4GB of RAM and a standard integrated graphics chip that will handle video streaming from iPlayer or YouTube but stops short of advanced editing suites.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 184 minutes
Cinebench: 7839
3DMark 2006: 1464

There’s a DVD rewriter and a standard 320GB hard drive for storing programs and media.

Compaq

Better battery

Pleasantly surprising was the 184-minute battery life the Presario posted on our benchmarking tests. It’s good to see budget laptops lasting more than three hours and, with careful usage, we reckon you could squeeze even more out.

The only noticeable omission in terms of connectivity is the lack of an HDMI port for connecting to a high-definition external monitor or TV. You’ll have to make do with the standard VGA Out connection or buy an adapter for one of the three USB ports.

There’s an SD Card expansion slot and an Ethernet port in case you don’t want to use the 802.11n Wi-Fi connection to access the internet.

The Compaq Presario CQ57- 366SA is a perfectly acceptable budget laptop, with special mention going to the battery life and speaker system. It doesn’t look, or perform, like a standout laptop and there are alternatives – such as the Acer Aspire 5742 – but if you’re searching for a basic machine for the next year or two this is a good pick.

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Toshiba Qosmio F750

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 Toshiba Qosmio F750

Toshiba’s all-conquering Qosmio range was the first to bring us glasses-free 3D, and we were so impressed with the X770 that we awarded it 4.5 stars. The Qosmio F750 continues the tradition, albeit with a couple of drawbacks.

The sub-standard keyboard and paltry battery life might put some off, but anyone looking for a movie powerhouse won’t fail to be impressed.

The bright red outer design is eye-catching and complemented by the glossy all-black look under the lid. White LEDs around the touchpad, power button and hotkeys also add a bit of visual flair.

Unsurprisingly though, it’s neither light nor svelte. Measuring in at 386 x 265 x 39mm with a weight of 3.2kg the Qosmio is more of a desk-based PC replacement than a portable gaming machine.

Once you fire up the laptop though, the lack of portability gets lost in a storm of power provided by the Intel Core i7-2630QM CPU and Nvidia GeForce GT540M dedicated graphics chip.

Interacting with the Qosmio is made all the better by the fantastic screen Toshiba has incorporated. Capable of full 1080p high-definition visuals, the screen is bright, crisp and coated with the reflective Super-TFT coating that adds a degree of richness to the colours in pictures and movies.

The standout feature is, of course, the glasses-free 3D effect. By using the webcam to track your eyes, you can move your heads freely while retaining the 3D image unlike, for example, Nintendo’s 3DS game system which requires you to keep your head in one position for the 3D effect.

While 3D will appeal to some, others might not be converted yet – and to be fair, the effect isn’t as impressive when compared with the standard Active Shutter 3D system. But considering the price of the glasses, and the prospect of losing them, we’re more than happy with this alternative.

TechRadar Labs

TechRadar labs

Battery Eater ’05: 76 minutes
Cinebench: 16875
3DMark 2006: 8173

Average usability

While the screen and sheer power is fantastic, some of the usability suffers. The keyboard is a standard, flat affair and although the keys are nicely sized, there’s some definite flex around the centre and we doubt it could cut it as a serious gaming keyboard.

Things are better when it comes to the touchpad; it’s responsive and has a non-glossy surface that is comfortable to use. The only drawback is it’s a little on the small side. For serious gaming, you’re going to want to invest in a USB mouse.

Where the Qosmio really falls down is on battery life. Given the specifications we didn’t expect much in terms of longevity but the Qosmio F750 gave out after only 74 minutes. It’s a problem, but not a deal-breaker. The F750 isn’t trying to be an ultraportable and to buy it thinking so is a mistake. In fact, its big brother the Qosmio X770-107 couldn’t even manage an hour and gave out after 44 minutes.

We can’t help but like the Qosmio a lot and its decisive pros and cons list should make it an easy decision. If you want hardcore visuals and processing power, we’d recommend it – although we’d advise you to also invest in a decent USB mouse and keyboard.

If you’re less fussed about power over battery, and don’t like 3D, then save your £1,300 for a different machine.

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Packard Bell EasyNote TS11

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 Packard Bell EasyNote TS11

ThePackard Bell EasyNote range might not be as front-and-centre as Dell’s Inspiron or HP’s Pavilion brands, but nevertheless has established itself in our minds as a home for mid-level laptops at budget-level prices.

