The Acer Aspire 7720G-703G25Hn (£980 inc. VAT) is the largest machine available in the company's Gemstone range and is aimed at the casual gamer.

With an affordable price tag, you won't find performance to worry the Dell XPS, but most games still run without trouble.

The 17-inch screen was a pleasure to use and the 1920 x 1200-pixel resolution helps to provide more detail. However, bright conditions can cause reflections due to the glossy Super-TFT coating.

Play HD DVDs on your laptop

Helping you to get the most out of the display, you'll find an HD DVD optical drive in place.

This format has been replaced by Blu-ray, but it still offers excellent quality, and HD (High Definition) movies are impressively sharp. Oddly, there's no HDMI port, so you won't be able to output HD content to an external display.

3D performance is provided by a mid-range nVidia GeForce 8600M GT graphics card. It was fine for playing older games and running regular applications, but the latest titles can only be played in reduced resolutions.

The chassis heated up under intensive use but, aside from the fan noise, it was never problematic.

Smooth and strong performance

The Gemstone styling split opinion in our office, but it can't be denied that the beige and glossy black design is distinctive.

The large keyboard is very comfortable, and the big and well-placed keys make it easier to type at speed than most of its rivals. However, we did find that the board bounced under pressure.

A high-end Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 3072MB of memory help the Acer to provide a great performance when it came to everyday tasks.

Running a host of intensive programs had no effect on stability, and the Aspire ran smoothly and responsively at all times. There's only one hard drive but, at 240GB, there is plenty of space for games and media files.

No corners cut by Acer

Despite being one of the cheapest machines here, there are plenty of features.

The latest wireless and fixed networking adapters are in place, making it easy to play games online. Bluetooth is integrated, so files can be transferred wirelessly to other digital devices.

The Acer's four USB ports are situated close together, limiting the amount of peripherals you can connect at the same time. It's not perfect, but there's still a lot to like about this machine.

The speed it deals with everyday applications and its comfortable interface help to make it an ideal desktop replacement, representing good value for money.