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No matter how good it looks, a supercar (and by extension a supercar-styled notebook) is nothing without a decent engine under the bonnet so it's lucky for Asus that it has supplied the Lamborghini VX3 with just that. Unlike the Vaio TZ and Asus' own U2 which feature ultra-low-voltage Intel chips, the VX3 packs a fully-fledged Intel Core 2 Duo T9300. A 45nm dual-core, Penryn CPU running at 2.5GHz on an 800MHz front-side bus, complete with 6MB L2 cache and a 35W TDP. As we all know by now, being Penryn-based means that while the VX3 should have oodles of
horse processing power, it shouldn't draw obscene amounts of battery charge in the process - although inevitably power draw is going to be fairly high with such a CPU.
Complementing the punchy processor is 4GB of 667MHz DDR2 RAM. Sadly although Vista Ultimate Edition is provided on the laptop, it is of the 32-bit flavour so you'll only actually be getting closer to 3.25GB of usable memory. Not that that makes the Lamborghini slow by any means. Far from it, in fact!
Unlike the U2E which boasts a 64GB SSD, the VX3 packs in a 320GB conventional hard drive. Given the cost and the high-end pretentions we'd have preferred to see solid state drive in the Lambo (just like we'd prefer carbon-ceramic brakes on our sports cars) but the larger capacity is arguably more favourable for everyday use (again, just like carbon brakes which revel on the track, but take an age to warm up on the road - it's amazing how far these motoring analogies stretch).
In contrast to the otherwise high-end specs Asus has opted to go with a low-end graphics chipset - the nVidia GeForce 9300M G. With 16 stream processors, a 400MHz core clock, an 800MHz shader clock and 256MB of GDDR RAM on a 64-bit interface running at 600MHz. Gaming is not the forté of such a GPU, but nonetheless Trackmania (our preferred notebook gaming benchmark) delivered an average of 44fps at the medium detail preset. Spore's Creature Creator ran with no noticeable slowdown at fairly good detail settings which leads me to conclude that the full game will play just fine, too - brilliant!
This impression translates into the benchmark results which are suitably impressive. Given the processor in the VX3 is a smidgeon over twice the clock speed of the Vaio TZ and the Lenovo X300 it's hardly surprising that it's about twice as fast in our in-house benchmarks. Although the X300's brilliantly fast SSD appears to help with VirtualDub. By using a fully fledged mobile CPU as opposed to a low-voltage chip, Asus has ensured that it has the fastest small notebook going. In doing so battery life takes a noticeable hit but since when was fuel economy a concern to a supercar owner? (since super-unleaded topped £1.30 per litre - ed.)
Asus supplies two batteries. A small, but more aesthetically pleasing three-cell flush-fitting option or a larger nine-cell. Our tests were run with the larger of the two and, as you can see, Asus has successfully countered the disadvantage of its higher power-draw processor by supplying a larger battery with the VX3. The Lenovo X300 and Vaio TZ do offer their operating periods without unsightly oversized batteries, but given the near-2Kg weight of the VX3, it's not exactly the weapon of choice for road warriors anyway.
The VX3, like a ‘real' Lamborghini, isn't cheap at £1,800-odd. If you step down in size (and up in screen resolution) slightly the U2E and VAIO TZ rear their heads, and come some £400 cheaper, while offering considerably better portability at the expensie of raw performance. Asus also has a similar system in the form of the U6S, at a much lower price, although that model omits a DVD drive. If you're looking for a high-performance system that's going to attract attention you really can't do better than the Lamborghini VX3, but you're paying a premium for the priviledge of owning one.
Love it or hate it, the Asus Lamborghini VX3 undeniably has style by the boatload. Add the impressive specification and performance besting it's similarly priced rivals and you'll have to agree there's a lot to like. If the Sony Vaio TZ is a Lotus Elise - small, light, good looking, decent performance - then the VX3 really is a Lamborghini Gallardo - powerful, expensive and, of course, great to look at.
Yes the VX3 is pricey, even overpriced, but what does that matter? It's a Lambourghini for goodness sake! There's nothing out there you can buy that's quite the same. (But I'll still have a Porsche 911 GT3 RS instead thanks - ed.)