Asus offers a wide array of laptops covering the full range of specifications and price points, but the Asus X50N (£319 inc. VAT) is the cheapest machine we've seen outside of the Eee PC line.

This may be a budget laptop, but we were impressed with the build quality on offer. Made from thick and robust plastic, the silver and black chassis feels solid and tough in the hands. The lid and trim highlights have a brushed metallic finish to the plastic that add style to the design.

Comfortable laptop

The keyboard sits to the back of the main body, so you'll find yourself leaning over the rather large palm rests in order to type. The keyboard is of a good size and the keys proved surprisingly comfortable to use. The keys are individually mounted and are solid to the touch.

The chassis weighs 2.7kg, which is rather compact for a 15.4-inch laptop. However, you won't be able to rely on this machine for prolonged mobile use, as we found the battery lasted less than three hours, under test conditions.

The screen is a Super-TFT panel and we were impressed with how sharp images looked. As you would expect at this price point, the graphics are an integrated solution and rather basic. However, the screen looked great when running our sample DVD tests.

Disappointing audio

Asus refers to this laptop as an Entertainment System, but while the screen is of good quality, the speakers, which are located on the front of the unit, lack bass and sound rather flat.

The touchpad is of a decent size and proved responsive. There is a single mouse button, made from the same piece of plastic as the touchpad surround, but it has the standard two-button response. It also has a solid click as you use it.

Budget performer

In terms of performance, this is clearly a budget laptop. The use of an AMD Turion 64 Mobile X2 processor and 2048MB of memory resulted in a MobileMark 2007 score of 111, which is less than half of what can be expected from the latest processors. However, for word processing, using the internet and basic office tasks, this machine is more than usable.

At this price, manufacturers tend to keep extras to a minimum, but you'll find a DVD rewriter fitted, as well as a webcam. Ports are kept to a minimum, but with four USB ports, ExpressCard, SD-card slot and VGA-port, you'll be able to add sufficient peripherals. There is also a Wi-Fi switch, so you'll be able to preserve battery life when wireless LAN is not required.

Considering the price of the Asus X50N, this is a great budget laptop. The compromises are in its processing power and battery life, but if your needs are basic, you'll be impressed with the build quality and array of features on offer.