With its textured silver finish, minimalist silver and black interior and its stylised square keys, the Sony VAIO VGN-NS10L/S laptop is aesthetically pleasing.

The build quality is very good, especially for a laptop with such a modest price tag. The Sony VAIO VGN-NS10L/S has a solid lid and its chassis has a reassuring weight around the edges, without bumping up the machine's overall weight into the realms of weight-lifting equipment.

Often, with minimalist styling comes a minimalist feature set, but that's not the case with the Sony VAIO VGN-NS10L/S. There's no TV-out or HDMI output, but you get pretty much everything else you could want from a laptop, including four USB 2.0 ports and a FireWire port, all mounted on the sides for easy access.

You also get a generous 250GB hard drive, a draft-n Wi-Fi adaptor, a dual-layer DVD burner and Secure Digital card and MemoryStick slots. The usual network port and 56K modem are also provided round the back of the Sony VAIO VGN-NS10L/S.

Surprisingly, the Sony VAIO VGN-NS10L/S's stylised keyboard stands up well to a good typing session too, and you get a decent key-press under your fingers. Meanwhile, the screen is also among the best laptops on test this month, with a bright display and vibrant colours.

At this point, however, you've probably seen this laptop's lowly score of 61 in WorldBench 6 and decided that you can get a faster laptop for your money, but ignore the scores opposite; the Sony VAIO VGN-NS10L/S only got such a low score because Sony sent us a slightly dodgy review sample.

Our test Sony VAIO VGN-NS10L/S came with a meagre single-core Celeron 575 and 2GB of RAM, but the model on sale features a 2GHz Pentium dual-core T3200 and 3GB of RAM. This should mean its performance is solid, but it won't be as quick as Intel Core 2-based laptops.

Unfortunately, the battery life from the 3600mAh battery isn't going to improve with the new spec, and the Sony VAIO VGN-NS10L/S' battery lifespan of 171 minutes is the lowest of all the laptops on test this month. However, at just shy of three hours, you'll still get a reasonable amount of time away from the mains.

OUR VERDICT

The Sony VAIO VGN-NS10L/S is a well featured and well built laptop for just £421 that's a pleasure to use. However, if you're looking for raw speed and longer battery life you'll be better served by the Medion or the Samsung.