And we’re happy to report that the EasyNote TS11-HR-695UK is a similarly reliable slice of mid-level computing goodness.

It shares the same floral pattern as other Packard Bell EasyNote laptops. There are also a range of colours to choose from, but the pattern is harder to pick out on the black model than the red or white versions. The pattern continues on the palm rest inside the laptop, although the keyboard and rest of the chassis is matte black.

The keyboard itself is a full-length affair with an additional numerical keypad and a couple of extra hotkeys thrown in. The chicklet keys are great for typing on and the overall experience is excellent. There are no issues with odd-sized buttons as common keys like Enter, Backspace and Shift are all well-proportioned and where you would expect to find them.

The touchpad has the same glossy coating as the lid and palmrest and is a little on the sensitive side, although you can adjust this in Windows. It’s not the largest around but the single click button works well.

Impressive performance

Unlike the bigger TS13 models, the EasyNote TS11 sports a smaller, Intel Core i3 CPU which works to keep the cost down. However, in terms of performance, we were impressed at the 8159 score this machine posted following our benchmarking tests. Even though it’s the budget choice, this dual-core chip will give you a smooth experience when multitasking.

Thanks to a capacious 6GB of RAM we had no problems quickly working around several documents, even with multiple web pages open and music streaming.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 249 minutes
Cinebench: 8159
3DMark 2006: 4346

Graphics are handled by the integrated graphics chip bundled onto the Sandy Bridge CPU and provides a reliable, if basic, experience. You can safely manage older games and a spot of photo editing but beware of anything more demanding.

Connectivity is similar to other laptops at this price point. There are three USB ports for peripherals and HDMI and VGA connections for external displays. You can use the 802.11n Wi-Fi connection or the Ethernet wired port for connecting to the internet and there’s a Kensington security slot for locking the EasyNote TS11 securely.

There’s no doubt that the EasyNote TS11 is a friendly machine. From its decorative pattern, to the social networking hotkey, this seems like a safe choice for a mid-level laptop. Beyond that, though, there’s some serious performance underneath. For this price point we reckon the Packard Bell EasyNote TS11 stands as a secure and reliable purchase.

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HP dm4-3000ea Beats Edition

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 HP dm4-3000ea Beats Edition

HP’s Pavilion range was never going to offer the same ‘wow factor’ as its premium Envy line and we couldn’t pick out its previous dm4 Pavilion in a line up.

But HP’s new dm4-3000ea Pavilion Beats Edition is far from anonymous.

Thanks to the ubiquity of Beats Audio technology, HP has decided to give its non-descript dm4 Pavilion a chassis overhaul and specs update. That upgrade does bump up the price to £849, so it’s not the very best value for money, but the Beats redesign is a success for various reasons.

It looks super-modern without being too cool for school, enjoys a solid feel for a 14-inch multimedia portable and – most importantly – it sounds absolutely fantastic.

Punching above its weight

Despite its slinky dimensions (338 x 225 x 32 mm), the dm4-3000ea is fairly heavy. A weight of 2kg for such a small chassis is surprising, but every component – including the great backlit keyboard – feels robust and well-made (although it’s not the solid mag-alloy chassis that HP puts in its Envy laptops; just serviceable plastic here).

The board marries the same soft red and matte black hues that adorns the case. The Beats logo also sits front and centre, which could annoy, but the font design is so nice it actually really works.

It can be hard to type on dinkier laptops’ keyboards, but the dm4-3000ea Pavilion Beats Edition is the exception to the rule . It felt much better than the first dm4 Pavilion board and has isolated chiclet keys with a solid bounce.

HP has also binned the miniature navigation keys, making it fine to use for long periods for multi-tasking and browsing online. Our only bone of contention was the unresponsive touch tech on the trackpad which is still a novelty.

The 14-inch display is powered by 1366 x 768 LED-backlit BrightView screen, which works perfectly well in most brightness conditions. It’s not over-glossy and coped admirably with the darker hues of The Dark Knight. We also had no problems streaming high-definition video content. Clearly, the HP dm4-3000ea Pavilion Beats Edition won’t have any problems performing most multimedia tasks.

HP also gets bonus points for adding one of the better in-built webcams available. Thanks to the TrueVision low-light tech, it managed to pick us out accurately enough in murky lighting.

