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Digging a little deeper into what you're getting for your money, the U2E-1P057E is powered by the middle model in Intel's Ultra-Low Voltage CPU range, the Core 2 Duo U7600. As the name suggests this is a dual-core chip with each core running at 1.2GHz, with 2MB L2 Cache and a 533MHz Front Side Bus shared between them. This is ably supported by a generous 4GB of RAM and though it only comes with a 32-bit OS (32-bit Vista can only use 3GB) it does ensure you've got plenty of headroom for running applications, and opens up the possibility of installing 64-bit Windows as well.
Of course, the real star of the show is the 32GB SSD - a technology that's slowly and surely creeping its way towards the mainstream. Indeed, in this class (Asus Eee PC 900 and kin excluded) this is definitely the cheapest notebook we've seen to feature one, which given its other features is impressive. But what are those other features?
To begin with, one slight advantage the U2E has over both the Sony TZ is that it's based on Intel's GM965 Express chipset, as opposed to older generation GM945. Though the current ULV processors don't support some of features available on GM965, it does mean that the U2E utilises the slightly superior X3100 integrated graphics. It's only a small difference, perhaps, but one that some may find significant.
Elsewhere, the U2E packs in all the features one would expect of a premium laptop. Networking options include Draft N capable wireless and Gigabit Ethernet for wired connections; while Asus still manages to include support for a dial-up modem should you require it. Also on-board is Bluetooth 2.0+ EDR and a 0.3 Megapixel camera, and a TPM security chip and fingerprint reader round off what's an already very comprehensive feature set.
A feature set that includes, unlike its predecessor, an integrated optical drive. Everyone has an opinion on how important or unimportant optical drives are in ultra-portables, but given the choice we'd sooner have one than not, so this is definitely a positive step. Short of just being there, though, there's nothing at all remarkable about the 8x DVD+/-RW drive included.
There are, however, further delights to be had in the connectivity department. A total of three USB ports on a chassis this size is certainly welcome, as are the usual suspects like the 34mm ExpressCard slot, modem and Ethernet ports, 6-in-1 memory card reader and D-SUB (VGA) video output. But the real draw is the inclusion of an HDMI (labelled mini-DVI) port and a HDMI-to-DVI adapter to go with it. This is something unique to Asus in this arena and given it provides you with a means for digital output to a monitor or TV; it's a very welcome addition.