Better known for making computer hardware, MSI has only been producing laptops for the last two years. The Megabook L730 offers a lot for your money, boasting a Super-TFT screen, a dedicated number keypad, and a good range of features.

These include a multi-format DVD rewriter, which you can use for copying your files to DVDs. You'll also find a 3-in-1 card reader built-in, and an integrated microphone above the keyboard, making the MSI ideal for Skype. Bundled software includes a 90-day trial of Norton Internet Security, keeping your laptop protected until you have time to upgrade or find an alternative.

The 15.4-inch display is common at this price. The colours are particularly vivid and contrast is good, although it isn't the brightest screen on test. Ideal for watching DVDs thanks to the widescreen aspect ratio, the MSI is also comfortable running light multimedia tasks and photo editing software.

The L730 uses nVidia's GeForce Go 6100 graphics card, and the 3DMark 2003 score of 1,173 - typical of a modern integrated solution is good enough. AMD's Mobile Sempron 3400 chip provides processing power. It's a budget CPU, similar in many ways to Intel's Celeron. At 1.8GHz, and backed by 1,024MB of memory, the MSI should offer a respectable performance.

However, in test this didn't turn out to be the case, with the Megabook struggling to run programs without lag. This was highlighted by a MobileMark 2005 score of 111 - below what we would expect from a machine even in the budget-price range.

Thin and light

The Megabook has a relatively thin chassis, which helps to keep weight down to a respectable 2.7kg, and an impressive battery life of over three hours. However, the finish wasn't as good as it c ould have been; several of the surfaces felt insubstantial to the touch, bending under the slightest pressure.

There's a number pad beside the standard keyboard which, although useful, results in some of the keys being rather cramped. The rest of the keys offer a well-judged amount of travel, making it a comfortable laptop to use, with the large touchpad being quick to respond and accurate. However, it's also too easy to brush it accidentally when typing.

With a good Super-TFT screen and a lot of features, on paper the MSI Megabook L730 impresses. However, a less than sturdy build quality lets it down, and poor performance makes it difficult to recommend it over other laptops.