From the outside, the Gateway ML6227b is nothing to shout about, but flip open the lid and you'll find a much more modern appearance.

For a laptop with a 15.4in screen the Gateway ML6227b is surprisingly portable. It's comfortable to carry around and less bulky than you'd expect. It also seems fairly well built, although the disk drive tray popped open occasionally.

At this price, you don't get the very latest components and we weren't surprised to find the Gateway ML6227b's WorldBench score of 47 was easily surpassed by models kitted out with faster processors than the 1.6GHz Celeron found here. Still, the NEC Versa achieved only seven points more and costs £225 more than Gateway is asking for this model.

Nor do you get frills such as an integrated webcam or Bluetooth. Most users will find the Gateway ML6227b's good-sized qwerty keyboard and associated trackpad more than adequate for typing and for screen navigation, but if you're used to quick-access keys, you'll be disappointed as these are one of the items that Gateway has omitted to hit the £399 price tag.

The Gateway ML6227b isn't suitable for gaming, achieving a frame rate of only 10fps. Then again, we wouldn't recommend any of the models in this mid-size laptop as games machines. These are balanced models designed for work and leisure rather.

Gateway includes the minimal 1GB DDR RAM needed to run Vista Home Premium, alongside an 80GB hard drive, but we were pleased to find a copy of Microsoft Works among the software goodies.

Other extras include some surprisingly decent speakers (for a budget notebook) that don't sound too tinny, media card slots for your photos and four USB ports with which to hook up various add-ons.

OUR VERDICT

It's not the fastest or the best-equipped laptop around, but the 15.4in Gateway ML6227b is a sturdy, practical choice and certainly not a bad budget choice.