Hi-Grade may not have the same brand recognition as the likes of HP or Sony, but with over twenty years in the computer industry, it has a reputation for putting together aggressively priced and highly competitive machines. The Notino D7000SR (£699 inc. VAT) is a solid and well-built laptop that offers more than excellent value for money. Running Windows Vista Premium, we found it loaded quickly and smoothly.

The use of the nVidia GeForce 8400M GS dedicated graphics chip means you can run the full Aero interface with no problems. Few machines have a dedicated GPU, so it means there is a greater degree of flexibility in this laptop, as it can be used for editing video, as well as playing games at a decent resolution.

Powered by a 2GHz dual-core processor, this laptop really fast. Its 1024MB of memory is average for the price range, but if you opt for an upgrade you'll be able to handle high-end tasks with a far greater degree of headroom. The specification is rounded out by a 120GB hard drive, which is more than satisfactory for holding your files.

Weighing in at 3kg, this isn't the best machine for carrying around, but with a larger than usual battery pack which protrudes from the base of the machine, the laptop is lifted to a more comfortable typing position. When it came to battery life, this system lasted for 238 minutes.

However, we expect buyers will use this machine as a cost-effective desktop replacement, which it more than lives up to. The 15.4-inch Super-TFT is clear and, while it isn't the brightest panel, it produces realistic colour when viewing photos and running DVDs. The keyboard is of a good size and, while the keystroke is rather shallow, we found it comfortable to use.

Less appealing was the touchpad, which is wide to mirror the screen, but it has a shallow design, making it feel rather small. This is a fully featured laptop and you'll find plenty of connections, including a full-sized ExpressCard slot for adding the latest peripherals.

In conclusion

When it comes to connectivity, the Notino has the latest in Wi-Fi with an 802.11n adapter, and for fixed networks you'll find the latest Gigabit connection in place, which gives this machine plenty of future-proofing.

We were surprised at how feature and power-packed the Hi-Grade Notino D7000SR was for the price. So if you're looking for a powerful machine at a great price, the Hi-Grade Notino more than lives up to expectations.