You get a lot of laptop for your money with the Notino A9700-3400 from Hi-Grade – we just hope you don't want to play games on it.
First, the bad. Hi-Grade has opted to stick with an onboard graphics chip, the 64MB Radeon Xpress 200M from ATI. And it's slow – our Doom3 and Halo tests suggest the A9700 wouldn't be much good for anything more complicated than solitaire.
But if gaming isn't your thing, this is irrelevant. The WorldBench 5 score of 88 is decent for the price tag, there's a 64bit processor running at 2.2GHz and a full 1GB of DDR RAM. You get dual-layer facilities on the DVD writer, so burning large amounts of data is a cinch, though you won't want to try DVD authoring – the graphics chip just won't be up to it. Watching DVD movies will be fine, though, as there's a decent 17in widescreen with a resolution of 1,440x900.
There were two things we really appreciated. First: Windows Media Centre for XP, which gives you all the functionality of Media Center 2005 Edition. Second: included in the bundle is the Hauppauge USB 2.0 DVBT card – a digital TV tuner. This is a great inclusion, considering the price. Connectivity options are good. There's an unusually high six USB 2.0 ports, a mini-FireWire port, 802.11b/g wireless facilities and Bluetooth as well.
The rest of the software bundle isn't bad, either. You get OpenOffice and an all-important antivirus package. With two years of cover on the warranty, this package will give you just about everything you want from a sub-£1,200 laptop – besides a half-decent graphics card.