At £499 (inc. VAT), the Toshiba Satellite M70-394 hits the price limit dead-on. It features a multi-format DVD rewriter, and you'll also find a 5-in-1 card reader - enabling you to transfer files easily with digital cameras, Pocket PCs and other devices.

All three currently ratified wireless standards are covered - thanks to an 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi adapter, allowing you to take advantage of wireless hotspots. As with the Acer and Lenovo machines, connection to televisions, projectors and external monitors is possible using the S-Video and D-Sub ports.

The Toshiba features a Pentium M 735 chip. Although superseded by the Core Duo, the Pentium M still offers strong performance. At 1.7GHz, this particular model should have endowed the M70 with respectable performance.

Unfortunately, this wasn't the case. A MobileMark 2005 score of 194 is fairly low, and this machine is not the most impressive when it comes to running multiple applications. A battery life of 222 minutes was better, comfortably beating the three-hour minimum we expect from a machine.

This prolonged battery life is partly because of the integrated graphics card - an Intel 915GM adaptor using up to 128MB of system memory. As an older solution than the 945GM chipset featured on HP's Compaq, and with a 3DMark 2003 score of 931, multimedia ability is low.

However, you'll still be able to watch DVDs and complete office tasks using the 15.4-inch display. The screen is a standard TFT panel, with a resolution of 1280 x 768 pixels (XGA). Thanks to the 16:9 aspect ratios, working with multiple windows is a possibility. Colours appear true, and images bright.

The rear of the screen is made from sturdy plastic, offering a good degree of protection. The leading edge of the clamshell curves out from the display, preventing items falling between keyboard and screen in transit. The chassis is made from strong materials, and is capable of withstanding everyday knocks and drops. The keyboard is also impressive - the large keys move quietly and with precision.

With a respectable if not cutting-edge specification, on paper the Toshiba should be a quick machine. While this didn't turn out to be the case, we were still impressed with its strong blend of features, build quality and usability.