The Hi-Grade D6000-2000 (£1291 inc. VAT) is the first dual-core offering to come from Hi-Grade and as such uses a completely new chassis we haven't seen before. The casing is made of plastic, finished in a dark grey and, while the styling is rather awkward, we found it a sturdy and solid machine.

With large vents on the side, back and base of the chassis, the D6000 has ample ventilation to keep the inside cool. Even after long periods of use, we found that it remained relatively cool to the touch.

Powered by an Intel Core Duo T2500, which, as reflected in the machine's name, runs at 2GHz and is supported by 1024MB DDR2 memory, there is more than enough power to handle even the most taxing of tasks.

Under test, the Hi-Grade scored a MobileMark 2005 score of 259. Storage comes in the form of a Hitachi 100GB hard drive, which runs at 5400rpm, so storing files to disk is quick and trouble-free.

Weighing in at 3.6kg, you won't want to take this machine regularly on the move with you. Mobility is also hampered by a battery life under test of 113 minutes - less than two hours.

Interestingly, on the base of the unit is a single access hatch rather than separate hatches for different components. This allows you access to all the main upgrade options with ease, but you do need to unscrew quite a few screws to upgrade even the most basic of features.

Looking good

The screen is a 15.1-inch Super-TFT panel with a native resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels (WXGA). It's bright and clear with an even sheen across its width, protected on the back by a thick layer of plastic and with hinges built firmly into the body of the machine. We found it to be a well constructed panel.

The screen is supported by the ATi Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics adapter, which comes with 256MB of dedicated memory and is a reasonable mainstream card. While the X1600 can't match the performance of the nVidia GeForce Go 7800GTX, it can handle most games, albeit at a reduced resolution.

The keyboard is well-spaced and sits squarely in the middle of the chassis. While it's comfortable to use, we found the keys to be sluggish to respond. Not so much a problem if you're slow at typing, but anyone with any experience will find it frustrating to use for long periods. The touchpad and mouse buttons are small but accurate, with even the scroll pad on the touchpad being highly responsive.

The Hi-Grade D6000-2000 manages to offer plenty of performance as befits its dual-core specification and doesn't want for any of the basic features. What really lets this system down is its poor keyboard, which seriously flaws an otherwise good all-round system.

Open source options: Software on the Hi-Grade takes a different approach to its peers. Bullguard Antivirus software and Sonic RecordNow are in place for Internet security and burning data to discs, and the free open source OpenOffice.org office suite is included for word processing and other office tasks.