Packard Bell may not be known for its leading-edge innovations but, along with Asus, it is the first company to launch a 7-inch laptop. The Packard Bell EasyNote XS20 (£499 inc. VAT) is made from plastic and feels tough and solid. The design is interesting, as the screen has been built on extended hinge arms. This means the screen is raised a little higher, so is easier to view. The design allows for a larger battery cell to be used as standard, without it impacting on the overall shape.

Bright screen

The screen is a Super-TFT panel that is impressively bright without casting too many reflections. We used this machine in the office and out on the move and found it easily viewable in all instances.

The screen doesn't fill the whole lid, as Packard Bell has rather wisely kept the chassis larger than the screen dimensions, so that a larger keyboard can be fitted. This does mean they is a large bezel around the display, but there is room for a webcam, fitted to the right of the screen.

While the keyboard is on the small side, it doesn't feel too compromised due to the slightly larger chassis design. It takes a little time to grow used to it and you'll find yourself pecking at keys instead of typing.

The keyboard is comfortable to use considering the size, but instead of a conventional touchpad and mouse buttons, you'll find they have been moved above the keyboard. The touchpad is located on the right-hand side, while the mouse buttons are positioned on the left-hand side of the case.

Initially, this feels a little odd, but due to the design you can hold the EasyNote in your hands and navigate as though it were a console controller. This only becomes a problem when you have peripherals attached, as they tend to get in the way.

Modest performer

When it comes to performance, you won't find this the quickest machine. Powered by a VIA processor, it's not the fastest machine to boot up or use. Windows took a long time to boot, but once up and running it works exceedingly well. That is, as long as your expectations are normal, as this is a word processing machine in the truest sense of the word.

Considering the size, connectivity is excellent with two USB ports, DVI-out and ExpressCard slot, along with support for fixed and wireless networks. When using the XS, we never felt as though we were missing out on any essential connections.

The Packard Bell EasyNote XS20 is a machine of mixed blessings. The keyboard and screen are excellent, but don't come to this machine expecting it to handle heavy tasks with ease, as we found it underpowered, which detracts from what is an excellent concept.