Packard Bell EasyNote TX86-JO-045UK

A solidly built and highly usable laptop, with strong performance for the price

The fantastic build quality of the Packard Bell EasyNote TX86 translates into great usability, with a well-sized keyboard proving the highlight.

Packard Bell was acquired by Acer in 2007 and since then has used the same keyboard design as the Acer Aspire laptops, with perfectly flat keys sitting slightly raised from the chassis.

A lack of key definition may put some users off, but we had no trouble touch-typing at speed, and spreadsheet lovers can rejoice as there's even room for a dedicated numeric keypad.

The EasyNote TX86's touchpad is a generous size and nicely responsive, although Packard Bell has integrated the left and right mouse buttons into the pad itself.

Usually this causes problems, as resting your thumb on the buttons causes the cursor to jump erratically, and even pressing the buttons can jerk the cursor, causing you to select the wrong menu option.

This was a big problem on the HP TouchSmart tm2, as well as netbooks such as the Dell Inspiron Mini 10, and greatly hampered usability in those models. Thankfully these issues have been ironed out and we had no such issues with the EasyNote TX86's touchpad.

The buttons themselves aren't sensitive to touch, so you can run your fingers across their surface and the cursor won't budge. The cursor also thankfully remains static when the buttons are pushed, and not once did we launch into a tirade of abuse because of incorrect menu selections.

Packard Bell has even added a playful flourish to the EasyNote TX86's touchpad, with the entire pad emitting a mysterious glow whenever the integrated buttons are pressed.

It's a feature that admittedly has limited use but is undeniably appealing, especially when hunched over the laptop for a late night web browsing session.

Anyone who remains unimpressed by the eerie pulsing can simply turn it off through the Windows program menu.

Packard Bell has fitted a 15.6-inch widescreen display into the EasyNote TX86. Photographs and movies appear vibrant and lifelike thanks to the glossy Super-TFT coating, although reflectivity is greatly increased as a result, which hampers use outdoors.

The true widescreen aspect ratio is common for modern laptops, and is perfect for working on documents side-by-side. Movies don't suffer from huge black bars above and beneath the picture, while images are suitably sharp and bright.

The display's hinges are just as solid as the rest of the laptop, and the screen tilts all the way back for a comfortable viewing angle when the EasyNote TX86 is sat on your lap.

Storage is comprehensive, with a 500GB hard drive providing plenty of space for your applications and files, even if you have a sizeable music or movie collection.

There are also plenty of ports lining the EasyNote TX86's sides, with four USB connections for attaching peripherals and a 5-in-1 memory card reader so you can immediately access your holiday snaps.

VGA and HDMI ports are available for connecting an external display when at home, and there's enough room left over for a DVD drive.

Networking is yet another strength for the EasyNote TX, with the fastest standards for both wireless and wired communications built in. 802.11n Wi-Fi allows you to connect to your wireless network at home or available Wi-Fi hotspots when on the move, while Gigabit Ethernet allows you to physically plug the EasyNote TX into a router.