Sony's VAIO range has traditionally comprised high-end laptops with equally high price points.

This is no longer the case, with several affordable models now available, one of which is Sony's VAIO VGN-NR21Z/T (£699 inc. VAT).

It has a 15.4-inch Super-TFT display. Movies and photographs looked great, helped by vivid colours. It's large enough to consider using the Sony as a replacement for your desktop PC, yet it retains an element of portability, further aided by a battery life of just over three hours.

A great multimedia laptop

The NR21 was at its best when it came to multimedia use, where its dedicated nVidia GeForce 8400M GT graphics card helps it to provide impressive 3D capabilities. The latest games can be played without trouble, albeit in reduced resolutions in some cases.

The Sony was no less impressive when it came to regular office use. Our review model featured a high-end 2.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo T8300 processor, although production machines will feature a slower 2.1GHz chip.

Helped by 3072MB of memory - more than any of its rivals - the NR21 really is a laptop optimised for speed. Although this wasn't reflected in our MobileMark 2007 benchmark, where it lagged behind other laptops, we found it was one of the quickest when running on mains power.

Well-protected chassis

This machine is quite conservatively styled. It's still stylish though, with textured plastics used for the palm rests and the lid, and the result is both distinctive and robust. We found the chassis resisted flex even under pressure, and the thick screen surround provides plenty of protection.

As with the other machines, the Sony offers an excellent keyboard. The large, individually mounted keys feature raised centres, making it easier to type quickly without risk of mistakes. The touchpad is pleasingly large, and its responsiveness makes it easy to navigate.

With most of your money going towards the high-end components, features are lacking. Its spec omits a webcam - so you won't be able to conduct video calls unless you buy an external camera. It also does without Bluetooth, and those wanting to connect external displays are restricted to using the analogue-only VGA-out port.

Powerful machine

With a powerful specification and understated styling, the NR21 is one of the best machines you can buy at this price.

It fails to match the portability of some rivals, but its larger screen makes it more practical, and only the lack of features will put some users off.