We've seen a few laptops based around Intel's new dual-core mobile processors, and as vendors begin to get used to the technology the results we are seeing are getting better. Take Evesham's Voyager C550 – it's fast, full of features and great value for money.

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Two cores running at 1.83GHz on a single die in a T2400 chip provide the grunt. In combination with 1GB of DDR RAM these helped the Evesham to a WorldBench 5 score of 98. We have tested several laptops that have matched this score, but none have yet gone faster.

The dual-core processor provides a great deal of power for gaming, too. The Mobility Radeon X1600 with 256MB of dedicated VRAM proved to be a great games platform, giving stunning frame rates in our tests, especially when playing Halo.

As if this wasn't enough for gamers, the screen is fantastic. It doesn't use anything similar to Sony's X-black technology, but it does have good colour depth, while the sharpness of the image is unsurpassed. A resolution of 1,920x1,200 on a 15.4in screen is quite out of the ordinary.

It's not so unusual to find a 100GB hard drive in a laptop these days, but it's a rarity to find one that spins at 7,200rpm – most laptop hard drives are limited to 5,400rpm. Although it won't make a great deal of difference when opening most conventional documents, it will allow users faster access to large files such as video.

Multimedia options

If you plan to use the Voyager as a hard-disk recorder you'll be pleased to find Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition installed. This allows for a host of multimedia functions. Burning your favourite films and music to DVD is made easy by the multi-format writer that allows you to use both DVD-R DL and DVD+R DL dual-layer media, giving you 8.5GB per disc.

The software bundle is pleasing: it includes Microsoft Works 8.0, Roxio Easy Media Creator 7.0 and Bullguard Internet Security. This host of applications is a great starter pack for any system, especially since the operating system is Media Center rather than plain XP.

The layout of the keyboard is intuitive and sensible. If we have one complaint, it would be that the spacebar is tiny, but otherwise it's great to use. There are full-sized Shifts on either side and a massive Enter, while the most used key of all – Backspace – is difficult to miss.

Mobile limitations

At 3.3kg the Evesham isn't too difficult to carry around, but there's very little point - we measured its battery life as a couple of minutes short of two hours. It really is only viable as a desktop-replacement model, and wouldn't be much cop for working with away from a wall socket.

There are four USB 2.0 ports on the back of the unit as well as VGA and DVI outputs, though why you'd want to use them when the screen is so good is beyond us. If you want to chat online to your friends in distant lands, you'll find the integrated 1.3Mp (megapixel) camera and microphone very handy.

But there's one mystery about the Evesham: why no Wi-Fi facilities? It surely can't cost all that much to include an integrated chip, but it hasn't been done. This means that if you're planning to work wirelessly you'll have to purchase a separate card for the PC Card slot. It's not a huge problem; it just seems a little odd.

Click here to read about Evesham's change in ownership.

Evesham Voyager C550: Specs

  • 1.83GHz Intel Centrino Duo T2400 processor
  • Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition
  • 1GB DDR RAM
  • 100GB hard drive
  • 15.4in 1,920x1,200 TFT display
  • 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics card
  • 8x/8x/8x/2.4x/2.4x/4x/4x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW), 24x/24x/16x (CD-ROM/-R/-RW) drive
  • Microsoft Works 8.0
  • Bullguard Internet Security
  • 1-year onsite, 2-year return-to-base warranty
  • 350x282x39mm
  • 3.3kg
  • 1.83GHz Intel Centrino Duo T2400 processor
  • Windows XP Media Center 2005 Edition
  • 1GB DDR RAM
  • 100GB hard drive
  • 15.4in 1,920x1,200 TFT display
  • 256MB ATI Mobility Radeon X1600 graphics card
  • 8x/8x/8x/2.4x/2.4x/4x/4x (DVD-ROM/-R/+R/-R DL/+R DL/-RW/+RW), 24x/24x/16x (CD-ROM/-R/-RW) drive
  • Microsoft Works 8.0
  • Bullguard Internet Security
  • 1-year onsite, 2-year return-to-base warranty
  • 350x282x39mm
  • 3.3kg

OUR VERDICT

The lack of Wi-Fi facilities isn't enough to detract from what is a great laptop system. The Evesham Voyager C550 is strong in every area, provided you plan to use it as a desktop replacement. The screen is probably the standout feature, but don't forget about that processor – the C550 goes like a train.

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