The burgeoning popularity of netbooks certainly suggests people want their computers light and portable. For a large number of these the netbook, which offers basic functionality at a basic price, is perfectly adequate - especially as a secondary computer. Yet there will always be power users who accept no compromise and are willing to pay for the privilege. This is where the Asus U6V-2P001E, a fully featured 12.1in ultra-portable, comes in. Unlike an Eee PC this is a premium item with a premium price and even the packaging, a rather smart black worked and moulded cardboard case lined with black felt, suggests this much.
Turning to the notebook itself the impression of classiness continues. In fact, it's rather reminiscent of Asus' own U2E 11.1in Ultra Portable Notebook. Our sample has a dark-brown, almost black, lid with blue and gold specks, highlighted by a silver trim. Its hinge is also silver, trimmed with black edges and the lid is incredibly thin thanks to the 12.1in screen using LED backlight technology.
Once opened, the visual design of the laptop inspires mixed feelings. On the one hand, no-one will mistake this for a cheap piece of technology. On the other, the keyboard's silver finish does look a tad tacky. Apart from this the mix of dark silver screen bezel, light silver keyboard, textured chrome buttons, brown leather palm-rest, dark-brown touchpad, piano-black trim and matte black base gives the whole a somewhat inconsistent look. Don't get me wrong, it's quite attractive and still stylish, just not as good-looking as some of the competition.
Although I'm personally anti-leather, I must admit that the real leather palm-rest below the keyboard adds a touch of class and more than a touch of user comfort. The palm area is as large as you're likely to find on most 15.4in notebooks, providing your hands with plenty of support while typing and the leather is grippy, soft, fingerprint resistant and prevents your palms sweating.
The rest of the typing experience is also very pleasant thanks to an above average keyboard. Keys are large and well-spaced and the layout is excellent, with the left Ctrl key on the outside of Fn and dedicated Home to End keys - the only minor niggle for some might be the lack of a full-size Enter key. Feedback is good, with reasonable depth and a crisp and even response.
There are no dedicated media buttons but at least Play, Stop, Next and Previous have been placed as secondary functions on the arrow keys, though I would have preferred the volume keys to be a bit more accessible.
Unfortunately, from the excellent keyboard we move on to a rather disappointing touchpad. It's finished in a brushed metal dark-brown layer that feels great and is sure to stand a lot of wear and tear - this isn't the problem. Where it all goes wrong is the buttons, which are incredibly stiff and require too much pressure. This makes simple tasks like dragging and dropping difficult to the point of being impractical. This wouldn't be acceptable in a budget notebook, let alone one costing over £1,000, and is a significant black mark as far we're concerned.
Between the buttons is a fingerprint security scanner. Though Asus also offers a log-in system through face recognition, this is not recommended for anything other than casual use, as the software is still not accurate enough to block lookalikes and is frankly a rather gimmicky feature.