Under the hood

HP beats laptop

The rest of the specs under the hood are decent enough to make sure HP’s dm4-3000ea Pavilion Beats Edition didn’t suffer any staccato playback – even on number crunching apps.

HP has bundled a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5-2450M processor, a 500GB SATA hard drive and 4GB of memory with space for two more sticks if you fancy an upgrade. That should be enough oomph to boot the OS from cold in no time at all… but, irritatingly, HP has added the usual bloatware gubbins to slow everything down. That said, some of the pre-loaded software, like Norton and Windows Office Starter Edition is actually useful.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 174 minutes
Cinebench: 5629
3DMark 2006: 5622

Performance in our lab tests produced steady if unspectacular results, especially when you consider the power available from that Intel Core i5 chip. A score of 5629 in our processor benchmarks means that it’s more than adept at multitasking, but it does seem low when compared with laptops such as the Packard Bell TS11 which achieved better lab tests.

Graphics were equally unspectacular, and we also got a mid-range score of 5622 in our 3D Mark tests. This is enough for light gaming, thanks to 1GB of dedicated graphics on its AMD Radeon HD 7470M GPU. Just don’t expect to get anything out of Battlefield 3 or Modern Warfare 3, though.

The 174-minute battery life using Battery Eater Pro’s Readers’ Test was pretty good – especially when you bear in mind that it has a 6-cell battery.

So, the question remains, how do you get enjoy audio fidelity on such a small laptop? The simple answer is to plug in decent headphones and bypass the traditionally tinny laptop speakers.

If you’re not a fan of headphones, a more permanent solution is to upgrade to superior audio components.

While the Beats audio results good, you still can’t been hooking up a decent set of speakers. That said, for audio on the go, the dm4-3000ea Pavilion Beats Edition comes highly recommended – and HP even throws in a pair of Dr Dre’s Solo headphones as part of the package.

Overall the HP dm4-3000sa is a capable portable laptop, for those who want style while they’re on the move. Admittedly, it’s not packed with power, and there are lighter machines for the money, but the Beats credentials give it cool credibility that will attract students and younger users.

Anyone who does invest will be rewarded with a solid performer capable of work and play on the move, but those with demanding needs will want to look at portables backed up by a bit more grunt.

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Acer TravelMate 8481T

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 Acer TravelMate 8481T

When it comes to battery life, Acer’s TravelMate 8481T is the laptop to beat. It’s not all that surprising when you see the battery protruding from the back of the chassis, practically doubling the breadth of the machine.

But, if you need to pack the TravelMate away, simply unclip the battery and it shrinks from 41mm thick to only 24mm. Our battery benchmark test – supplemented with looped high-def video – took 326 minutes to run down the TravelMate, so we’d expect that this machine would get you through a mains-free eight hour day with standard use.

Apart from the battery, there are other features that mark this laptop out as a travel device. Its 14-inch screen dispenses with Super-TFT reflective coating, instead opting for a matt-TFT finish. This means that, while movies and pictures won’t look as colourful or vibrant, the TravelMate can be used in bright environments – like airports or train carriages without annoying glare being reflected on the screen.

Even with the screen brightness set to maximum, the display is noticeably darker than other laptops. This is an extra way to maximise battery performance, as the biggest drain on any laptop’s power supply is keeping the screen bright.

There’s also a fingerprint scanner nestled between the click buttons below the touchpad, lending saved documents an extra layer of security.

Boasting Acer’s favoured raised keyboard, typing is also comfortable, thanks to a decent amount of travel, but not without some serious flex. Because the battery protrudes the way it does, you’re typing at a raised angle, much more comfortable than on a traditional flat laptop.

While we might be tempted to lump the TravelMate in with the Port

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Novatech nSpire 2760 Black Edition

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 Novatech nSpire 2760 Black Edition

There’s not a lot that surprises us, and when we unboxed the Novatech nSpire Black Ed 2760, we feared the worst.

A flimsy chassis and the lack of style that we’ve become accustomed to on high-end laptops indicated another lacklustre machine, but it appears that we were mistaken.

Under the hood is an Intel Core i7 2460M processor, which stormed our benchmark tests, scoring among the highest figures we’ve seen in our labs. This was also helped by the 8GB of RAM that makes this laptop positively sing.

