While Lenovo is best known for its high-end ThinkPad laptops, it also offers a small range of high-quality entry level machines. The latest is the G550, a powerful, usable and portable system that vastly exceeds all expectations at this low price point.

This machine features a dual-core processor and performance notably betters most rivals around this price. Applications run quickly and multiple tasks can be performed simultaneously without slowing the system down.

Graphics performance is less impressive, but betters the similarly specified Advent Roma 2000 and Toshiba Satellite L450-136. There is ample power for general home use, as well as basic photo and video editing, but don't expect to play the latest games on this machine.

The fantastic 15.6-inch widescreen panel aids entertainment use. Stunning brightness, colour and contrast combine with deep black levels for truly vibrant images. The glossy Super-TFT coating is not overly reflective, making it easy to view in most lighting conditions.

Unlike the Advent and Toshiba, there is no HDMI port for connecting to an HDTV for a larger, high-definition (HD) digital picture. Analogue connectivity is provided by a VGA-out. Three USB ports let you add peripherals, with two on the chassis' left side and one on the right.

The 2.5kg chassis is relatively light and can be comfortably carried on short journeys. The outstanding 293-minute battery life also more than triples the mobility of the Advent and easily beats a lot of other rivals, making the G550 a fantastic travel partner.

The chassis design takes cues from Lenovo's IdeaPad range and resilient matt-black plastic is used throughout. Scratches and scuffs are unlikely to be an issue with this machine and it will be more than tough enough for the whole family to use or for a life on the move.

Excellent usability

Usability is excellent. The wide keyboard proves accurate at all times. The large keys have a slightly spongy typing action, but not enough to hinder use. A full numeric keypad on the board's right-hand side makes it quick and easy to input data.

Lenovo g550

The capacious 320GB hard drive doubles the capacity of the HP and Toshiba and will hold an entire family's files. This is one of the only laptops that has no card reader, however. Bear this in mind if you plan to upload photos from a digital camera.

With its impressive usability, power and mobility, the G550 ticks nearly all the boxes required of a family laptop. While its graphics performance falls far short of the HP Compaq 6735s, it more than compensates in all other areas, making it extremely easy to recommend.

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