Gaming laptops are one area of mobile computing where portability often plays a secondary concern to features and cutting-edge components.

So what makes the MSI GX720 (£1049 inc. VAT) compelling is that it offers a fair degree of both and at a reasonable price.

In this age of true widescreen displays, it's surprising to find a 16:10 aspect ratio screen used. That said, the 17-inch panel is clear and bright and images look sharp.

The lack of true widescreen won't be a problem when gaming and, while there is a letterbox effect when watching movies, brightness and contrast proved acceptable.

Gaming prowess

The overall look of the machine is clearly aimed at gamers. The black base with red trim, along with the highlighted gaming keys, give it a certain youthful look.

The build quality is good, but we found the keyboard wasn't as robust as we'd have liked. Billed as a Home Threatre machine, you'll find stereo speakers and even a small sub-woofer built into the base of the laptop. Quality is acceptable, but you'll find it distorts when played at volume.

The keyboard itself is a good size and makes full use of the larger screen size by incorporating a separate numeric keypad. The keys are of a good size and, apart from the rattle they make as you type, it's comfortable to use.

The mouse buttons are cut from the same brushed metal as the palm rests and, while they are rather small, we found them responsive. The touchpad also proved responsive, but it is a little on the small side.

Smooth performance

For a laptop that is designed to be a gaming machine, we were a little disappointed with the use of the rather average nVidia GeForce 9600M GT.

Sure, with 512MB of dedicated memory, it'll handle the latest games with ease and be able to handle high-definition (HD) content with ease. However, we were hoping for something a little more high-end.

Everyday performance is built around an Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 processor, which runs at 2.4GHz. With 4096MB of memory in support, you'll find this system runs most applications with a fair degree of ease. We found Windows Vista loaded quickly and applications ran smoothly.

Desktop replacement

Features are typical and include eSATA and HDMI ports, as well as the standard array of USB and Firewire connections. MSI also includes a gaming mouse, which has a neat weighting function, so you can make the mouse as heavy or as light as you like to make gaming more enjoyable.

The MSI GX720 isn't about to compete with true high-end machines, but as a stylish desktop replacement, it's more than appealing. The only real downside is the keyboard, which detracts from an otherwise highly usable laptop.