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Asus S121 - Preview

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At their launch, netbooks were regarded as the poor man's ultra-portable notebook. However, Asus - the company that started it all - believes there's a gap in the market for luxury netbooks. Its first attempt at this segment was the S101 that, despite garnering plenty of praise, still had its flaws. As the sequel and bigger brother to the S101, Asus' 12in S121 brings a few welcome upgrades. Join us as we take an exclusive first look...

Compared to even the classier Eee PC's like the 1008HA, the S121 takes things to a whole new level. Even when the netbook is closed it exudes style and class. It's an incredibly thin machine (only 2.5cm at its thickest point) made to look even thinner by its tapered edges.

As with the S101 the lid has a glossy, luxurious finish and will be available in a range of colours. Our particular model was dark mocha speckled through with tiny gold flakes (not something the photos manage to convey). Of course, it does pick up fingerprints like there's no tomorrow, but it looks so good you might not mind the effort required to keep it pristine.

The lid's finish is tastefully offset by the Asus logo in textured metal lettering, and on both the tapered lid and the base there are metal surrounds. The slender hinge is also metal, as is the small wireless switch to the S121's right side. There's an unobtrusive 'lip' to make opening the lid easier. The base is a more conservative semi-matte black, which won't pick up scratches and wear as easily - and don't worry, the visible part of it still looks good, especially since all the ports seem designed to be as unobtrusive as possible.

Speaking of ports there are the usual three USB ones. Two of these are found on the netbook's left side, together with a mysterious DC-out jack. What this is for we can only surmise.

To the right you'll find another USB port, microphone and headphone ports, and the aforementioned wireless switch. The back has a DC-in jack, Gigabit Ethernet and VGA ports, and a lock slot. Like with the S101, this is also where you'll find the memory card reader which is a little awkward, but the trade-off for the sleek chassis is worth it.

Thanks partially to all the metal used in its construction, build quality feels more than solid. Opening the S121 up, the impression of luxury is continued. The glossy black screen bezel only stands proud off the screen by less than a millimetre and though we might have wished for a flush finish as on the rather fetching HP Compaq Mini 700, it's still a stylish implementation.

The metal hinge is shown off to good effect, complemented by a textured metal strip below it. To either side of this strip are white-backlit buttons, which consist of a transparent plastic layer over brushed metal set in a glossy metal surround. As you can imagine, the effect of this is very attractive. The one on the right is the power button, while the one on the left boots straight into Asus' Express Gate 'instant-on' OS allowing quick access to functions like Skype, chat, web-browsing, picture viewing and music listening.

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