If your computer requirements are modest and only stretch to the odd bit of email, Web browsing and word processing then you don't need the latest, greatest kit available.
You can make a considerable saving, especially when you consider machines like the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Pro V3515, which can be yours for just £290 from LaptopsDirect.co.uk.
Perhaps the most impressive thing about the V3515 is its sub-£300 price tag -- that's cheaper than a high-end graphics card.
While its processing performance leaves a little to be desired, it's not bad when it comes to battery life. It managed to keep going for one hour 42 minutes while running Battery Eater's intensive run down test. Switching to the easier reader test, however, only improved its endurance by 40 minutes to two hours 22 minutes, which is hardly a dramatic increase. Although some components in the V3515 are undoubtedly cheap, the keyboard is actually quite good. It's bouncy to type on, but not too bad to use for an extended period.
There are also plenty of USB ports available for plugging in peripherals -- two on the right and a further two round the back.
Just because it's at the bottom end of the price spectrum, however, doesn't mean you have to miss out on useful extras such as integrated wireless networking, as it comes with built-in Wi-Fi, so you don't need to tie up a USB port with an external adapter.
Inevitably, compromises have to be made to create a laptop that's cheaper than a gourmet espresso machine. It's fairly underpowered in the processor department, with only a Celeron M chip rather than Intel's beefier Core 2 Duo CPUs. With a clock speed of just 1.6GHz and a meagre 512MB of RAM, it didn't even manage to achieve a four figure score when running PCMark05, limping home with a miserable result of just 856.
In addition, it found just the prospect of 3DMark06 too intimidating and refused to run the graphics tests at all, so it's definitely not a machine to choose if you like to while away your hours with a good frag fest. Ultimately it's fine for leisurely pursuits, such as Web surfing or composing email, but ask it to do anything complex and it's likely to break down in tears.
To further keep the costs down, it's running the cheapest flavour of Windows Vista available -- Basic -- which means you don't get the flashy new Aero interface (not that it's likely to run that well anyway) or some of the new visual bells and whistles.
While it's well equipped for USB expansion, you don't get much in the way of other ports or connectors, with just modem, Ethernet, headphone, microphone and ExpressCard/54 slot on offer.
The design is also pretty basic. It's not exactly ugly -- just a little staid and sensible. The 15.4-inch screen does have a decent pixel resolution of 1,280x800 pixels, but it looks dull and lacklustre compared to the glossy displays seen on other models. You can still make out what's on screen, but the colours don't jump off the display at you.
The 80GB hard drive is tight by today's standards, but should prove satisfactory if your computer use is light.
If your computing demands are low and unlikely to increase in the future, then the V3515 is a great little model. It's not suited for power users or those that want to play games, but given its extremely cheap price tag of £290 from LaptopsDirect.co.uk, that's not surprising.
Edited by Jason Jenkins
Additional editing by Jon Squire