While it doesn't fall into HP's consumer Pavilion or corporate Compaq range, the 6830s (£599 inc. VAT) is an affordable and well-specified media centre.

Although performance fails to impress, its excellent battery life and Blu-ray compatibility make it well worth considering.

Its large chassis weighs 3.2kg. This makes it best suited to desktop use. Its fantastic 239-minute battery life is a real surprise however, so you can use it for long-term travel if necessary.

Fantastic keyboard

The large chassis allows room for a full-size keyboard with accompanying numeric keypad. Usability is comfortable, but the keys have a hard typing action that makes speed-typing a little harsh. The large touchpad and mouse buttons are both excellent to use.

The 17-inch screen has a matt finish, so reflections are eliminated when working in bright conditions. Sadly, this reduces colour and contrast, so don't expect the stunning image quality seen on some rivals.

Graphics performance is excellent, however, and provides mid-range multimedia power. The ATi graphics card means you can easily edit photos and videos, and even use the HP for playing older and less resource-heavy games.

HD entertainment

The key selling point at this price is the Blu-ray optical drive for watching the latest high-definition (HD) movie discs.

Unfortunately, there is no HDMI port for connecting to an HDTV, so you won't be able to get the full benefit of HD movies. The drive does let you record data to all current DVD and CD formats, however.

The dual-core Intel processor and 3072MB of memory are strong on paper, but in practice delivered a weak performance. There's ample power for most home and office use, but if you require optimum power, there are better choices.

Plenty of storage

Storage options are strong. The 250GB hard drive can easily hold all your family's files and large collections of music, photos and videos. A 7-in-1 media card reader is also fitted at the front of the chassis for sharing files with digital devices.

The VGA-port connects to analogue monitors and projectors, but there is no digital output. Also, no internet security software or office suites are included so you'll need to buy your own.

While the HP 6830s has too many flaws to be considered an essential purchase, its strengths make it well worth a look. As one of the most affordable Blu-ray laptops you can currently buy, it's an effective entry-level media centre. Just don't expect high-powered performance.