If you're shopping for a laptop that's a good all-rounder but won't break the bank, the Asus F3E AP073C could be just what you're looking for.
It's got a big enough screen to work on, but it's not too bulky to carry around and at £480 from LaptopsDirect.co.uk, it's not too expensive either.
It may only be equipped with a 1.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5250 and 1GB of RAM, but the F3E still managed to pull in a respectable PCMark05 score of 3,249, which is impressive given its sub-£500 price tag.
There's plenty of storage space on the 160GB hard drive, plus there's a dual format DVD writer for backup. The 15.4-inch display stretches to a widescreen resolution of 1,280x800 pixels and its glossy finish means great colour reproduction, although at the expense of increased reflectivity.
Wireless connectivity is well catered for with both 802.11g and Bluetooth integrated, so getting it to talk to other devices without tying yourself up in cables shouldn't be a problem.
Despite its low price tag, you're not lumbered with the cheapest version of Microsoft's operating system -- a copy of Vista Home Premium is included in the bundle, which features Windows Media Center for playing back music, videos and photos, although you'll need to add a TV tuner to make the most of its PVR capabilities.
When it comes to expansion, you get a generous four USB ports, which are thoughtfully scattered around the body of the unit, with two at the back, one on the right and a further port at the front, which provides flexibility when it comes to plugging in peripherals. There's also a memory card reader at the front and an ExpressCard/54 slot on the side for further expansion.
It may be able to hold its own in terms of application performance, but the Asus F3E AP073C starts to show its budget roots when it comes to gaming. Its integrated Intel GMA X3100 graphics chip only managed to achieve a 3DMark06 result of 410, so you could run into trouble trying to run anything more demanding than Pac-Man on it.
Battery life was also disappointing and it only managed the bare minimum we would expect. Running through the intensive Battery Eater test, it only kept going for just over an hour, clocking up 1 hour 8 minutes before giving up. Switching to the less strenuous reader test barely improved matters and it only lasted 2 hours 18 minutes before needing a top up.
The keyboard is bouncy to type on, which could become a problem if you're using it for extended periods of time. The touchpad buttons are quite unresponsive, which is made worse because they're combined into a single button that pivots in the middle, rather than two separate buttons for left and right click.
Even if your budget is limited, the F3E shows that you can still get a fair amount of portable computing power for under £500, with this machine available from LaptopsDirect.co.uk for just £480. It can hold its own when it comes to 2D performance, but it's not up to gaming and in terms of battery life it only just provides the bare minimum acceptable.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire