Toshiba's Satellite U300 (£699 inc. VAT) is a 13.3-inch laptop that targets the regular home user. Offering style and an element of individuality, you'll be able to choose the lid from a range of different colours. Our test machine was metallic blue, with the inside finished in contrasting black and silver.

The screen has a Super-TFT coating, making it ideal for viewing photographs. Colours are true to life and images bright. As with other Super-TFT panels, reflections were more visible when outdoors or under strong light, but we never found it a problem.

The widescreen aspect ratio means there's plenty of space for two documents side by side, and is also great for movies. A row of media buttons sit above the keyboard for controlling films and music files. Unusually, the volume control is located separately, fitted on the side of the machine.

The Toshiba coped with most applications with ease, but due to the use of an integrated graphics card you won't be able to play the latest 3D games. It keeps costs down, however, and also benefits battery life. Used for simple tasks such as editing documents, we managed to get 185 minutes from a single charge.

Most of the compact chassis is taken up by the keyboard, which is wide and offers good-sized keys. Typing on this machine was a comfortable experience, helped by a decent travel to the keys. However, the board flexed when typing. The rest of the chassis is sturdy, and the screen is also firmly attached. The lid is thick, but doesn't offer the superior protection found elsewhere.

Everyday performance was average. Although the Windows Vista Home Premium OS booted quickly, we found running several programs together was a slower experience than we would have liked.

This is due to the use of Intel's entry level 1.6GHz Core 2 Duo T5500 chip and 1024MB of memory. A 160GB hard drive is in place, offering plenty of storage space for your photographs, movies and music.

Extra features

A webcam and microphone sit at the top of the screen surround, making this an ideal tool for video chats. A Wi-Fi adapter is built-in for getting online wirelessly, and you'll also be able to connect to fixed networks. A DVD rewriter is built-in for backing up your files, along with a media card reader for transferring files from your digital camera or PDA.

The U300 is a comfortable, stylish and well designed semi-portable with plenty of features. It's not the fastest machine, but at this price we have few complaints.