Asus U1-3002E review
An incredibly light and practical notebook for frequent travellers, but not without its quirks.
Ultraportable notebooks always fire PC Pro's collective imagination. No sooner is one out of its box than it's passed round the office, as we contemplate ditching our desktops and attending meetings and business trips with nothing more than a sliver of technology to keep us company.
Everything about the Asus U1 is calculated to weigh next to nothing and consume the least amount of power. The CPU is one of Intel's lowest-power units, the Core Duo U2400. There's nothing stellar about the 1.06GHz chip in terms of raw performance - our review sample was still running the RC1 of Vista and so didn't benchmark fully, but it will be some way behind larger notebooks. It certainly doesn't preclude normal office jobs, though, and the real selling point of the U2400, apart from the fact it's dual core, is its TDP - a meagre 9W. So even though the U1 is around half as quick as our Intel Pentium D 840 benchmark PC, its processor generates about a fifteenth of the heat.
Internal components are restrained, but there's nothing overly disappointing inside. The 1.8in, 80GB hard disk might prove a slight constraint for those who wish to take a well-sized video library with them, but the standard gamut of work applications, files and images shouldn't see you reaching for a screwdriver for a few years. Graphics power isn't capable of gaming, but the Intel GMA 950 adapter is capable of running Windows Vista Aero with ease.
Professionals will appreciate the inclusion of a TPM module and fingerprint reader. The almost implausibly small proportions of the U1 mean there's no built-in optical drive. This caused divisions in the PC Pro office - for some it's a must-have, while others claim to have happily gone without an optical drive in their notebook for years. An external optical drive is included, and the dual-layer DVD writer is tidily implemented, drawing its power from the notebook itself.
The screen is a bright, 11.1in panel with a native resolution of 1,366 x 768. The glossy finish isn't particularly suited for professionals; we had problems with background reflections while working in the office. But the upside is, under the right conditions, terrific image quality. The U1 flew through our technical tests, providing an excellent set of results. RGB colour ramps faded to black too quickly, but we were perfectly happy reviewing high-quality digital images. Viewing angles are also good enough for a few people to crowd around. The small, 0.3-megapixel webcam built into the bezel is a nice touch too.
Build quality is generally good. The keyboard in particular is excellent, and, in spite of the keys themselves being a little small, we managed to get back up to speed in no time. There are a few areas where the construction materials feel a little lacking; the monitor lid and wristrest are key examples. On a desk this isn't a problem, but we found ourselves hesitating before stuffing the U1 into a bag and running to a meeting.
But it's otherwise impossible to complain about the U1's ultraportable credentials. Even with the larger, six-cell battery it weighs only 1.2kg, and runs for 6hrs 47mins under light use and 2hrs 42mins under intensive use. Switch the batteries over and the weight of the U1 drops to just 1.1kg, running for three hours under light use. Running our intensive benchmarks away from the mains reduced this to just 1hr 20mins, though. But, combine the two batteries and, with a break in between to switch them over, you're looking at nearly ten hours under light use. Even considering the notebook, power supply, both batteries and the external DVD drive, the U1 collectively weighs just 2.2kg.