Acer has been overhauling its laptop designs of late, but the company has stayed with a trusted design with the Acer Extensa 5620 (£399 inc. VAT).

The chassis is based on the old TravelMate line, which is Acer's business range of laptops, so you'll find a rugged design with plenty of protection and a keyboard with a five-degree curve to it.

Bright widescreen display

Made from thick plastic, the chassis is robust and is a solid machine to the touch. Weighing 2.9kg, it's also quite a heavy machine and isn't ideal for carrying around everyday.

However, should you need to, the build will certainly stand up to it. When it comes to battery life, we recorded a time of 194 minutes between charges, which will keep you working for a reasonable portion of the day.

The screen is a typical 15.4-inch Super-TFT panel with a widescreen resolution. We found it bright and clear and with a wide viewing angle, so more than one person can see the screen at the same time. With an integrated graphics chip this isn't a multimedia machine, but it'll run movies and everyday media with ease.

The widescreen panel allows for a good-sized keyboard. The five-degree curve offers a more ergonomic typing action, but smaller hands will find reaching some of the secondary keys less than ideal. The keyboard has a smooth typing action and is more than comfortable to use. The touchpad is of a good size and the mouse buttons proved solid.

Strong performance

When it comes to performance, we were impressed with the specification of the Extensa. Powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo T5450 processor and 2048MB of memory, there is sufficient power to handle everyday tasks with ease.

The 160GB hard drive offers plenty of space for storing files. While not the most powerful laptop on the market, we found it handled tasks well, including running multiple applications at the same time, and certainly offers realistic value for money.

To keep costs to a minimum, you won't find much in the way of extras. The webcam proved basic and connections on the sides of the unit cover the base options - you'll find a PC Card slot instead of ExpressCard, for instance.

The optical drive is a DVD rewriter and there is a switch to turn the Wi-Fi off should you need to. Audio quality is poor, with our test DVD lacking bass and warmth.

A solid, everyday laptop

The Acer Extensa 5620 isn't the most modern looking of laptops, but the case is solid and certainly built to last. We were impressed with the specification and performance for the price.

If you're looking for a basic machine for everyday tasks, this is worth considering.