Lenovo is better known for its range of excellent ThinkPad business laptops, but it also makes a budget range for consumers and small businesses. The 3000 N500 is one such laptop, and offers all the quality and usability we expect from Lenovo.

Despite its excellent build quality, the chassis falls behind many of the other machines here when it comes to style. The design is quite drab overall, compared to the stylish look of the Acer Aspire 6930G-583G, for example.

Chunky plastics mean good protection, however, and the daily commute shouldn't present any issues for the N500's durable plastics. It also remains relatively cool after prolonged periods of use.

The keyboard shares the same patented design as Lenovo's ThinkPad range. It's one of the most comfortable to use, but is bettered by the Dell Studio 15. Unlike some of Lenovo's more expensive models, there is no keyboard light, and there is also no backlighting.

With lots of keys clustered in the corner of the keyboard, the layout also takes a little getting used to, particularly if you've never used a Lenovo ThinkPad before.

The 15.4-inch screen is good for the price, but bettered by many of its rivals. The 1280 x 800-pixel resolution is sharp enough for office work, but the glossy Super-TFT coating means reflections are an issue in changing light conditions.

Graphics are handled by an Intel GMA 4500M GPU. This is an integrated graphics card and, while fine for word processing or browsing spreadsheets, it will struggle with more multimedia-orientated tasks, such as video editing. It also means that running the resource-intensive Windows Vista is more of an issue than on some other machines.

This problem is compounded by the fact that the N500 is powered by a dual-core Intel Pentium processor, which is one of the slowest chips available in this price range. Performance is limited compared to other laptops, especially when multi-tasking. The Lenovo does boast a good battery life of 205 minutes, however.

BENCHMARK MACHINE: Samsung Q45

The built-in 802.11n Wi-Fi means a good connection to wireless high-speed networks won't be a problem. This is perfect for those who regularly use Wi-Fi hotspots to check emails or the internet.

A VGA out port provides analogue connectivity for hooking up to an external monitor. You'll also find four USB ports and a DVD rewriter, and the 250GB hard drive provides ample storage space for your files, folders, music and movies.

While the 3000 N500 offers quality and affordability, it's lacking in performance and features compared to other machines around this price. Ultimately, this makes it hard to recommend and, at this price, we'd suggest looking elsewhere.

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