Acer has a firm hold on the budget end of the laptop market, with a range of machines that offer excellent specifications at low prices. It also makes business-orientated machines, sold under the TravelMate branding. Its TravelMate 6292-302G16N (£1174 inc. VAT) is a semi-portable offering strength and a good range of features.

At 12.1-inches, the 6292's screen offers plenty of space for opening two documents simultaneously. It's a standard TFT panel, but we still found colours to be vibrant and bright. The matt finish meant fingerprints and reflections didn't cause problems.

This machine coped with all of our benchmarking applications with ease. An integrated GPU means you'll struggle to play games in your spare time, but it's more than adequate for other tasks and helps to keep the chassis compact.

Instead of using the full width of the chassis, Acer has opted to fit hotkeys alongside the keyboard. This means the board is over an inch smaller in width than its rivals, and the peripheral keys are particularly cramped. However, the keys are firmly attached and, once you adjust, rapid typing speeds can be achieved.

The touchpad proved responsive, and you'll find a fingerprint scanner integrated between the mouse buttons. It compromises the size of the buttons, however, making navigation slightly fiddly.

Robust chassis

The casing is strong, with magnesium alloy used in the build. The rear of the display is robust, offering excellent protection for the screen. The lid doesn't sit flush with the chassis, however, which looks messy when closed and can get caught when taking it out of your bag. The palm rests heated up after a small amount of time, but not uncomfortably so.

Despite the small chassis, the TravelMate is packed with features. Its networking capabilities are comprehensive, with the latest draft-n Wi-Fi adapter fitted. This currently offers the fastest connections to wireless networks. You'll also be able to take advantage of VoIP calls and video-conferencing, with a built-in microphone and webcam.

Everyday performance was more than adequate, thanks to the use of a mid-range Intel Core 2 Duo processor. Along with 2048MB of memory, it means you'll be able to multi-task with ease. There's also plenty of space for all your files on the 160GB hard drive.

Although the TravelMate's size and strength allow you to take it everywhere you go without fear of it getting damaged, it's a shame the small controls make it tricky to use comfortably.