Rewind a year or so and we were taking our first look at a notebook all TrustedReviews readers should be familiar with, the Sony TZ. At that time Riyad reviewed the Sony VAIO VGN-TZ11MN and for those not well versed in TrustedReviews history, he and everyone else in our fraternity was more than impressed with what Sony had produced. It set a benchmark for what to expect from an ultra-portable notebook, winning our Best Notebook prize along the way. Now Asus, who previously challenged in this arena with the good but somewhat flawed Asus U1F, is once again making an assault to try and claim a slice of this niche but lucrative market, with its updated U2E.
Lucrative, of course, because ultra-portables command fairly hefty prices; even the current entry-level Sony TZ, the VGN-TZ31MN, costs under £1,300 and though this is relatively cheap given the TZ's typically premium pricing, an impulse buy it isn't. And, when you consider the top of the range edition with a 64GB SSD and integrated HSPDA will set you back over £2,000, as will a similarly specified Lenovo ThinkPad X300, they're not an easy expense to justify.
Handy, then, that Asus has decided to price its entry extremely competitively. We're the first to look at this model, the U2E-1P057E, and with 4GB of RAM and a 32GB Solid State Drive, its £1,300 to £1,400 asking price is a very competitive one when you consider that a similarly priced Sony TZ Series notebook comes with only 2GB of RAM and a standard 4200rpm 120GB hard drive.
Asus is generous with what you get for that money, too. In the box you'll find both 3-cell and 6-cell batteries and a nice selection of accessories, while the price also includes a two year hardware warranty. All combined the U2E is already making a good argument for itself based on value alone, but can it match its rivals in terms overall quality?
First impressions are certainly favourable. Though it perhaps lacks the initial wow factor of the Sony TZ, it's a tough comparison and the U2E is no ugly duckling. As with the U1F and some other Asus notebooks, the U2E is furnished to a large degree in leather, both on the outside and inside. This model is the ‘Mocha Brown' edition and both the colour and feel of the leather finish certainly gives the U2E the "deluxe" feel Asus is after. Likewise, the brushed metal edges and touchpad combine to create a very cohesive and classy look - anyone would be proud to own.
In this respect, then, the Asus U2E is a near resounding success and though some may feel tentative about the idea of leather on a notebook, its soft texture provides a welcome variation to the usual glossy or matte plastic found on the majority of notebooks.