Most laptop manufacturers take a standard chassis design and offer it at a range of prices and specifications. The HP Compaq 6720s (£370 inc. VAT) has been designed to meet a budget price, so compromises in design and specification are to be expected.

The first thing you will notice about this machine is how plain the design is. The silver and black chassis is made from extremely tough plastic. The design is simple, but the keyboard sits in a small hollow, to prevent screen rub when the lid is closed.

Bright screen

The thin bezel around the 15.4-inch screen makes the display appear larger than it actually is.

The screen is bright and images crisp and we were impressed with the even tone across the span of
the Super-TFT panel. Graphics are provided by an integrated solution. However, the Intel GMA X3100 proved low on efficiency, delivering a 3DMark 2003 score of just 791.

The keyboard is positioned in the middle of the main body and the keys are of a good size. We found this a comfortable keyboard to use, but it doesn't have as smooth a typing action as you'll find on some rivals.

Less impressive are the mouse buttons, which are made of rubber and feel slack in their mountings. This resulted in a sluggish response from the keys. Function keys above the keyboard consist of a power switch and wireless LAN access and add to the minimalist look.

Basic performance

When it comes to everyday performance, this machine is best suited to basic tasks, such as word processing and the internet.

Based around an Intel Celeron M processor, you won't be able to edit video or run anything too taxing on this laptop. However, with 2048MB of memory, we found that applications loaded smoothly and there were no signs of lag in daily use.

When it came to using this laptop on the move, we found it lasted for three hours, which is reasonable but not outstanding for a machine that weighs 2.7kg.

Satisfactory laptop

The screen opens to cover the rear of the chassis, so ports have been added to the sides only. In keeping with the minimal approach to this laptop, HP has fitted the most basic of ports.

You'll find a DVD rewriter and Kensington lock on the right-hand side, while on the left-hand side you'll find three USB ports, as well as ExpressCard, Ethernet and modem ports.

Overall, the HP Compaq 6720s is a comfortable laptop to use for the price. It won't suit power users, but while its specification is basic, we found its usability to be above average.