Ultra-portables come in many shapes and sizes, and you're really spoilt for choice in this segment. Provided your computing needs are relatively simple, an ultra-portable may be the only PC you really need. Whether you choose an 11.6-inch or a 13.3-inch machine is largely personal preference, since whichever you choose you'll get similar hardware and performance. Just make sure you get a dual-core machine, as the single-core ones - though tempting based on price - aren't really worth it.
Acer Aspire Timeline 1810TZ | £430 to £500
Choosing our pick in this category was very difficult, but the 1810TZ - nearly a year since its release - still wins out due to its superior battery life and outstanding value. You can pick up this 11.6-inch machine with a dual-core CPU and 4GB of RAM for just £450, and it will last nearly nine hours on a full-charge.
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Dell Inspiron M101z | £379 to £499
It doesn't quite match the Acer for battery life, but this AMD-based 11.6-inch is one classy machine. Its design and build quality are very good, and it has the best keyboard of any machine in its class by quite some margin. At £429 for the dual-core, 2GB RAM, 250GB hard drive model its excellent value, and the £499 version we reviewed offers even better performance. Dell's warranty is also one of the best around.
Asus UL30A | £535
If you prefer a larger, 13-inch machine then the Asus UL30A is probably for you. Like the first two machines there's still no optical drive, but the UL30A will last an incredible 10 hours on its battery alone, and has a decent spec for the price. It's not the prettiest machine and the build quality could be better, but good performance and a generous two-year warranty make it a great option.
Alienware M11x | From £749
Anyone with a little more money to play with could do worse than look at the M11x. It will definitely turn heads in the lecture hall, though its aggressive appearance is an acquired taste for some. Its discrete and integrated graphics switching means you can play games and enjoy excellent battery life, and the £750 starting price isn't extortionate considering its capabilities.