Packard Bell has been around for an age. Once, like most PC manufacturers, it was known for producing a range of anonymous beige boxes, but the glorious 1990's have long since passed in favour of the glossy blackness of the new millennium. Okay, so glossy black is definitely an improvement on beige, but aside from the occasional exception, the PC industry is no less driven by 'same here' design than it ever was. Enter the Easynote NJ65, a 14in laptop that shares all the facets of modern laptop design, but delivers them at a very affordable price.
Let's start with some simple specs. Running the show is a dual-core Intel Pentium T4200. Despite not qualifying as a 'Core 2 Duo', it's intrinsically the same as the Intel Core 2 Duo T6400, sharing the same 2.0GHz clock speed and 800MHz front-side bus, but with half the L2 Cache: 1MB. This is joined by 3GB of RAM and a healthy 320GB hard drive, which is a decent triumvirate for a laptop that costs less than £500. At 2.3kg this is a moderately portable machine too, so can perform the role of day-to-day workhorse and desktop replacement in one.
There's plenty more to enjoy, too. Despite the budget price you still get a decent battery; a six-cell pack with a 4,400mAh capacity, while Draft-N Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet are also present. Admittedly, you only get Intel's frugal but otherwise crippled integrated graphics and there's no Bluetooth either, but you do get a 1.3-megapixel webcam. Moreover, Packard Bell sweetens things with the inclusion of Dolby Sound Room (which delivers superior headphone virtualisation), but more interestingly Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 comes pre-installed. This provides accessible but very powerful image editing tools, as well as the means to share and organise your collections.
This is all fairly good news for prospective buyers, but the NJ65 does begin to betray its budget origins in its connectivity - not because it's especially poor, but purely because it lacks anything out of the ordinary. As such you'll find three USB ports, VGA and HDMI for video, an Ethernet port, line-in and line-out jacks for audio, and a memory card reader, but no ExpressCard slot or eSATA.
Measuring 14in across, the display features the now routine 1,366 x 768 native resolution, as well as the ever polarising glossy finish. It's a passable effort, offering colour production about on a par with what you'd expect at this price, but it does suffer relatively shallow viewing angles and small text could be sharper.
Much the same can be said of the speakers, which are good enough for the occasional online video or TV episode, but are left wanting with anything more taxing. This is where the Dolby Sound Room processing comes in, offering its Dolby Headphone technology for particularly effective virtual surround sound effects when wearing headphones.