Packard Bell's EasyNote NS44-HR-033UK is small and portable laptop. While it's not as visually appealing as some other laptops, it offers a reasonable performance in a compact little chassis.

A smaller screen and cheaper price make this the perfect starter laptop for anyone who feels they are likely to be on the move a lot. An understated pattern covers the white lid of the NS44. It's a nice design, but will put off anyone looking for a sleeker machine.

Inside, the pattern continues, but is limited to the silver palmrest. The rest of the chassis is blank white and we found no flex on any part. The 2.3kg laptop feels light and durable and is well suited to a long car or train journey.

The 14-inch screen is bright and clear in normal conditions. The Super-TFT glossy coating is reflective, so viewing outside or in brightly lit areas could pose a problem. However, there's a fair amount of flexibility on the hinges that provide plenty of decent viewing angles.

Excellent usability

Usability is a highlight here. The isolation-style keyboard not only looks great, but feels comfortable to use for long periods of time. With a smaller chassis, Packard Bell might have been tempted to put the keys closer together, but we're glad to see plenty of space between the keys.

packard bell

The caveat is the lack of a dedicated numeric keypad. But the NS44 does offer hotkeys around the keyboard. A specific social network hotkey will launch a dashboard on your desktop and let you check Facebook updates, Flickr pictures or YouTube videos. This is a great feature for a starter laptop and will be liked by anyone who uses a lot of social media. The touchpad is also responsive and easy to use.

The performance of the Packard Bell was always going to fall slightly behind the other laptops in this group. But Intel's Core i3 Sandy Bridge processor will still handle all the needs of the average user and the higher-than-average battery life means users who value portability will do well with this machine, especially as we squeezed 310 minutes out of the battery.

tech labs

Benchmarks

Battery life: 310 minutes
MobileMark 2007: 239
3DMark 2003: 7793

A speedy USB 3.0 port makes up one of the three on offer alongside both an HDMI and VGA Out port to connect to a second monitor or an HD television. The EasyNote has a 3-in-1 slot for flash memory cards and the standard 3.5mm headphone and microphone jacks.

While unable to compete on sheer performance and storage, the NS44-HR- 033UK is a cheaper and smaller alternative to some other laptops. You'll either love or hate the styling, but decent usability and a great battery life make this laptop worthy of consideration.

Follow TechRadar Reviews on Twitter: http://twitter.com/techradarreview