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Asus U80V

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With all the Eee PC shenanigans, it's easy to forget Asus makes normal notebooks as well. Today we're looking at an incoming new model, which as yet doesn't have confirmed UK pricing or availability. As such we're giving it the hands-on treatment to see how things are looking.

Glancing at the spec-sheet shows the U80V, which is based around a 16:9 aspect, 14in display, won't be wanting for features. Heading things is an Intel Core 2 Duo T9550 running at 2.66GHz, one of the faster mobile processors you'll find. This is backed up by 4GB of RAM and a 512MB ATI Mobility Radeon HD4570 graphics card. Since this is a preview we haven't run our usual benchmarks, but suffice to say this should be one seriously quick system.

Of course, as and when the U80V goes on sale, its speed will depend to a greater extent on the configurations available, so it's more relevant to look at what features will be common to all systems. No doubt the highlights here would be the backlit keyboard, but also the backlit touchpad. While we've become accustomed to seeing the former, the latter is a new one even for us.

This backlighting takes the form of lots of little dots, which light up in a horizontal line where you touch - see our video preview for a demonstration of this. There's also multi-touch support, so when you pinch your fingers in the now familiar fashion to zoom in and out, two lines are lit up to follow your movements. It looks kind of funky, though there's no escaping it's of little practical use: it just looks nice.

As for the multi-touch implementation, it's better than some of the Windows laptops we've seen. We particularly like that Asus is using the same two-fingered scroll gesture as Apple, which is a very quick and practical way to scroll through documents and web pages. However, whereas the size of the MacBook touchpads and Apple's software are well optimised for such gesture controls, Windows and the standard size pad means multi-touch still lacks the allure captured by Apple.

No meaningful complaints can be made of the keyboard, though. Like most backlit keyboards it's an isolation-style effort, which is well suited to such backlighting. Key action and layout are exemplary, with a crisp and firm action that never fails to please. As for the backlighting, it has three levels of brightness, adjusted using the secondary functions on the F3 and F4 keys. There's also an ambient light sensor on the U80V, but it only controls the brightness of the display (not the backlighting), which seems a missed opportunity to us.

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