If you don't have a huge amount of money to spend but want a laptop that's big enough to work on and powerful enough for most modern applications, then the Asus X53SR should fit the bill. Its performance is impressive, especially given its low price tag of just £549 from PC World.
The X53SR may be a low-cost laptop, but it's certainly not underpowered. Its 1.66GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T5450 processor and 2GB of RAM resulted in a PCMark05 score pushing 4,000. At 3,948, it's more powerful than some machines costing twice as much. It can even turn its hand to gaming, managing to achieve a 3DMark06 result of 1,380 from its ATI Mobility Radeon HD X2400 graphics chip.
If you're after entertainment when you've finished your work, then gaming isn't the only area that the X53SR has covered, with a built-in optical drive that can read HD discs as well as read and write CDs and DVDs. Unfortunately, it's an HD DVD drive, which has all but been abandoned since Toshiba withdrew its support for the format. Still, you should be able to pick up some cheap titles on eBay as the early adopters look to offload their films in favour of Blu-ray.
In addition to VGA, there's also a DVI port, so you shouldn't have a problem hooking it up to an HD TV using a HDMI adapter. If you'd rather stick to the built-in display, you won't be disappointed either as it's a high-contrast glossy model that produces great colours.
The three USB ports are sensibly located, with two at the back and one at the front. If you're looking for faster data transfers, however, there's also an eSATA ports for hooking up external hard drives at over twice the speed of USB 2.0.
The X53SR is quite large and bulky and as it weights nearly 3kg, it's not the best laptop for use on the move. It also didn't fare too well in the Battery Eater tests, only just managing to last over an hour running the intensive test. The less strenuous Reader test only showed a slight improvement with it only going for 1 hour 47 minutes before the battery gave up.
Despite including an HD optical drive, it's a shame that the screen resolution only stretches to 1,280x800 pixels, which is way below the number of pixels needed to enjoy 1080p HD material. It also has a rather average design and it's fairly boxy with sharp edges. It's not exactly ugly, but it won't have you cooing at it either. The touch pad buttons are also awkward to use as there's only one single button so you need to press it at either end for your click to register.
The X53SR is powerful for its bargain price and would make a good workhorse and entertainment machine, provided you can put up with its less than stunning looks. It's not really suitable for life on the road, but provided you keep it indoors and near a power supply, it should prove to be a decent model.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday