The Hi-Grade Notino D7000SR-2200 (£899 inc. VAT) is a good example of a laptop designed for a variety of uses. Weighing in at 3kg, it's a semi-portable machine that is built from a plastic main body and magnesium-alloy behind the lid. We found this a robust and sturdy machine and it more than handled the daily commute with ease.
The battery protrudes from the base of the machine and while this raises the rear of the chassis, and feels more ergonomic when you type, it makes it more fiddly to hide the laptop away in your bag. The depth of the battery pack also limits how far you can open the laptop, but it also helps to steady it.
Powered by an Intel Core 2 Duo T7500, it has a running speed of 2.2GHz and is part of the consumer-based Centrino Duo range, which is aimed at those who want to use video and multimedia Pre-installed with Windows Vista Home Premium, the new chipset and the use of 2048MB of memory help things tick over quickly and with minimum lag.
The 15.4-inch Super-TFT screen is bright and comes with an even tone across its width. We were also impressed with how bright it was when running on battery power. If you want to hook this machine up to a HD television you can do, as you'll find a DVI-out port and, as the new 965 chipset supports HDMI, you'll be able to watch such content with ease. Sadly, the optical drive is a standard DVD writer, so you won't be able to play high-def discs.
In keeping with the Intel platform, Hi-Grade has taken advantage of nVidia's GeForce 8400M GS graphics adapter, which has been designed for entry level graphics. In test we found it offered a decent 3D score of 4252, which is far better than an integrated solution, but won't allow you to play anything too feature-rich. With four USB ports evenly spread around the sides of the casing, adding peripherals is easy.
The machine ran quietly for long periods of time, but when pushed, such as during boot-up or running video or gaming, the fan ran constantly and was rather loud.
The keyboard isn't the most securely mounted we've seen and initially felt rather rattly. However, it only took a short time to grow accustomed to using it. The keyboard is loud as you type, but the keys proved firmly mounted with a reasonable amount of pressure to the keystroke.
The Hi-Grade Notino D7000SR-2200 may not be the most attractive of laptops, but we were pleasantly surprised with the build quality and overall performance of this machine. At such a compelling price, it's well worth considering.