The real feature that marks the Packard Bell Dot U out as a laptop instead of a netbook is the processor. While most netbooks go for a basic low-cost Intel Atom processor, which provides simple office performance in return for prolonged battery life, the Dot U has an Intel Pentium U5400 CPU running at 1.2GHz.
We found the Packard Bell Dot U provided roughly double the performance of most modern netbooks, with enough power to run office applications smoothly and even managing light multitasking. This is helped considerably by the 3074MB of memory, compared to the 1024MB you usually find in netbooks.
Unfortunately, the Dot U has no room for a dedicated graphics card in its slender chassis, which means you'll have to make do with bog-standard integrated graphics. Don't buy this machine if you want to play games, or run anything but the most basic multimedia tasks.
Light photo editing with Photoshop Elements was fine, but editing video is a jerky affair, and even playing high-definition films is above the Dot U's capabilities.
Compared to similar ultra-portables at this price point, the Dot U's performance is standard. The Dell M101z is less capable of multitasking but performed better graphically. For another £150 or so, you can bag a Samsung Q330, which has a Core i3 processor that provides improved performance, although you also get a bulkier and heavier chassis too.
The Packard Bell Dot U is, of course, built for life on the road, and the use of low-voltage components means that battery life is much better than the average laptop's, stretching to 284 minutes between charges.
This doesn't compare favourably to many netbooks, though, with the likes of the Samsung N230 claiming 628 minutes of life from a single charge. The Packard Bell Dot U is also outdone by ultra-portables such as the Fujitsu Lifebook P770, which manages 427 minutes, and the Dell M101z, which survives for 346 minutes.
Still, almost five hours of charge gives you plenty of time away from the mains, enough for fairly long distance trips.