The Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Li 1718 is aimed at those who can't afford to splash out on the latest big-name laptops. It's designed for skint students or anyone who wants a second PC. Don't let the sub-£500 price tag fool you though, the Li 1718 has an impressive specification and comes with a good software bundle. It's available in Tesco stores (next to the spuds) for £499 or online for £478 throughout August, while stocks last.
The Amilo Li 1718 has a very derivative design. The lid is silver and the inside is black, which is pretty much what we expect from most laptops nowadays. It looks as if it was squeezed out of the same mould used by 90 per cent of manufacturers and given an extra sprinkle of ordinariness for good measure.
It's a fairly good size for students. Its 15.4-inch chassis is large enough so it's comfortable to use as a desktop replacement, and not so big that it's too bulky to lug around campus. You will need a rucksack or dedicated laptop bag to transport it, and possibly a couple of sessions at the gym if you're a bit weedy, but its 2.7kg frame should be fine for most users.
The Amilo Li 1718's ports are logically laid out, but there aren't many of them. There are two USB ports ports on the left and two more at the rear right corner. The modem and Ethernet networking ports are located on the rear left corner next to a D-Sub graphics output port, but that's about it. There's no ExpressCard, PC Card or memory card readers -- so transferring files to and from the machine will have to be done via USB.
The Li 1718's keyboard is a pleasant surprise. It feels comfortable to type with and unlike some laptops, the keys are where we expect them to be. The Ctrl button, for example, is to the left of the Fn key on the bottom left corner -- just as it should be. Plus the return key is quite large, which will appeal to touch typers.
It's a common misconception that budget laptops have the processing power of a pocket calculator. The Li 1718 uses an Intel Core 2 Duo T5300 CPU clocked at 1.73GHz and a bountiful 2GB of DDR 2 memory. If it were a big cat, it would probably be a puma -- not quite as powerful as a lion, but fully capable of ripping your throat out nonetheless.
Unfortunately, the Li 1718's graphics performance is more like a kitten. The laptop uses an ATI Mobility Radeon M200 adaptor, which is franky lame. Don't be fooled by the fact it can leech up to 256MB of system memory -- it's barely fast enough to run full-screen video. Sure, it'll let you play the odd game, but you'll be tearing your hair out at the abysmal frame rates. It's a shame, really, because the 1,280x800-pixel display is pretty good all round.
As it's no good for movies or games, you'll probably be using the laptop's supplied 120GB hard drive for hoarding music. When it arrived in our labs it had approximately 73GB of space left, which is enough room to stash around 18,000 MP3s. That may sound like a lot, but active downloaders will run out of space sooner rather than later. Use the space wisely, buy yourself an external USB hard drive, and get some blank DVDs for the dual-layer DVD rewriter.