Packard Bell EasyNote TM

"Friends and fun in one place" is Packard Bell's appealing promise on the EasyNote TM. Incidentally, we're not writing trademark there, TM is the model code, though it is a little confusing. Anyway, the promise is to do with social networking. Like the earlier-reviewed LM model, this one has an extra key, just under the power button. It's of three smiley faces and pressing it takes you direct to your chosen social networks. A window appears which will log you in to Facebook, YouTube and Flickr. It's not a big window but big enough to watch your updates come and go.

And there's plenty of room on this 16:9 ratio 15.6-inch screen which shines impressively (yes, it's glossy, so you may need to adjust it to avoid reflections). It's spacious and high-resolution (1368 x 768 pixels) and looks great, set in the gloss white plastic frame.

This gloss white surrounds the white keyboard, too, and the whole thing has a snazzy, classy feel to it. The keys, which are pleasingly comfortable to use, sit on top of a matt white background, which is some way below the keys and give the keys the effect of floating. Super-white keys can sometimes be hard to read easily but this one is very clear.

The wrist rest is patterned blue, matching the chic lid, with a self-patterned touch pad and contrasting mouse button rocker. There's a chrome strip across the top of the keys, with a chrome power button nestling on the right, with a cute blue circle light that glows when it's switched on. Above it is a speaker strip. All of it is contained in a reasonably light (2.5kg), impressively slim machine which has neat curved corners to add to the class.

If you're getting the impression that we're taken with the way this computer looks, you're right. Packard Bell isn't always the company one thinks of when it comes to pre-eminent style laptops, but this model can hold its head up next to the smartest Sony Vaio. Other colour options are available, too.

The trackpad is multitouch-enabled so you can scroll down a document with two fingers, though there isn't the same versatility of movement that an Apple trackpad delivers and the little scroll bar icon that appears next to the pointer always seems fussy to me.

Anyway, the TM is a performer as well as a looker. Beyond the highly usable keyboard and smart screen, the brains of the laptop - 2.13GHz Intel Core i3-330M - is swift enough to make this a fast and responsive computer, backed by 4GB or RAM. It also has good, high-speed connectivity - n series Wi-Fi and Ethernet. There's also an above-average quality webcam - 1.3 megapixels instead of the usual 0.3 version.

Three USB sockets and a multi-card reader round out the package, along with an HDMI connection, although the TM's on-board graphics solution won't cope with more demanding graphics.

Verdict

This is a great machine for those in search of brains and beauty - there's plenty of substance to back up the Packard Bell EasyNote TM's style. The keyboard is a real stand out and the fast processor and decent RAM means it works well and at speed. The screen is expansive and pin-sharp. The social networking key will appeal to those who want to keep their Facebook activities front and centre.