Early this year, Acer bought Packard Bell Computers and, as a result, also gained the eMachine brand.

Acer is now using this name for its basic, entry-level models. The Acer eMachine E510 (£299 inc. VAT) is the first such machine we've tested and it certainly delivers in terms of price and performance.

The chassis is made from rather basic plastic that has a rough finish to it and doesn't feel tactile at all. However, it adds plenty of protection to the body and, more importantly, to the back of the screen.

Solid screen

The panel is a standard 15.4-inch Super-TFT screen that sits on two firmly attached hinges. We found the screen sat reasonably still as we typed.

The screen is bright and the resolution the same 1280 x 800-pixel rating as many other rival machines. The Intel GMA 965 integrated graphics chip makes this a versatile machine. You won't be able to play games or run HD video, but you'll find DVDs and basic animations will run smoothly.

We were hoping this same performance would shine through with the overall power of this machine. Using an Intel Celeron processor, performance is basic and the addition of 1024MB of memory means that loading Windows Vista is something of a chore. A memory upgrade would help resolve this problem.

We also found this was quite a loud-running laptop, with the optical drive proving problematic. In terms of heat generated, the use of a Celeron CPU means this laptop never really gets too warm to the touch.

Comfortable keyboard

The keyboard sits in the centre of the main body and feels rather cramped when you first start to use it. Being a budget machine, you'll find the way it's clipped to the main body of the laptop means the central keys are higher than those around the side. This can create a degree of bounce as you type, but the keys have a good amount of travel and we found it a comfortable keyboard to use.

The touchpad is made from the same rough plastic as the casing and, as a result, is rather slow to respond. The mouse buttons have a scroll bar nestled between them and are all made of silver-coloured plastic, which, aside from the power button, is the only colour deviation on the machine. Unlike the touchpad, the mouse buttons respond well.

For a budget laptop, the Acer eMachine E510 certainly delivers in terms of performance and battery life. As a first laptop, or something for students, it represents great value and as long as your needs are basic, you'll be more than satisfied with what's on offer.