Laptops are gradually taking over from desktop PCs, even for use in the home, and with budget machines like the Evesham Quest A235 limbo dancing under the £500 barrier, it's not hard to see why.
To get the price down to just £499, Evesham has had to cut some corners. The most noticeable trade offs are the meagre 512MB helping of RAM and the fact it's loaded with Windows Vista Basic. Nevertheless, there's still enough on offer here to make it worth a look for those who are after a budget machine with a decent range of features.
Just as you wouldn't expect to shop for clothes at ASDA and come out with an Italian designer suit, you can't expect a PC costing half a grand to have killer looks. And while you don't need to manage your expectations to sub-zero levels with the A235, there's no doubt that its slightly plasticky grey-and-silver exterior is not going to get the blood racing.
But while the looks may be a tad dull, the build quality is top-drawer. This machine feels like it's built to last -- the case doesn't flex and creak when you lift it, unlike some other budget models we've seen, and at 2.6kg it's not too heavy to lug around in a backpack, either.
The keyboard also manages to avoid the spongy feel common to lots of budget machines, and as the keys are well spaced, your fingers never feel cramped when you're typing out longer emails or documents. There are also some handy quick buttons giving you one-touch access to applications like Internet Explorer and Windows Mail.
Evesham has loaded this laptop with Windows Vista Basic, which is the entry-level version of the operating system. This means you don't get to use the fancy Vista Aero interface and that Windows Media Center isn't available. If you're moving up from a Windows XP machine you probably won't miss the former, but it's a shame to have to forego Media Center -- it's a genuinely useful way to access music or view photos.
Nevertheless, some additional software is included, such as the Microsoft Works 8.5 bundle of office applications and Roxio's DVD Media Creator for burning discs using the multi-format DVD rewriter.
To drive these applications, the laptop relies on an AMD Mobile Sempron processor 3200+ and 512MB of memory, with a GeForce 6100 taking care of graphics duties. Naturally Wi-Fi is built-in and you get a decent range of ports. Alongside the three USB sockets, there's a mini FireWire port, VGA-out socket and even a handy multi-format memory card reader.