Packard Bell has experienced something of a renaissance since being acquired by Acer in 2008, and has produced a number of highly impressive machines at very competitive prices.

Unfortunately, the EasyNote LM86-GN- 005UK isn't one of its best - while it is a competent and comfortable machine, we expected more.

The main problem lies in the fact that, because both the Samsung R580 and Sony VAIO VPC-EB1Z0E/B are more expensive, they offer a lot more for the money.

Both feature powerful Core i5 processors, more memory and, consequently, much greater performance, giving you greater flexibility when carrying out tasks ranging from word processing to browsing the internet.

Integrated graphics

Similarly, this laptop has an integrated Intel graphics card which provides even less graphical power than the HP ProBook 6440b, meaning you won't be able to carry out anything but very basic multimedia tasks, and gaming is also largely out of the question.

The hard drive is one of the least capacious at only 320GB. While that would be fine for a business laptop where the majority of data held is made up of office documents, this laptop is likely to spend most of its life on your desk due to its size and weight, to be used by the whole family. In which case the 320GB is likely to fill up rapidly with MP3s, photos and movies.

Also, while there is an optical drive for burning photos to discs, or listening to music, it doesn't boast the Blu-ray functionality of the Sony, so you won't be enjoying films in high definition (HD).

Large screen

It's not all bad, however, as this is a very comfortable laptop to use. The 17.3-inch screen boasts a sharp 1600 x 900-pixel resolution which makes images very detailed, and it's a great laptop for watching films with or viewing your photos on.

PB easynote lm86

The keyboard is great to use and features a unique social networking button for all the Facebook addicts out there. A dedicated numeric keypad makes doing your tax returns a pleasure and, while we did notice the mouse buttons aren't as responsive as we would like, the touchpad itself is a pleasure to use.

Ultimately, the Packard Bell EasyNote LM86-GN-005UK isn't a bad laptop. The great screen, decent usability and innovative social networking button means there's certainly a market for it.

It's just that the Sony – even taking into consideration the increased cost – offers so much more in terms of power, performance and features that it makes recommending this machine quite difficult.

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