So far, excellent externals belie the Medion's humble price. But is its beauty more than skin deep? The specifications are certainly impressive. An Intel Core 2 Duo P7350 may run at 'only' 2.0GHz, but features a 1,066MHz FSB and should handle any task the average person would throw at it with ease while consuming a frugal 25W maximum. This is backed by 3GBs of DDR2 RAM, which is all the 32-bit version of Windows Vista can handle. A 320GB hard drive, meanwhile, is as much permanent storage as you're likely to find on any single-drive notebook and leaves ample space for videos, photos, music and plenty else besides.
Wireless is competently taken care of by Bluetooth and Wireless Draft-N, courtesy of Intel's 5100AGN Wi-Fi module. Another nice touch in this regard is that the keyboard has separate on/off shortcuts for both of these, with corresponding LEDs in the transparent trim at the Medion's front.
Graphics are also a cut above what you might expect. An ATI Mobility Radeon 3470 with 256MB of dedicated RAM might not make for a true gaming machine, but it still managed a very playable 27FPS in Trackmania Nations Forever on medium quality at the screen's native 1,280 x 800 resolution.
Which brings us to the Akoya S5610's display, one of the more important aspects of any notebook since it's what you spend most of your time looking at. Thankfully, we have another very good performance, though like with the keyboard there is a rather large flaw - in this case concerning very poor vertical viewing angles.
While this is preferable to poor horizontal ones, which aren't too bad, it does mean you'll have to put the display at just the right angle to enjoy its otherwise decent performance. This includes reasonable greyscale differentiation for a notebook screen, no clear signs of backlight bleed, present but barely noticeable banding and razor-sharp text. Indeed, the only distinctly mediocre aspect of this Medion was its speakers, which lacked punch, volume and body thanks to a complete lack of bass that left things sounding unbearably tinny.
Battery life is reasonable but not outstanding, with the six-cell model that comes as standard on the Akoya S5610 managing just under two and three quarter hours of multitasking, only slightly less than the HP Pavilion dv5-1011ea and even pulling ahead the HP in our DVD playback test, managing two hours and fourteen minutes. Another handy and rare feature is a beeping low battery signal, which is far more effective than a visual indicator alone - if a little annoying!
A last note of praise goes to the clean Windows install, with zero bloatware upon boot-up. In terms of competition, meanwhile, there are very few laptops available around £500 that can match the Medion Akoya S5610 for features. Certain ones like the Samsung R510 might beat it in specific departments (in this case a superior screen), but as an overall package the Medion wins hands down and offers truly astounding value for money for a fully specified Centrino 2 notebook.
With the Akoya S5610, Medion has put together a machine that's difficult to resist for the price. Though it has its flaws, if you can look past these you'll get a laptop loaded with features, including some rare but incredibly useful surprises, such as a full number pad, that make it ideal for students, families and anyone who appreciates great value. In times like these, that'll be everyone.