Next up is the impressive Nvidia GeForce 555M graphics card, which is easily capable of playing HD movies and the latest games. It got strong scores in our lab tests, and while you might not be able to play Battlefield 3 on full settings, with the detail turned down, you shouldn’t have any problems.

Battery life also impresses, with our power hungry tests achieving a very strong 222 minutes. This means you could work away from the power for over four hours, and even watch an HD movie on the move.

While there’s enough juice for working on the move, at 2.8KG we wouldn’t recommend the Novatech as a portable laptop. It’s bulky, heavy and cumbersome, and not one for a day on your back.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 222 minutes
Cinebench: 18842
3DMark 2006: 11654

Screen burn

However, for all the impressive tech that’s packed inside, the poor build quality of the exterior does more than let this machine down aesthetically.

We tested a number of movies on the Novatech, and found the screen appalling. There was no vibrancy to the colours, it was grainy when playing back HD content, and there was substantial screen tearing. We hope this was just a problem with the review sample, but as the issue is caused by a disparity between the graphics card and screen refresh times, we think this is simply a gulf in quality between the two items.

The poor build quality manifests itself elsewhere too. The grey plastic wrist rest flexes when you push it, as does the lid. The keyboard is awful, with little refinement given to the black plastic keys. They’re barely cushioned and feel loose and spongy to the touch.

The trackpad is better and we much prefer it to the current trend of single buttons which are a nightmare to master.

What we have with the Novatech is a fantastic powered laptop, admirably capable of dealing with most things you can throw at it. There’s limitless performance power, great graphics and it even has a decent battery life as well.

Unfortunately, we’re still yet to be surprised by a laptop, and the Novatech is no exception; a model hobbled by cost saving and corner cutting, that more than explains its low price. It’s impossible to really enjoy movies or games on the poor screen, and if you have £750 to spend, we’d recommend saving up the extra for quality machines like the Dell XPS 15z.

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Acer Aspire 7750

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 Acer Aspire 7750

At first glance, the Acer Aspire 7750 seems like a good choice for a 17-inch multimedia laptop. It has a simple, clean design with plenty of storage space and powerful speakers. Unfortunately, a couple of underlying issues pull the overall experience down somewhat.

Firstly, the grey and silver plastic design is nondescript. It looks much nicer on the inside of the laptop, though, offset against the black keyboard and screen bezel.

As this is a 17-inch laptop, there’s lots of space to go around, and Acer accentuates this by putting a regular keyboard square in the middle of the chassis, adding a touchpad and leaving it at that.

There are no hotkeys, no flashing lights and although it’s difficult to tell from the picture, the chassis feels expansive and spacious. All well and good, until you realise that the build quality (of the keyboard in particular) is pretty shabby. We felt quite a bit of flex around the edges of the chassis and the keyboard was practically bouncing up and down as we typed.

The machine isn’t particularly heavy at 2.9kg, but since most people buying a 17-inch laptop aren’t looking for portability we’d be happy with a few extra grammes in exchange for a more solid build.

While we’re on the subject, we’re going to assume most people buy a 17-inch laptop for the screen – be it to browse the web or watch a movie. The screen here is decent, complete with Super-TFT reflective coating, but the 1366 x 766 pixel resolution limits you to 720p HD content when, really, we’d quite fancy the full-blown effect of a 1920 x 1080 resolution.

Similarly, the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics card means the latest games and editing suite will have trouble running here.

Huge hard drive

If you want to put your media on the Aspire 7750 – high-definition or otherwise – you have a huge 720GB hard drive to fill up. If music is your thing, then the Dolby Advanced Audio speakers will go some way to convincing you this is the laptop to buy. You can get plenty of volume, but at no point does the audio become fuzzy or distorted – no mean feat for a laptop.

General performance is no slouch either. The Aspire rocks an Intel Core i5-2410M CPU that coped admirably with both our benchmark tests and general usage. We should probably attribute some of that to the generous 6GB of RAM Acer has stashed away inside. It’s more than the average 4GB and while it won’t make much of a performance difference for the average user, it will help your laptop last that little bit longer into the future.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 135 minutes
Cinebench: 9652
3DMark 2006: 4646

Yet, in spite of the positives, we have difficulty recommending the Aspire because it doesn’t specifically do what we want a 17-inch laptop to do – which is provide an awesome visual experience.

