Asus is certainly no stranger to creating stylish products, with its latest 1008HA 'Seashell' Eee PC being a rather arresting example. Now the company has worked its magic on a planned entrant into the Intel CULV (consumer ultra-low voltage) segment, with the 15.6in UX50V.
Measuring in at a little over an inch (32.8mm at its thickest point), the UX50V looks slimmer still thanks to its aggressively-tapered edges. A single slab of piano-black makes up the lid, which does make it rather high-maintenance but looks the part and is offset by the base's slim matte surround.
Upon opening the notebook up we were struck by the minimalist, sleek lines in a frankly gorgeous combination of glossy and matte black. In fact, personally we'd go so far as to say the UX50V is the most attractive 15-16in Windows laptop that's graced the office. It's a fact aided by the screen - a frameless edge-to-edge affair with the webcam and dual-array microphones integrated as unobtrusively as possible.
This smooth transparent display-cover leads down to a small matte textured border, which blends perfectly with the keyboard surround. Only 'instant-on' and power buttons intrude upon the surround's clean lines. Instant-on, as the name suggests, boots straight into version two of Asus' Express Gate, a custom Linux OS that starts up in as little as eight seconds, allowing quick access to basic functions like browsing the Internet, Skype, music and pictures.
One of the key features of the UX50V and one which solidifies its premium outlook is the 'MosaicGlow' keyboard. As the name suggests this is an isolation style keyboard that's beautifully backlit in white, making it perfectly usable in the dark. This backlighting isn't visible in direct sunlight, but even with it turned off keys are clearly marked in white. Furthermore, it is adjusted on-the-fly by the same sensor-system that controls the screen's brightness.
Ergonomically it is very nice to type on, not suffering from too much space between keys or keys being too small - both common problems with this type of keyboard. Feedback is also good, offering a nice depth of travel and a positive action, while the matte surface of the keys is pleasant to type on. Layout is excellent, with large Return and Shift keys, and intelligent shortcuts. Thanks to the large form factor, Asus has also managed to include a number pad, though this does lead to a problem which we'll get onto in a second.
Both the palm-rest and touchpad sport a mirror-shine black finish, which while looking great will pick up almost as many fingerprints as the lid. As for the touchpad itself, it is subtly integrated and very large, but slightly unpleasant to use because the surface makes your finger stick occasionally. Fortunately there are no complaints about its buttons, which are joined into a single chromed surface yet give a shallow but defined click.