While not quite ultraportable, the MSI MegaBook S271 (£759 inc. VAT) provides strong mobility for working on the move. Weighing 2.1kg, the MSI was comfortable to carry on our travels. Its 160-minute battery life is quite good, but falls below the three-hour average we expect from modern laptops, largely due to the use of Windows Vista.

Although powered by a dual-core processor from AMD, performance falls far behind. Basic tasks such as word processing and web browsing run quickly, but you won't want to rely on this system for high-performance multi-tasking.

With graphics provided by an integrated chip from ATi, 3D performance is limited. Games such as solitaire and chess run with speed, but modern 3D gaming is out of the question. For business use, multimedia presentations and video are also unaffected by this lack of power.

Far more pleasing is the bright and colourful 12.1-inch screen. Using a glossy Super-TFT coating, images are vibrant and great for viewing digital photos and movies. The 1280 x 800 pixel resolution makes it possible to work with up to four windows simultaneously.

Unfortunately, day-to-day usability is flawed, but not enough to pose a major problem. While the touchpad and mouse buttons are well made, the spacious keyboard isn't so reliable. All keys need to be struck hard to properly register, which can lead to frequent typing errors.

While other laptops may offer more storage space, the 80GB hard drive is ample for carrying business and personal data. A built-in dual-layer recordable DVD drive lets you back up large quantities of files and watch DVDs and listen to CDs.

In Conclusion

As with most other systems, 802.11b/g Wi-fi and Gigabit Ethernet means high-speed wireless and fixed networks can be accessed when available. While Intel's Core 2 Duo chipset supports 802.11a for accessing wireless hotspots abroad, the MSI's AMD chipset provides no such support.

Finally, for improving usability at a desktop or on a train/plane, a USB-mouse is included, and a microfibre cloth is also provided for keeping the Super-TFT screen clean of smears, a constant hazard of using this type of glossy screen.

With an affordable price, comfortable mobility and stunning screen, the MSI MegaBook S271 has plenty on offer for the mobile worker. However, its poor usability and low power limit it, so it's worth having a hands-on look before buying.