The Acer Aspire 7720G-302G32Hi (£699 inc. VAT) is quite a large laptop.

Its 17-inch screen, powerful components and HD DVD drive are ideal for multimedia use, but the bulky case and low battery life restrict mobility.

Not the lightest laptop

The grey and black chassis is designed by BMW Designworks and its unique style means it stands out from the crowd. The 3.6kg weight is unsuitable for frequent travel use.

Equally, the 114 minute battery life is best suited to use around the home or short journeys. The large case allows for an equally large user interface. The full-size keyboard means it’s comfortable to use for extended periods.

Keys were responsive and we noticed no errors when typing. A full numeric keypad is also included for fast data input and calculations. Performance is impressive thanks to a powerful Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2048MB of memory.

Inside Acer's latest Aspire

Windows Vista runs smoothly, and multiple applications can run side-by-side with no drop in performance, making it perfect for busy home or office use. The 320GB hard drive offers twice the capacity of its nearest rival. A 5-in-1 card reader and dual-layer DVD rewriter also let you back up and share data.

The use of an HD DVD drive is impressive at this price, but usability is limited. You can watch the latest high-definition discs, but the low screen resolution prevents full HD playback. The lack of an HDMI-out port also prevents you from connecting to an external HD TV.

Built-in Dolby Digital Live technology lets you connect to external audio amplifiers using a single S/PDIF cable. Games and DVDs can be played in 5.1 surround sound. Since laptop audio is generally poor, this is a great feature if you own or plan to buy compatible hardware.

An excellent display

The wide Super-TFT screen provides excellent brightness and contrast for viewing photos and videos. Colours are slightly muted, but not enough to affect overall image quality. However, a limited viewing angle means the screen is best viewed from straight-on.

The dedicated nVidia graphics card provides strong 3D power, bettered only by the Packard Bell and Zepto. Performance is excellent when editing photos and videos. Modern gaming is also possible, but only when configured with the most basic 3D settings.

The overall size, screen quality and features of the Acer Aspire 7720G- 302G32Hi make it an impressive entry-level media centre.

The lack of an HDMI out port is a strange oversight, but this nevertheless remains an impressive and affordable family laptop.