Samsung has overhauled most of its notebook range in recent months, implementing what it calls its "Aura" design. The R20 is the entry-level machine in the range, yet judging from the look you wouldn't think so.

The black shiny gloss finish gives the device a hint of style and looks more valuable than the £499 asking price. True, the gloss effect gathers fingerprints and grease smears as you go, but the biggest problem with the design is that it's incredibly easy to scratch. We'd advise anyone using it to invest in a notebook skin for an extra layer of protection, along with a carry case.

Lightweight chassis

We'd like to think that you'd want to carry this machine around with you because it weighs a slim and light 2.3kg. It hits this weight largely due to the use of a 14.1-inch Super-TFT screen, which may be smaller than its rivals, but because it's widescreen you can still place two documents side by side when working or equally, watch DVDs in their native format.

On the downside, the screen has a narrow viewing field, so while it's fine for the single person sitting directly in front of the panel, it's not so good if you want to share it with others.

Smooth graphics

Not that you'll be watching a full movie on the move on this notebook. We managed to log a battery life of less than two hours on average, which limits the portability of an otherwise lightweight wonder.

Graphics are an ATI integrated chipset, and it's the latest iteration, so you'll find that it runs quicker than Intel's latest X3100.

Still, an integrated option will always have its limitations, so while you'll be able to run visual applications smoother than most, it's still not capable of handling anything that's either too complex or taxing.

More impressive is the specification that Samsung offers with this notebook. Based around an Intel Core Duo running at 1.86GHz, this laptop is quick enough for most standard applications. Curiously, there's 768MB of memory installed, which is just enough to run Vista Home Premium at a reasonable rate, but we'd suggest upgrading when your budget allows.

What's more, when it comes to using the R20, you'll find the keyboard more than up to the task. Its large and well-spaced keys are firmly mounted, making this one of the most comfortable keyboards around.

The built-in extras don't disappoint, either. A standard dual-layer DVD rewriter is present, while a 6-in-1 media card reader makes it easy to share files with other mobile devices.

The Samsung R20 more than delivers in terms of raw processing power for the price. If you take its less-than-ideal battery life and easily scratched case into account then this is clearly more a desktop alternative than an everyday-use, portable notebook.