The ultraportable laptop market is a highly competitive one. Asus, Dell, Samsung, Apple and just about every manufacturer worth its salt produces gorgeous, tiny notebooks for the so-called 'road warrior'.
The latest of these is the 12.1-inch Asus U6S -- a machine that is small in stature, big on performance and absolutely gorgeous. They will be on sale from Asus' resellers for £1,499 in mid-November.
You can save yourself the bother of reading this entire section of the review if you just remember these words: the U6S is one of the sexiest laptops we've ever seen. You'd have to be crazy not to like it. Allow us to explain why.
It is, for all intents and purposes, a slightly bigger version of the 11.1-inch Asus U1. Whereas the U1's dinky keyboard made us contort our hands in unnatural, painful ways, the 1.5kg, 300 by 35 by 225mm U6S remains comfortable even when used for long periods.
Our test model sports a glossy, plain chocolate-coloured lid with tiny flecks of sparkly paint under the varnish. It's reflective enough to do your make-up and attracts just as many admiring glances as it does fingerprint smudges. We really defy anyone not to like it.
The brown lid is complemented by a brown leather wrist pad. Asus says this is real cow hide and we're inclined to believe it. The laptop has that authentic leather smell about it, which animal rights activists, vegetarians, etc, should be wary of.
Ports are in abundance on the U6S While the 13.3-inch Dell XPS M1330 had just two USB ports, this has four. Plus, it has HDMI video output and analogue D-Sub for anyone who likes to kick it old-skool. Our only gripe is the tray-loading DVD rewriter drive -- a slot-loading model like on the Dell would have looked nicer.
As touched on earlier, the U6S has a great keyboard. Unlike some laptops, it doesn't flex under force, which is a sign of good build quality. The mouse trackpad is equally comfortable to use, but the accompanying selector buttons are dire. They're extremely stiff and difficult to press -- you'll need an external USB mouse or bionic fingers.
The rest of the U6S appears well built, too. Unlike many Sonys we've tested, the TZ series included, the U6S's battery doesn't feel loose and there are no disconcerting rattling noises. Nothing twists, flexes or bends where it shouldn't, and even the leather seems well fitted. We expect that with a little care and attention, this laptop could last you quite some time.
Ultraportables usually look great, but they often fall down where specs are concerned. Not the U6S. It uses an array of high-end components including a 2.2GHz Intel T7500 dual-core CPU, 2GB of DDR2 667MHz RAM, and a 160GB hard drive.