Sony's VAIO range is one of the world's best known laptop brands. While the VGN-FZ21M (£799 inc. VAT) isn't the cheapest or most portable system, it's a well-specified and usable laptop, ideal for multimedia use.

The 2.6kg chassis is quite large, but suits basic mobility. The 160-minute battery life limits long-term travel, but keeps you working between meetings. Build quality is more than strong enough for home or travel use.

Working on the VAIO is made easy by its near full-sized keyboard. All keys are large and well spaced and have a firm but smooth typing action. A panel of multimedia buttons are arranged in a scroll wheel design above the board for quick control of music and video files.

Poor performance

Sadly, performance falls short of expectations, despite its Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2048MB of memory. There's enough power for basic home use, but the system shows its limits when multi-tasking and provides the lowest performance in this group test.

The storage options are more pleasing. A 200GB hard drive is in place and Sony has finally offered support for other card formats than just its own Memory Stick by including a 3-in-1 card reader.

The key selling point at this price is the Blu-ray optical drive. You can watch the latest High Definition (HD) movies and save up to 50GB of data to recordable dual-layer discs.

Unfortunately, the 1280 x 800-pixel screen resolution is too low for full HD playback, but an HDMI port lets you connect to HD Ready TVs.

Image quality on the 15.4-inch screen was stunning. Colour and contrast were both excellent, and ideal for watching movies or viewing and editing digital photos. Brightness was also outstanding and provided comfortable visibility at all times.

3D performance was impressively powerful. The nVidia graphics card is ideal for editing photos or high-definition video. The latest games can also be played, but you'll need to use basic 3D settings to get the best performance.

A camera is included with the package. Taking photos and recording video is made easy using an intuitive software interface. You can also perform live video conferencing using online messaging software.

The Sony VAIO VGN-FZ21M is an outstanding laptop, but is unfortunately flawed within the semi-portable criteria. However, while its rivals provide greater power and mobility, this is neverthless a fantastic choice for mobile multimedia use and is a real bargain at this price.