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By Ian Bush

The Consumer Electronics Show in January is expected to be flooded with the latest class of portable computers — the ultrabook.  But there are a few good ones to consider putting under the tree this holiday.

Ultrabooks fill the void between tablet and laptop.  They have a clamshell design and keyboard unlike the former, and are slimmer and lighter than the latter.

“The battery life is great, so everyone will appreciate that,” says Chris Nuttall, technology correspondent for the Financial Times.  “It’s not quite as long as it can be on some netbooks, but that’s improving.  They’re favoring solid state drives which are small capacity — 128GB, 256GB seems to be the norm there.”

So it might not take the place of your main computer if you’re heavy on the music and videos (and don’t keep them in the cloud).

Apple’s MacBook Air is credited with starting this trend toward thin and feather-weight portable computers:

“Intel has taken a leaf out of Apple’s book and come up with this ‘ultrabook’ definition to make sure that PCs don’t get overrun by the tablet phenomenon.”

The 13.3″ MacBook Air runs about $1300.  Windows-based ultrabooks generally are priced around the $1000 mark, so the sector is not for everyone.

But if ultra-portable is what you’re after — and you do a lot of typing to take a tablet computer out of consideration — it might be for you. 

Nuttall tells KYW Newsradio that he likes Toshiba’s model, the Portégé Z835, which is a bit cheaper — and even lighter — than the MacBook Air:

“It’s only around $900.  It’s incredibly light.  It has a backlit keyboard which is a big advantage as well.”

He also recommends the Lenovo IdeaPad U300s:

“There’s a beautiful construction to it, excellent cooling design, fantastic keyboard, eight-hour battery life.  It’s a little pricey on the Windows side, though — it’s $1200.  But that’s still cheaper than the Macbook Air.”

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