We understand Acer wanting to keep the price down, but a better choice would be the Dell Inspiron 17R or the Lenovo G770.

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Toshiba Satellite Pro C660-1UX

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 Toshiba Satellite Pro C660-1UX

Toshiba’s Satellite Pro range is designed for business use, but solid build quality, strong usability and decent specifications make the C660-1UX suitable for home use.

Its sturdy plastic chassis has all the resilience you’d expect from a business machine. The textured, matt finish feels great and protects well against scuffs and scratches. Build quality is impressive throughout, with no flex in evidence on any of the panels. Even the thick screen is well put together and sure to withstand frequent family use.

The keyboard is fixed well to the chassis and there’s almost no sign of flex when typing. The keys respond accurately, although a long range of motion can cause occasional errors when typing at speed. However, by striking the keys firmly, it’s easy to avoid such problems.

The touchpad is small and narrow, making it awkward to navigate onscreen at times. It is far wider than it is deep, so it takes a few swipes to get from one side of the screen to the other. In contrast, the mouse buttons are huge but are recessed too far, so they too can be awkward to operate.

At 2.5kg this is not a laptop built for travel use, but it is light enough to be carried occasionally without too much discomfort. While the 159-minute battery life is average, it betters the Advent, Lenovo and Samsung in this group.

Sharp display

The most striking feature is the vivid 15.6-inch screen. The 1,366 x 768-pixel resolution means you can enjoy high-definition 720p content and the display is bright, sharp and vibrant.

Photos and videos look great and the Super-TFT coating is one of the least reflective we’ve seen. The Toshiba lacks an HDMI output, though, so you can’t connect to your TV. An analogue VGA – or D-Sub – port is fitted, for connecting older PC monitors and projectors, but the lack of HD connectivity is surprising for such a new laptop.

Performance is equally disappointing. The Intel Celeron 925 processor is vastly outperformed by the Core i5 and i7 chips of the Acer Aspire 5943G, Alienware M11x and Lenovo B570. Even the Celeron-powered Samsung doubles the power on offer here, making the Toshiba only suitable for basic use.

Graphics fare even worse and the integrated Intel graphics card struggles with the simplest tasks. All its rivals at least double the power on offer and, in some cases, provide almost twelve times the performance of the Toshiba, so consider your needs carefully.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 159 minutes
Cinebench: 2544
3DMark 2006: 703

Toshiba build

Storage is also disappointing. While the 250GB hard drive is average for this price, most rivals in this group better it. The Lenovo, for example, provides three times the storage. The DVD rewriter and five-in-one card reader compensate somewhat, letting you back-up files to DVD, CD and multimedia cards to save space on the hard drive.

The Toshiba continues to fall short when assessing its other features. The two USB ports limit the amount of peripherals you can connect; there is no Bluetooth for wirelessly sharing files; you only get 2GB of memory as standard and even the fixed Ethernet connectivity uses the older and slower 10/100 standard.

If you’re looking for a tough, usable laptop with a great screen, the Satellite Pro C660-1UX is a good choice. With such high-quality rivals, though, its limited power and features are far too pronounced. The similarly priced Samsung 200B5A provides better value for money, making the Toshiba hard to recommend.

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Advent Monza E1

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 Advent Monza E1

Advent’s Monza E1 is an eye-catching laptop aimed at first-time buyers. Despite offering a decent specification for the price, though, it is undermined by poor performance and flawed usability.

With its bright red lid and palm rest, the chassis looks great and the textured plastic finish and mock brushed-aluminium panels set it apart from the glut of plain black laptops on the market. The lid and main panels all feel firm and there are no noticeably weak points on the chassis.

At 2.5kg this is a laptop built for use at home, rather than on the move though. This was highlighted by the awful 107-minute battery life, meaning there’s not even enough power to watch a full movie.

That’s not to say that this is not a decent laptop for enjoying photos and videos, though. The 15.6-inch screen is sharp and bright and delivers gorgeous colour reproduction. Images pop from the screen and are rendered with stunning clarity, so as long as you’re plugged into a power point, this is a decent entry-level media machine.

Poor performance is the Advent’s Achilles heel. The dual-core AMD E-450 processor struggles with even the simplest tasks; applications run sluggishly and the laptop is brought to its knees by basic multitasking.

