So, what do I want out of my next laptop and what must it include?
ASUS U1F (1P010E)
- Super slim and compact design, genuine cowhide interior, decent array of features for its size.
- No built-in optical drive, poor GPU, questionable battery life.
We truly wanted to love the Asus U1F (1P010E), but its lack of a built-in optical drive and poor graphics chip dampened our ardour. Nevertheless, it remains a handsome choice for business use and web browsing.
Price$ 3,499.00 (AUD)
The ASUS U1F (1P010E) is the undisputed featherweight champion of the ultraportable world, weighing in at a truly anorexic 1.1 kg, with dimensions of just 261 x 190 x 29 mm. If you're after a notebook for frequent mobile use, they certainly don't get much smaller than this, but unfortunately, length and width aren't the only areas to be downsized. With limited power beneath its miniature hood, it struggles with the majority of complex applications, while the lack of a built-in optical drive seriously hampers its portability. As such, the notebook is really only suitable for business commuters and the ultra fashion conscious. Gamers and multimedia enthusiasts would be better off opting for a slightly larger unit that packs a bigger punch.
By far the most striking aspect of the ASUS U1F is its stylish, lightweight design. It takes the concept of the 'ultraportable' to nearly fetishist levels, with its svelte interior encased in supple black leather. In addition to injecting a touch of sophistication, this also makes the wrist rest incredibly comfortable to use; especially during lengthy typing sessions. Elsewhere, the keyboard is speckled with a subtle glitter effect, while the outer lid is rimmed in chrome and painted for a glossy piano black finish. We were also pleased by ASUS' decision to refrain from the intrusive lights and badges that clutter many other notebook models - instead, the aesthetic bells and whistles are kept to a classy minimum, with just two buttons (for power and battery performance) on the unit's upper lip, along with a few tiny LED indicators. We really can't stress enough how gorgeous this notebook looks.
To receive our big rubber stamp of approval however, a notebook needs to impress us on more than a superficial level. While the ASUS U1F (1P010E) certainly isn't a bad product, it does fall short in a number of key areas, which makes it difficult to wholeheartedly recommend. One of the more immediately obvious flaws is the omission of a built-in optical drive. This means that if you want to watch a movie the old fashioned way (i.e. - by running a DVD), you'll need to use the included external DVD rewriter, which connects to the notebook via USB.
Naturally, this can be a major inconvenience during travel, requiring you to carry around extra hardware and cables; not to mention an additional surface to rest the device on (not always easy on a crowded train). This is especially hard to forgive in the face of similarly sized ultraportables which have managed to fit their optical drives internally, such as the Portege R500 (PPR50A-00V05C). Another problem caused by external optical drives is their negative effect on battery life - in our experience they tend to drain power a lot faster than the built-in variety. Indeed, when we looped a DVD on the external writer, the U1F's three-cell battery lasted for a baffling 56 minutes and 41 seconds. (Thankfully, a larger six-cell battery is also included in the sales package, which lasted for a more generous 2 hours and 14 seconds during the same test.)
We were also left a little cold by the ultra compact keyboard. Although pleasingly responsive and tactile, the small keys could prove a hindrance for people with large fingers, while the shrunken layout is likely to cause frequent typos if you're a speedy typist. This is further complicated by the repositioning of the right Shift key, which initially makes it hard to capitalise letters. Meanwhile, the absence of a numeric keypad is sure to irritate mouse-and-keyboard gamers -- although as you probably suspect, gamers are pretty much left in the dark altogether. Equipped with a low voltage Intel Core Duo U2400 CPU, 1GB of system memory and an embedded Intel 945GM VGA chipset, the ASUS U1F is a fairly underpowered notebook, even by ultraportable standards. While it manages to run the Vista Aero interface - albeit sluggishly - the majority of graphically intensive titles will be let down by its modest specifications. When we attempted to use WorldBench 6 to assess the notebook's overall performance, it was unable to complete the test. In 3D Mark 2006, the U1F obtained a score of just 197. While this isn't a terrible result, it does rule out the majority of modern 3D gaming, especially at higher settings.
To assess the CPU's speed, we encoded 53 minutes of WAV files to 192Kbps MP3 files using Cdex. It took the U1F 262 seconds (4:38) to complete this task, which is far from impressive. Normally, we wouldn't consider these slightly lethargic encoding times to be much of an issue, but due to the missing optical drive, you'll probably want to transfer movies frequently to the notebook, making for a slow and irritating process.
Our final gripe with the ASUS U1F has to do with its exceptionally weedy speakers. Even at full volume in quiet environments, the audio is just barely loud enough to be listenable. This is definitely a notebook that requires you to invest in some wireless speakers or a good quality pair of earphones.
As you can see, our grievances with this notebook are numerous and quite significant, yet that's not to say there's nothing to love. In addition to its sexy good looks, it also benefits from a generous array of components and features, including built-in Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, three USB ports, ExpressCard and SD slots, a FireWire port, a fingerprint reader for extra security and even a 1.3 megapixel webcam built into the inner lid. Equally impressive is the 11.1 inch display; which is stunningly bright thanks to the LCD backlit technology.
All up, there is just enough going for the ASUS U1F to make it worthy of purchase. If you can live without lots of power or a built-in optical drive, it's one of the coolest looking ultraportables on the block.
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