Sony is best known for its high-end ultraportables, but it also produces a range of cheaper laptops. The Sony VAIO VGN-NS30E/S is a stylish and well-made machine that uses budget components to keep its price down.

The 15.4-inch screen offers good colour reproduction and is bright. It's also one of the only machines to feature a more upright 16:10 aspect ratio – which isn't so good when watching the latest films.

At 1280 x 800 pixels, it does feature more vertical pixels than rivals, however, making it better for working with spreadsheets.

Graphics are handled by an integrated Intel chipset. This helps to keep costs down and also leads to an excellent 357 minute battery life.

3D performance is low, however, and if you're intending on playing games or carrying out demanding multimedia tasks, then you'd be better off opting for a machine with a dedicated graphics card.

The keyboard offers large, flat keys that offer enough travel to make it very comfortable over long periods of use. The edges are also slightly tapered, making it easy to type at speed without errors.

It does rattle under use, however, lacking the quality of the Acer. The touchpad is large and features a smooth, responsive surface, offering accurate control.

Overall, build quality is very good. The plastics feature a textured finish which is attractive and hardwearing. It also helps to provide a distinctive appearance. Thick hinges help to keep the screen firmly in place and.

Reasonable performance

Processing power is provided by the same 2GHz Intel Pentium chip found in the Packard Bell, along with 3072MB of memory. It's enough to run regular office tasks without issues.

The 250GB hard drive is on par with most of its rivals, offering enough storage for comprehensive photograph, music and video collections.

There are two USB ports on each side of the chassis, with a VGA port in place for adding an external display. Unlike the more modern laptops, there's no HDMI port and therefore no support for digital displays.

There's also support for SD memory cards, in addition to Sony's Memory Stick, making it easy to access files from other digital devices.

The VAIO VGN-NS30E/S is a comfortable, well-equipped and well-made laptop. Although the design is beginning to look a little old, it will still appeal to some users.

If you need a good balance between battery life and performance, it's worth a look, but it's otherwise bettered by the Asus M51a and Acer Aspire 5410T.

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