Graphics are equally poor and there’s little power on offer for media editing. The integrated AMD graphics card is fine for viewing photos or even watching high-def videos, but it shows its weaknesses as soon as you try to edit videos or run 3D games. If you’re after a powerful media laptop, there are far better machines available.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 107 minutes
Cinebench: 2305
3DMark 2006: 2706

Noisy keyboard

advent monza e1 detail

When it comes to usability, the Advent is a mixed bag. While the wide isolated-style keyboard is suitably responsive and functions well, it is not very well fixed to the chassis and bounces a lot when typing. This makes it a noisy board to use and we quickly found the rattle of the keys both distracting and ultimately annoying.

The touchpad fares better and proves accurate and responsive to use. It’s not quite as large as we’d have liked, but it is fine for quickly navigating the screen. The mouse buttons are slightly less functional and you have to press at quite specific points for them to register, which can get a little frustrating when trying to work quickly.

Where the Advent really stands out is its fantastic storage. The 640GB hard drive offers a truly staggering amount of space for such an affordable laptop and is only bettered by the Lenovo B570.

The built-in DVD rewriter lets you save files to DVD and CD and create your own music, video and photo discs. A 4-in-1 media card reader is also in place for quickly sharing files from your digital camera and smartphone. Located at the front of the chassis, it is easy to access and supports the most common media card formats.

While the gorgeous screen, fantastic storage and eye-catching design make the Monza E1 a decent entry-level laptop for those on a budget, the poor performance, flawed usability and awful battery life are just too prominent to ignore. There are far better laptops you can buy at this price and so the Advent is very hard to recommend.

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Acer Travelmate 8410T

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 Acer Travelmate 8410T

The Acer Travelmate 8410T is a fantastic ultraportable that would have blown us away just a few months ago. However, with the amount of exciting Ultrabooks on the horizon it underwhelmed us too much for a recommendation.

It weighs just 1.8 kg and comes in a fetching black brushed metal finish. Opening the lid reveals a matte 14-inch screen which doesn’t reflect in direct sunlight, making it great for mobile workers.

The immediate reaction is to notice the lack of bezel, and the screen fills the lid space with no room wasted, which accommodates that 14-inch screen, while maintaining a size equivalent to most 13-inch portables.

Inside is a 1.6GHz Intel Core i5 2467 processor. While only clocking in at 1.6GHz, it still performs remarkably well, sealing an impressive score in our lab tests. It’s more than capable of photo editing, multitasking demanding programs and watching high-definition videos, making this a great all-rounder.

Great battery life

The great processor performance is thanks to Intel’s TurboBoost technology, which means that the Travelmate 8410T reacts to demanding tasks, and can provide surges of power to get things done. Booting was incredibly fast, with resuming from sleep and starting from cold stunningly responsive.

Battery life was extremely impressive, and our heavy tests achieved nearly five hours, which is equal to more than six hours of light use. This is as close to all-day computing as you’re likely to find and great for working on the move.

TechRadar Labs

tech labs

Battery Eater ’05: 267 minutes
Cinebench: 7210
3DMark 2006: 3336

The rest of the specs are slightly less impressive, and it leaves the Travelmate 8410T slightly lacking in comparison to its competition. There’s a 320GB hard drive, which means you’ll need to invest in a portable drive to back up your pictures and media. What’s more, there’s only 3GB of RAM and, while the system felt responsive at all times, 4GB is merely par for the course these days.

While the brushed-metal finish does make the Acer Travelmate 8410T a real head turner, we did find it attracted marks and dirt very easily, so it’s best to invest in a good case.

We were also disappointed with the keyboard, which had quite a dramatic flex in the middle. It was comfortable to type of for long periods, and accurate, but not the kind of quality we’d expect in this price range.

The Acer Travelmate is a great ultraportable laptop, which can be used all day, without breaking your back. While it’s incredibly light and thin, the Acer is no match for the latest wave of Ultrabooks, including Acer’s own Aspire S3.

The build isn’t as thin, alluring, the processor is outmatched by the Intel Core i7 version found on most Ultrabooks, and the Acer Aspire S3 Core i5 is only £699. This sadly renders the Acer Travelmate 8410T slightly redundant, which is a shame, as three months ago it would have received a hearty recommendation.

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