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ASUS U2E 11" Ultra-mobile Notebook Review - In a class of its own

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Asus
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The Hype - it's been building

Introduction

The ASUS U2E was first spotted back in June of last year during Computex in Taiwan but was largely overshadowed by the Eee PC that was also on display for the first time.  But where the Eee PC lacks the performance and features that seasoned road-warriors require, the ASUS U2E promises all of them and more. 

A fervor has been gathering about the ASUS U2E on sites like engadget, Gizmodo and others that take in every breath of the tech world.  Stories of laptops that are both powerful and practical usually do get a lot of attention but this particular ASUS model was competing with the rumors of the Apple MacBook Air and the Lenovo X300; can it stand up to such strong competitors though?

Specifications (from ASUS.COM)

Processor & Cache Memory
Intel® Core™ Duo Processor U7500 : 1.06 GHz FSB: 533MHz, 2MB L2 Cache;
Operating System

Genuine

Windows Vista® Ultimate,

Genuine

Windows Vista® Home Basic,

Genuine

Windows Vista® Business,

Genuine

Windows Vista® Home Premium,

Chipset
Mobile Intel® GM965 Express Chipset + ICH8M
Main Memory
DDR2 667 MHz SDRAM, 2 x SODIMM socket for expansion up to 4GB SDRAM

Display
11.1" WXGA

LED backlight ColorShine,Color-Shine (Glare-type),Asus Splendid Video Intelligent Technology

Video Graphics & Memory
Embedded Intel® GMA X3100

Hard Drive
32GB SSD + 160GB External HDD

120GB 1.8" IDE HDD
Optical Drive
5.25" , 9.5 mm

Combo:

DVD Super Multi Double Layer:

Card Reader
8 in 1 card reader: SD,MMC,MS,MS-Pro,mini SD w/ adapter,MS-Duo,MS-Pro Duo via adapter
Video Camera
0.3 Mega Pixel web camera

(Optional)

Fax/Modem/LAN/WLAN
Integrated Intel® High Definition Audio chip ( Azalia) compliant MDC fax/modem and 10/100/1000 Base T

Built-in Bluetooth™ V2.0+EDR(optional feature)

Intel® Wireless WiFi Link 4965AGN or Intel® PRO/Wireless 3945ABG Network Connection(optional)

LED Status Indicator
Power-on/Suspend

Battery Charging/full/low

Storage device access

Capital / Scroll / Number Lock

Wireless/Bluetooth on status indicator (optional)

Bluetooth on status (optional feature)

Interface
1 x Microphone-in jack

1 x Headphone-out jack (S/PDIF)

1 x VGA port/Mini D-sub 15-pin for external monitor

3 x USB 2.0 ports

1 x RJ11 Modem jack for phone line

1 x RJ45 LAN Jack for LAN insert

1 x micro-DVI port

Hot Keys
Instant launch Keys,2 buttons:

Power4Gear eXtreme,Wireless/Bluetooth Switch

Function Keys:

Fn+F1

Fn+F2 WLAN/Bluetooth switch

Fn+F3 Access to the E-mail

Fn+F4 Access to the Internet

Fn+F5 Brightness down

Fn+F6 Brightness up

Fn+F7 LCD on/off

Fn+F8 LCD/CRT switch display

Fn+F9 TouchPad Lock

Fn+F10 Volume on/mute

Fn+F11 Volume down

Fn+F12 Volume up

Fn+Ins Numeric Key Pad on/off

Fn+Del Scroll Lock on/off

Fn+Space Power 4Gear eXtreme

Fn+C Splendid

Fn+T Power4Phone

Fn+V Camera capture

Fn+↑: Stop

Fn+↓: Play/Pause

Fn+ ←:Skip to Previous Track

Fn+ →:Skip to Next Track

Audio
Built-in Azalia compliant audio chip, with 3D effect & full duplex

Built-in speaker and microphone

KeyBoard
17.5mm full size 83 Key with MS Windows function keys

Battery Pack & Life
3/6/9 cells: 2400/4800/7800 mAh, 26.6/53/80 Whrs

AC Adapter
Output: 19 V DC, 3.42 A, 65W

Input 100 - 240 V AC, 50/60 Hz universal

Dimension & Weight
27.7 x 19.4 x 2.49 ~ 2.9 cm (W x D x H)

1.25 kg, with 3 cell battery, SSD

Security
BIOS Booting / HDD User Password Protection and security lock

Kensington lock hole

TPM(Trusted Platform Module) V1.2

Fingerprint

Supplied Accessories
Bluetooth Mouse

Protection bag

Multimedia Software
ASUSDVD V7.0 ( *For Basic & Business only)

Power Director V5.0 (*For Basic & Business only)

Medi@Show V3.0 (*For Basic & Business only)

* Premium & Ultimate are with MCE support from Windows Vista

Virus & Tool Software
Norton™ Internet Security 2007

Adobe Acrobat Reader 8.0

NERO 7 Essentials

ASUS Utility
Asus Win flash for BIOS and Driver live Update

Asus Power4Gear eXtreme

Asus Life Frame II

Asus Live Update

Asus Multi-Frame

Asus NB Probe +

ASUS Wireless Console

ASUS Security Protect Manager(ASPM)

Virtual Camera

Warranty & e-support
2-year limited global hardware warranty

1-year battery pack warranty

On-line problem resolution through web interface (BIOS, Driver update)

OS (Microsoft Windows Vista) install/uninstall consultation

Bundled software install/uninstall consultation

ASUS software supporting

Hardware Overview Evaluation

The hardware the goes into the ASUS U2E is pretty impressive when taken in context of its rather slender profile.  The processor is a dual-core Core Duo ULV U7500 that runs at a meager 1.06 GHz on a 533 MHz front-side bus and 2MB of L2 cache.  It does use a newer Intel 965 chipset with integrated graphics that helps with battery life but won't win you any performance crowns.  The system will ship with 3GB of DDR2-667 memory; a great benefit to the slower processor giving it faster access to the data it needs. 

The LCD screen is an 11" widescreen monitor with a decent 1366x768 resolution that seems to fit the screen size just right.  It is also LED back-lit for a slimmer design and lower power consumption and coupled with ASUS' ColorShine screen type (shiny, not matte) creates a pretty impressive look to this ultra-mobile machine.  Readers that felt the 7" screen on the ASUS Eee PC was just too small for them should attempt to see one of these in action. 

Storage is provided by either a solid-state drive of 32GB or a standard 120GB 4800 RPM hard drive; the SSD will obviously improve performance but limit your storage potential while the 120GB model will run considerably slower.  On the bright side, ASUS did indicate that buyers of the 32GB SSD model will get an external 160GB drive included at no cost.  The U2E also includes a slim optical drive that supports DVD-RW drive that many other systems of this size and weight shun; the MacBook Air and Lenovo X300 come to mind. 

ASUS claims the U2E is only 2.5cm think at this narrowest point and only 2.9cm at this widest; we are talk about some seriously small hardware.

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