Buying a budget laptop is a risky business, especially if you're using it for work. Will your colleagues laugh at your obviously cheap system?

They won't if you choose the Aspire 5101AWLMi, because it looks very good indeed. The silver and black colour scheme is appealing, the 15.4-inch 1,280 x 800 screen is clear and bright and there's even an integrated webcam above the screen: very nice.

There are some clues as to the true price of the laptop if you look closely. There's a distinct shortage of ports, for example: three USB, one network, one VGA, one modem and a memory card slot.

The silver middle button below the trackpad is a little tacky and despite the promise of a 2.5 hour battery life, you're unlikely to see two hours. This isn't surprising for a cheap laptop, but there are other problems.

Although the Aspire screen generally delivers sharp pictures, it also has relatively limited viewing angles, so you have to be careful about how it's positioned.

You shouldn't expect to be playing games on this system, either. The Radeon Xpress 1100 graphics chipset can run them in theory, but not at a frame rate that you'll appreciate. No surprise there, but a more pressing problem is that the Xpress 1100 also shares your system memory, by default grabbing 128MB of the 1GB installed on our review machine.

None of this stops the Aspire 5101AWLMi from being an acceptable laptop in real-world use, though. It has its plus points, such as a 120GB hard drive and the way that it runs almost silently and cooler than most (apart from a vent for warm air over on the left-hand side, although that's not a problem either).

Factor in the stylish looks and this is a system that you really can't ignore.