Business is booming at the low end of the laptop market. The PC platform has basically levelled out in terms of the functionality most of us expect. You don't need to shell out on a Macbook Pro or a high end Dell laptop such as the Latitude XT2 XFR to get a slick desktop performance – around £350 will do the trick.
So here's one of HP's best efforts in the low end 17-inch laptop sector – and yes, appropriately enough, the HP G72-a10SA is a 17-inch monster with relatively modest insides.
Not that you'd know of its inadequacies from looking at it, though. In terms of presentation, HP has done an incredible job – the G72 sports the seemingly ubiquitous textured casing of the current generation of laptops, a huge trackpad which blends seamlessly with the rest of the wrist-rest, and a solid construction reminiscent of much more affluent machines.
There's a touch of the Sony Vaio F about it, and a definite whiff of Macbook Pro in the flattened edges and well spread ports. Don't look too hard at the bulbous underside, though – that classy appearance is something of an illusion.
Even before we go into detailed testing, it's clear that the HP G72 is an exquisitely designed unit. And if you needed any evidence of the effort that's been lavished on it, a glance at the LED colouration – beautiful clean whites, mostly, routed from the motherboard for a super-classy look – just about says it all. This is neat, it's tidy, and it'll fool your friends into thinking you've spent twice as much, if not more.
The barrel-bottom HP G72-a10SA sits in the low-end bracket, and sports a rather flimsy 1.86GHz P6000 Pentium processor, so it's not winning many awards for number-crunching muscle.
You're also stuck with the previous generation of Intel HD graphics. This doesn't help matters much, particularly as it pulls its memory from the measly 2GB on board – a 3D powerhouse this is not.
Thankfully the memory is easily expanded because there's a single DIMM on board, but still, it's pretty weak – even on cheap machines, 2GB is starting to look a bit inadequate. Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit does a good job of managing these limited resources, though.
Of course, the things that count at this level are more physical than logical. The prism-patterned casing – biscotti-coloured, apparently, though we'd steer towards platinum or even slightly yellowy grey – is tough and neat.
There's a huge full-sized keyboard with a separate number pad, though we'd argue it's a bit close to the main keyboard given the number of times we managed to switch on Num Lock instead of deleting a character. And there's that single-touch pad, which is huge. That has its disadvantages – if you're cursed with big palms and sausage fingers, you'll be bent sideways trying to avoid it while typing.
One thing that's really striking is the G72's weight. That 17.3-inch form factor and the really very good 1600 x 900 screen mean it's heavy, almost like HP's ultra-light and pretty great 2230s with half a breeze block strapped to it. Alright, it's not the sort of thing that's going to tear the straps off your bag if you decide to carry it anywhere, but be aware that the G72 is both huge and weighty if you're considering any sort of significant travel.
You'll get the same with any machine of this size, so it's worth considering whether you need an enormous screen at all.