This entirely black portable Acer TravelMate 6293 is fairly well packaged as far as all-purpose laptops go, but if this machine were to go on a diet and lose 300g or so, it could qualify as a good deal for an ultraportable.

No doubt Acer's goal was to cut corners - and some standard notebook connections - to a hit a palatable price point, perfectly acceptable for a business budget. But the Acer TravelMate 6293 is a laptop that's a tad frumpy.

Don't get me wrong - performance-wise, the Acer TravelMate 6293 rocks. Its battery life is Energizer Bunny amazing. Equipped with a powerful 7200mAh battery, the laptop lasted three minutes shy of eight hours in our tests. Just stick this baby in a backpack or briefcase and walk out the door declaring Outlet Freedom Day. The results are far better than what we've seen from any other all-purpose portable on the scene.

The speed of the Acer TravelMate 6293 is good, too, although not quite as breathtaking. The 2.26GHz Core 2 Duo P8400-equipped unit with 2GB of RAM turned in a pretty impressive WorldBench 6 score of 90, so it should be able to handle any type of work swiftly, limited only by the shared video memory.

Lack of a dedicated graphics card is an unfortunate characteristic of small laptops that in effect eliminates gaming; the Acer TravelMate 6293's memory is just too sparse to support 3D shooters with fancy shading.

Of course, small screens don't lend themselves to entertainment, either, but the Acer TravelMate 6293's 12.1in, 1280-by-800-pixel, wide-aspect display is fine for any other job you care to squeeze into those small quarters. It's crisp, reasonably bright, and glossy, but it won't hurt your eyes under office lights.

Topping the Acer TravelMate 6293's keyboard are seven helpful quick-launch buttons. All are preprogrammed for such activities as setting the system password, launching the onboard backup utility, and starting your email program and web browser.

A nice touch is that one button triggers the Launch Manager itself, which saved me worlds of time poking around various utilities and system-tray icons attempting to find the program that would let us reset the buttons to start our own favourite apps. Overall the keyboard is well laid out and easy to type on. The touchpad is small but zippy and easy to use. Only the mouse buttons - particularly short to make room for the fingerprint reader between them, and extremely stiff - are a distraction.