We don't expect companies like AJP to make anything that actually looks nice. Developing laptop chassis is an expensive business, so small firms like AJP tend to buy them in from Far Eastern factories. That's why so many non-main-brand laptops all look the same, and for the most part have taken a painful beating from the ugly stick.

But AJP has served up a treat here with a chassis that isn't in mainstream UK circulation. The sloping underside has a pattern reminiscent of an art deco cinema, and the DVD-RW drive is also nicely incorporated into the body.

The Z71A's beauty isn't just skin deep. AJP has grabbed hold of the latest generation of Intel's Centrino technology with both hands. Not only does it boast one of the latest Pentium M processors, but it also has a brand new 915 chipset with PCI Express.

And, as well as supporting 802.11b and g, you've also got 802.11a support should you need it. Part of the new chipset is the integrated 64MB graphics. This is fine for most purposes but, as with the Averatec, we'd like to see a dedicated graphics chip.

It'll cope with most things you throw at it, but DVD playback isn't the finest. Fast action scenes are jumpy, and colour gradation is about as smooth as the national flag of the Republic of Congo. Don't bother playing back any sort of high-def video.

The Z71A is well connected, with more sockets and plugs than a bath shop. There are five USB 2.0 ports, and Firewire is retained even though many large vendors are abandoning it. You've also got TV and S/PDIF outputs to connect to your home cinema system, while a 3-in-1 card reader (MMC, SD and Memory Stick) is handy for downloading pictures from your digital camera. Such an array of ports is rare on laptops of this size.

But... No, only kidding. There is no 'but'. The performance of this machine won't break any records, but for the price it's pretty damn decent. Take battery life, for instance. Many of the latest Centrino laptops haven't performed well in this field because of Intel's more power hungry Sonoma chipset.

But we got a respectable three-and-a-half hours out of this. The 1.6MHz processor is more than capable for handling most tasks; power users can always opt to spend a bit more for the 2.13MHz version. You've also got a respectable 60GB hard drive - though it's only 4,200rpm, so it can be a bit slow in response time.

£880 isn't a greedy asking price for all this. There's cheaper bric-a-brac in PC World, of course, but you won't get anywhere near this level of specification. Unless portability is your biggest demand, or you want to play games and run other graphics-intensive applications, the AJP Z71A should make a confident grab for your wallet.