With so many laptops now clocking in under the £400 mark, you'd be forgiven for questioning why you'd splurge double that on one.

But performance is the name of the game here, and while a cheapo laptop is all well and good for simple word processing and internet use, the Asus N50vc is a far more serious proposition.

An excellent 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo processor, achingly capacious 320GB hard drive and whopping 4GB of memory, this is a notebook for those who want to create as well as consume. Mind you, consumers are equally well catered for. Blu-ray is finally seeping down through the notebook market, and Asus has included a combo drive here.

Feature-packed laptop

Gamers, too, are not just thought of, but comprehensively doffed to; the Nvidia GeForce 9300M might not be as good as the mobile chip inside the new MacBook (9400M) but it is 512MB of mobile graphics to be reckoned with and the 4GB of memory always helps with making games absolutely fly.

It also looks the part; this is a beautifully finished laptop, part gloss black, part cappuccino. It's also actually pretty lightweight for something so feature-packed.

A duff point is that the 15.4-inch widescreen isn't as good as some we've seen, but it is bright and the addition of HDMI connectivity means there's always the option to hook it up to something else for supreme HD goodness. The keyboard also isn't top drawer, but then it's probably unlikely you'll be buying this to type your thesis on.

Bundled software

Other moans are small. The mouse click is rather harsh, for example while the sheer number of pre-installed apps is simply ridiculous and ruins the initial experience of the excellent hardware.

As well as Norton (including a free 90-day subscription), you get a plethora of Asus and Google tools such as Google Desktop and Asus CopyProtect, LifeFrame webcam effect software, SmartLogon Manager and a 90-day trial of Microsoft Office.

There are 14 icons in the System Tray already, which is unacceptable for a new system. It was hard even to find the icon to connect to a wireless network in amongst all the configuration options for the trackpad and fingerprint security. The junk caused by all this is appalling and you could be forgiven for thinking that somebody has used the machine previous to you.

Other natty features include an ambient light sensor to auto-adjust the panel, as well as a eSATA port for fast data connectivity. eSATA isn't prevalent at the moment, but we are seeing it on a growing number of external hard drives. It's certainly an interesting addition to the Asus N50vc, anyway.