Asus U6V: Ultraportable form meets fashion

If you’re looking for a speedy ultraportable laptop without breaking the bank, look no further than the Asus U6V-A1. This US$1649, Windows Vista Business-based notebook offers up strong performance scores and is a nicely balanced overall system.

Powered by a 2.26-GHz Core 2 Duo, 4GB of memory, and an nVidia GeForce 9300M GS integrated graphics chip, The Asus U6V exhibits excellent performance compared with other ultraportables, earning a WorldBench 6 score of 93. The U6V held its own on the gaming front, garnering 38 frames per second in Doom 3 and 68 fps in Far Cry (1024-by-768 resolution with antialiasing turned off). Those frame rates may not sound so hot, but ultraportables rarely rise above mediocre game performance. Compared with others in this class, the U6V trounces lesser machines that offer only weak-sauce integrated graphics chips (ahem, Intel) and puts up a decent fight against most of its competition. In fact, it’s a hair faster than Lenovo’s ThinkPad X200.

The Asus U6V comes equipped with a 320GB hard drive–plenty roomy for all your media. But grab a good set of headphones or external speakers to go with it; the U6V has only a crummy speaker, with poor volume and all the sound quality of an alarm clock radio. That said, the 12.1-inch 1280-by-800 glossy wide-screen display is bright, crisp, and evenly lit–what you put on the screen will look great indoors and still hold up decently outside.

By and large the U6V is an attractive, nicely designed notebook with some higher-end touches such as a leather palmrest. The keyboard feels firm, but the keys on the edges are smaller than usual to make room for the Home, End, Page Up, and Page Down keys along the keyboard’s right-hand side; while not a big deal, you may have to adjust your typing-muscle memory a little. The trackpad is a bit small, but usable; the buttons, though, can be awkward to use, since they’re not very large (thanks to the fingerprint reader between the left and right buttons) and can be difficult to press. Good thing our review unit includes an external Bluetooth mouse (I was certainly tempted to use it).

The U6V includes three USB ports, with ports on both sides of the notebook for easy mousing. Also included are eSATA, HDMI, and VGA ports, an ExpressCard/34 slot, gigabit ethernet, and a built-in Webcam. The hard drive and memory modules are easily accessed by removing their covers on the bottom of the unit.

The notebook weighs in at 3.5 pounds with the 6-cell lithium ion battery–about average for an ultraportable–but add another 0.9 pound if you want to lug around the power adapter. You’ll need it: The U6V’s included 6-cell battery achieved 3 hours, 29 minutes of running life in the PC World Test Center’s evaluation. While this is about average for a typical all-purpose notebook, it’s on the lower end of the spectrum for ultraportables. Some machines we’ve tested have lasted upwards of 6 hours. However, the U6V does include an extra 3-cell battery–a nice touch considering that most other PC makers would make this an extra-cost option.

ExpressGate–Asus’s preboot interface for performing basic tasks–makes an appearance on the U6V. Press a button on the notebook, and within seconds you’ll have access to a Web browser, Skype, a photo viewer, and more, in case you don’t want to deal with Windows.

All in all, the Asus U6V-A1 is not a bad notebook. For media, its weak speakers prevent it from being a great choice, but if you want a compact notebook that can handle everyday tasks and maybe some light gaming, the U6V makes for a fairly attractive package.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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