Value for money is vital when you're looking at student laptops. However, features matter too, so it was a surprise when HiGrade submitted a system costing only £599. Could it deliver the functionality needed?

The initial omens certainly weren't good. The all-silver system looked attractive enough, but at 2.8kg it was a bulky system. Furthermore, the core specification looked quite basic: a slow Pentium-M 735 CPU, 512MB RAM, 80GB hard drive - all adequate, but nothing more.

The large case gives you a full 15-inch screen, but resolution remains a basic 1,024 x 768, and its vertical viewing angles are limited. It's still usable for regular Windows apps, but don't expect game-playing performance from the Intel GMA 900 graphics chipset.

Not too encouraging a start, then, but don't give up just yet. The NOTINO C7000L-1700 has some interesting, if hidden depths.

At first glance the use of a Pentium-M 735 CPU seems to be a mistake, and the processor benchmarks aren't encouraging: this laptop is slow.

On the other hand, while the overall MobileMark score is a poor 183, you're unlikely to notice much difference in speed between this system and its rivals. And on the plus side, the NOTINO battery runs for 215 minutes.

The system is comfortable to use, with a decent keyboard, sensibly designed trackpad and all the features you'd expect (Wi-Fi, memory card reader, USB, FireWire and Fast Ethernet ports). However, we weren't expecting a Hauppauge digital TV tuner or a pre-installed copy of OpenOffice 2.

This isn't a high performance laptop, then, but what do you expect for £599? It'll be perfectly acceptable for many users, though, and in pure value for money terms will be very difficult to beat. Mike Williams