Sold through Laptops Direct in the UK, the MSI M662B (£671 inc. VAT) is aimed at home users and students. Providing dual-core power and strong features, it has a highly affordable price tag.

While not the lightest laptop, its 2.7kg weight is reasonable for short journeys. Its 170-minute battery life is lower than the three-hour minimum we'd prefer, but provides mild mobility. Well made throughout, the chassis is tough enough for regular mobile users.

Day-to-day use is generally impressive. The keyboard spans the width of the chassis and is comfortable to work with. However, while a numerical keypad is fitted, directional keys on the main board have been made smaller to make room for it, which leads to awkward usability.

Storage space is comprehensive. With a 100GB hard drive, even ardent music and photo collectors are well catered for, which is impressive for such an affordable laptop. For backing up your data, a dual-layer recordable DVD drive lets you save up to 8.5GB of files to compatible discs.

Entry-level performance

Although powered by one of Intel's latest Core 2 Duo processors, performance is not as good as we'd hoped. There's plenty of power for most home uses, but we saw a noticeable drop in performance when multi-tasking with three or more programs.

Similarly, 3D performance is basic at best. Powered by an integrated Intel graphics chip, don't expect to use this as your main gaming system. In our tests, older games were playable at the lowest resolutions, but it was impossible to run any of the latest 3D software.

With its Super-TFT coating, the 15.4-inch screen provides impressive brightness and colour. Reflections are increased by the glossy coating, which hinders outdoor use. However, home users will appreciate the improved vibrancy when viewing and editing photos and videos.

An integrated camera is built into the screen panel. With a 1.3-megapixel resolution, image quality is average, but suits home use, as you can take photos and easily add video to instant messaging software. Another selling point is the comprehensive connectivity. 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi lets you wirelessly connect to hotspots at high-speed in the UK and abroad, while Gigabit Ethernet lets you set up high-speed fixed home networks.

Despite its low performance, the strong usability and features of the MSI M662B make it a good choice for buyers looking for a bargain. If raw power is what you need, then there are better laptops on the market, but this is well worth a look for the first-time buyer.