While Lenovo's ThinkPad range usually appeals to business users, its cut-price ThinkPad B560 is a well-built machine that should suit anyone after a cheap portable. It'll suit regular travellers and commuters too, despite a less-than-impressive battery life.

At a glance, it's obvious that this is a ThinkPad. Lenovo's trademark plain-black design is used throughout, from the solid lid to the interior. The body is textured and does a great job repelling dust and fingerprints, even if it's not very exciting.

The chassis is just 34mm at its thickest point, making it perfect for slipping into a bag. It's also light enough to carry around with ease, so anyone who needs a portable for working or staying in touch on the go will be well served.

However, the battery only lasted 134 minutes when we watched a film, a poor effort that was beaten by many other laptops around this price. You'll get longer life when doing simpler tasks, such as browsing the web. However, still pack your charger on trips.

One feature we were surprised to see is the fingerprint scanner, a security feature usually found on more expensive business machines.

The 802.11n Wi-Fi support allows fast wireless web browsing.

Ample storage

There's also an eSATA port for connecting external hard drives for speedy data transfer. You already get 320GB of built-in storage, enough space for thousands of photos and songs and only the Samsung RV510-A08UK has more. However, connecting an external drive is useful if you want to back up your important files.

We enjoy using Lenovo's firm and comfortable keyboards, which are perfectly sized with bevelled keys. Our only complaint is that the Function and Ctrl keys have been swapped around, and we were constantly hitting the wrong one. This is only an issue if you use Windows shortcuts, however.

A back-up shortcut key above the keyboard allows you to copy your important files instantly.

If you enjoy browsing your photos or kicking back occasionally with a film, you'll love the Lenovo's vibrant 15.6-inch display. It's not as sharp as the HP's compact screen, but the glossy coating brings images to life.

The built-in speakers do their job, but don't have much power even on top volume, so you'll want to use a pair of headphones or a separate pair of external speakers when listening to music or enjoying a movie.

Multimedia power is limited as the Lenovo uses basic integrated graphics. Gaming is impossible with all but the oldest titles, but you can still play around with your photos and even high-definition (HD) video streamed impressively well.

We were impressed by the resilience of the Intel Pentium processor, which performed well in our benchmark tests. You can listen to music while working on your office applications or browsing the web and you'll experience no slowdown, while software loads quickly. Only the Acer Aspire 5742 and Asus X52F-EX894V offer better performance for this kind of money.

Tech Labs

Tech labs

Battery Eater '05: 136 minutes
Cinebench: 5680
3DMark 2006: 3792

For this price, the ThinkPad B560 is a steal. Impressive power and satisfying usability, as well as the solid and portable body, make this a great laptop for use at home and on the road.

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