MSI -- the manufacturer responsible for splicing together one of our favourite netbooks -- has been working on a bunch of budget 16-inch and 17-inch laptops. Only the 17-inch models are coming to the UK though, and that doesn't include the one the Yanks get with a Blu-ray drive.
MSI has plucked a pair of sub-£600 17-inchers for the UK: the CR700-016UK and CX700-021UK (pictured above). Both have dual-core 2.0GHz Intel Pentium CPUs (these are Intel's cheaper processors), 4GB of RAM, 1,600x900-pixel displays, DVD rewriters and 500GB hard disks as standard.
The cheaper version is the CR700 and that'll sell for £499. For this, you only get the Nvidia 8200M G graphics chip, which doesn't offer much horsepower for gaming. The £549 CX700 is the same computer, but with ATI Mobility Radeon 4330 graphics instead. This is a much more capable chip and the option you should plump for if you plan on watching loads of HD video or playing 3D games.
Both models run Windows Vista (a Windows 7 upgrade will be offered for free when it's released) and will be on sale towards the end of August. Either would be fine choices for students who need Microsoft Office, iTunes and a boat-load of space to store music, videos and photos.
We're just sad the 16-inch CR600 isn't on the cards for British release. This US model had a smaller display, but a Blu-ray drive and a faster CPU for the same price as the cheaper 17-inch model mentioned above. Le sigh.