Sony's VAIO range is one of the world's best known laptop brands.

The VAIO VGN-FZ38M (£849 inc. VAT) is a stylish and impressively specified laptop ideal for most home users. Performance is a mixed bag, however, and this may deter more power-hungry users.

Sony's high quality build

The 2.6kg chassis is slim, lightweight and resilient enough for travel use. Its stylish design looks just as good in the home as the office.

While the 171-minute battery life provides strong mobility, it is bettered by many of its rivals.

The Sony's keyboard is of a high-quality and great during constant use, and always comfortable.

That said, while the keys are large and respond well, the firm typing action may be too hard for some users.

More of a multimedia laptop

Despite one of the best specifications we've seen at this price, performance fails to deliver.

It has an Intel Core 2 Duo processor and outstanding 4096MB of memory, but performance was disappointing. There's enough power for all basic home use however.

Graphics performance is far better. The dedicated nVidia GPU provides mainstream 3D power, and lets you easily edit photos and even high-definition video.

The latest games can also be played, but you'll need to use lower resolution and detail settings to enjoy the best performance.

Equipped with Blu-ray

A key selling point at this price is the Sony's Blu-ray drive, as it allows you to watch the latest high-definition movies.

The screen's 1280 x 800 pixel (WXGA) resolution is too low for Full HD playback, but an HDMI-out port is included for connecting to external HDTVs.

That's not to say the 15.4-inch screen is poor. It's sharp, bright and colourful and ideal for viewing photos and standard-definition videos.

The viewing angle is fairly limited, so it's best viewed straight on when sitting at a desk, but comfortable use when out of the office is also possible.

Storage options

The 200GB hard drive is also notable and will easily hold an entire family's files, as well as allow you to download and store HD video from the internet.

For backing up your data, the Blu-ray drive also lets you write to recordable CDs and DVDs.

A benefit for the first-time buyer is the extensive software package Sony includes in the price.

Market-leading, entry-level tools for photo and video editing, CD/DVD creation, internet security and home-office tasks are provided, among others.

A great family machine

In nearly all ways, the Sony VAIO VGN-FZ38M is an excellent laptop at a great price.

Only the poor performance is a problem, but for most home users this is a great family laptop with everything you'll need to get started.