If you spend a lot of time on the road, and require a tough laptop to take with you, Dell's Latitude D630 (£1115 inc. VAT) is a great choice. It isn't the most portable option around, as it weighs 2.5kg, but it's still light enough to carry without placing undue strain on your shoulders.

The Dell's most striking feature is its build quality. Magnesium alloy is used throughout to create a rigid chassis. The robust metal is also used on the rear of the display, offering more protection than the plastic casings on other machines.

The display itself is a 14.1-inch panel, which proved ideal on the daily commute. The 1280 x 800-pixel resolution doesn't offer any more space for working on documents, but it's easier on the eye than the smaller screens.

The screen does without a glossy Super-TFT coating, but colours were still accurate, and it was bright enough for use in most conditions. Because it's a matt display, reflections were minimal.

Multimedia performer

Those needing to run demanding 3D applications will be well served by the D630, as its dedicated graphics card offers impressive multimedia performance. It's an Nvidia Quadro NVS 135M adapter, which is part of Nvidia's corporate range. As such, the Dell is ideal for CAD (Computer Aided Design) applications or intensive video editing.

The keyboard is large and comfortable, with well-attached keys. They move quietly, and a pointing stick sits in the centre for navigation while a large and accurate touchpad is also in place.

The D630 offers an impressive specification, with its 2.2GHz Core 2 Duo T7500 processor backed by 2048MB of memory. Performance is strong. The machine started with minimal delay and ran smoothly throughout all our tests. It's further helped by by the less resource-intensive Windows XP Professional operating system. At 120GB, the Dell's hard drive is average.

The SIM card sits under the battery, and the aerial for the 3G/HSDPA module is integrated into the chassis. Services are supplied by Vodafone, and we found connection speeds reasonable.

If you're struggling to get a 3G signal, there's also a switch with a small LED to signify nearby wireless networks. If you do need to switch to Wi-Fi technology, an 802.11n adapter offers the fastest speeds currently possible.

If you don't need an ultraportable machine, the Dell represents great value for money. Build quality is impeccable and performance impressive.