If you're shopping for a laptop with limited funds, then the Toshiba Equium L40-17M cuts a good compromise between features, price and performance. It has a price tag of just £429.99 from PC World and still manages to pack in decent performance and an impressive amount of options.
With a sub-£500 price tag, you can't expect the latest high spec components, but the L40-17M makes the most of what it's got. You won't find one of Intel's newer Core 2 Duo chips inside but you do still get a dual-core Pentium chip. It also comes with 2GB of RAM, which is especially generous and helped it achieve a PCMark05 score of 3,273.
Its 15.4-inch screen offers plenty of space to work on and it has an almost standard widescreen resolution of 1,280x800 pixels, making for a decent desktop area. It also brandishes a glossy display, which means it offers great colour reproduction and contrast, although at the expense of reflectivity. It can be difficult to work on if there are bright lights or a window behind you.
The hard drive stretches to 120GB, and while it's not the biggest court on the playground, it will take you a while to fill up the space. There's also an internal DVD writer, so making backups won't be a problem.
The keyboard offers good-sized keys for typing and the layout is sensible, although it's soft and spongy in use.
The L40-17M may be up to the job of running office applications, but it's less equipped when it comes to gaming. Its integrated Intel X3100 graphics chip just isn't up to the challenge of 3D graphics and it only managed to achieve a 3DMark06 score of 439. That's not a score to really sufficient to run any modern games.
It's also fairly under-equipped when it comes to battery life. It only just managed to keep going for more than an hour when running the intensive Battery Eater test. Switching to the more leisurely Reader test didn't improve matters much with it conking out after 1 hour 53 minutes. Weighing in at nearly 3kg, the L40-17M isn't something you'd want to carry around with you all the time -- even if it did offer decent battery life.
It's sparse in terms of connectivity options, with just three USB ports available -- one on the right hand side and a further two at the rear. Design-wise, it's not ugly -- its look is basic rather than stylish. You won't be embarassed to take it out of the house but your friends are unlikely to be drooling with envy.
Gaming aside, the L40-17M is capable of most jobs you'd care to throw at it. It may be slightly slower, but it will still get the job done. If you really need to use it on the go, it's possible at a push, but you're better off sticking near a mains power supply. Packing a decent spec laptop into a sub-£500 package isn't an easy task, but it's one that the Toshiba has largely pulled off.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Shannon Doubleday