Asus U80V

While the U80V appears a premium machine where specification and features are concerned, it's a little more mundane in terms of design. Indeed, the U80V can easily be summed up in two words: glossy and black. We're not sure if this really qualifies as a design brief, but that's what the U80V delivers in spades. There are only one or two bits of respite from the 'blackness', namely a metallic speaker grille above the keyboard and the chromed touchpad rocker button.

On the whole, then, visually the U80V is best described as underwhelming, which is a shame given the UX50V we looked at back in June, which shows what Asus is really capable of when it puts its mind to it. There's also the irritating propensity for picking up dust, grease and other detritus to deal with, though it's hardly a problem unique to Asus - one of these days a manufacturer will get the message!

There's one other quirk to the design that's more fundamentally irritating, though: the positioning of the touchpad. Asus falls foul of what seems like an increasingly common fault; putting the touchpad right in the middle of the machine. This means your palm tends to rest over the top right of the touchpad, which can lead to inadvertently jogging the cursor when typing.

Some notebooks have a dedicated button for circumventing this problem, but the U80V doesn't, though the F7 key does have this as a secondary function. In either case, we're still of the belief that - dedicated buttons or not - this is a fundamentally stupid piece of design. There's already a simple solution to keeping the touchpad out of the way; putting it in the right place!

Like its design, the U80V's connectivity is passable, but a little disappointing overall. Starting on the left edge there's a lock-slot on the hinge, which is followed by a USB port, a VGA out, an Ethernet port, HDMI out, another USB port and two audio jacks. In the right corner on the front is a multi-format card reader.

Moving to the right there's a 34mm ExpressCard slot, above which sits a switch for controlling the wireless radios. Next to the optical drive is a USB port, with the power input sitting on the hinge. Lacking here is any kind of eSATA support, while none of the USB ports are powered when the laptop is turned off. A shame really as the latter is an increasingly common and desirable feature on laptops - even Toshiba's NB200 netbook has one.

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