Recently, Asus laptops have won as much acclaim for their high-quality designs as they have for their power and performance. Hoping to continue this trend with the move towards the use of dual-core chipsets is the Asus A7J (£1299 inc. VAT).

For starters, it's a large laptop, built strictly for desktop use, with its 405 x 302 x 42mm chassis and 4.3kg weight. The benefit of this increased size is the addition of a 17-inch Super-TFT screen.

Displaying images at a resolution of 1440 x 800 pixels, there's plenty of room for working across multiple documents. With its dual-format DVD drive, movies can be watched in cinematic comfort, and games can be played with excellent attention to detail.

Delivering high-quality graphics is the use of ATi's flagship Mobility Radeon X1600 chip. With a score of 6754 points from 3DMark 2003 tests, the Asus will run modern games with proficient if not outstanding performance.

Base specifications centre on an Intel Core Duo T2400 processor. Providing dual-core power, the Asus is ideal for multi-tasking even high-performance software applications. A Gigabyte of DDR2 memory further boosts power, for impressive capabilities.

It scored 248 points in MobileMark 2005 benchmark tests. While higher scores have been seen from dual-core laptops, this remains an impressive result.

Power versus battery life

Inevitably, such power comes at the price of a low battery life. Running for just over two hours under test conditions, the Asus won't suit long-term mobility. However, this is obviously due to its chassis size and shouldn't bother its core audience.

Unfortunately, the high performance of the Asus is hampered by sub-par user ergonomics. While the keyboard is broad and well-spaced, the keys are bouncy and unresponsive, making typing a chore. No such problems affect the touchpad or mouse buttons.

Furthering the multimedia slant of the system is its use of the Windows Media Centre operating system. Allowing easy access to multimedia files, a remote control and a bank of quick-access keys at the front of the chassis allow for instant-on usability.

Similarly, a 1.3-megapixel camera and microphone are provided above the screen for instant messaging and adding the personal touch to online gaming. Aiding the latter are high-speed networks, in the shape of Gigabit Ethernet and 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi.

As a high-powered work or multimedia machine, the Asus A7J has a lot to recommend it, when used with an external mouse and keyboard. However, when operated alone its usability proves a major flaw, so potential customers should try before they buy.

Online security: Providing comprehensive usability for the first-time buyer, the Asus is packed with security and multimedia software as standard. Symantec's Norton Internet Security 2005 package will keep security watertight when browsing the Internet or using email and multiple Cyberlink applications can be used for working with multimedia files with ease.