The Acer TravelMate 5720G-302G16 (£699 inc. VAT) is a newly designed business laptop that still retains many of the features found on its predecessor. For instance, you'll find the keyboard has the same five-degree curve to it, which is ergonomic, but you may find it takes a little time to grow accustomed to.

Also, the rather uniform grey design has been kept, but what has changed is the overall build quality of the machine. This new version feels much sturdier.

The casing is made from robust toughened plastic that has a feel of magnesium-alloy about it, so while it's cool to the touch, there is a degree of flex in the chassis and certainly won't shatter if dropped. The 15.4-inch Super-TFT screen is held in place by two large and incredibly solid hinges.

A row of quick access buttons lets you run pre-programmed applications at the touch of a button and, while still uncommon in business machines, the addition of a 1.3-megapixel webcam above the screen is a neat touch.

The keyboard has been redesigned. It's still curved, but now also feels far sturdier than previous TravelMates. At 2.9kg, it's not light and feels quite imposing. You won't want to carry this machine around all day, every day, but for the occasional commute it's fine. What let's this machine down is the battery life, which we scored at a mere 146 minutes, under test.

Overall, we were impressed with the design and build of the TravelMate, making it ideal for the business user who needs to travel occasionally.

Performance power

It's not only the build quality we found impressive, as the performance of this laptop also offers a great deal for the asking price. Based around Intel's Core 2 Duo T7300 processor and backed with 2048MB of memory, we found applications loaded and ran smoothly on this machine.

While you would expect a business laptop to come with Vista Business Edition, Acer has preloaded this machine with Vista Home Premium. This limits the connectivity and remote access, making this less a corporate machine and more a small business tool. However, you do get a host of Acer tools that make setting up and managing connections easier.

The Acer TravelMate 5720G-302G16 is a solid and reliable machine that we felt represented great value for money. The use of Vista Home instead of Vista Business is a curious addition and while the battery life leaves something to be desired, if you're looking for a cost-effective desktop alternative, this will more than fit the bill.