Asus U3

With the outer skin dealt with it's time to move to the internals, and this is where the Asus pulls out a few unusual tricks. CPU options will be fairly standard, with the choice of new Santa Rosa spec Core 2 Duo T7xxx CPUs as well as some older models, while Turbo Memory is also an optional extra. There's also support for up to 2GB of 667MHz DRR2 RAM, with 512MB already hard wired onto the motherboard. The real selling point, however, is the dual graphics arrangement, with the U3 enabling you to choose between power saving integrated Intel X3100 graphics and a thirstier but more powerful 128MB nVidia 8400M G at a flip of a switch.

As Hugo pointed out in his story on the U3, Asus isn't the first to do something like this but it's certainly a first for the company and it isn't something we see too often. Moreover, having reviewed the 13.3in Samsung Q70 and been somewhat disappointed by the battery life as a result of using the 8400M GS, it's a nailed on certainty that the difference in battery life will be palpable. Since this is an engineering sample, and doesn't use all the same components that'll ship in final units, we've chosen not to do any benchmarking for this article, but if any evidence of the difference in battery performance were needed one must look no further than the aforementioned Samsung Q70 and its smaller brother, the superb value Samsung Q45.

Both those notebooks share a nigh on identical chassis and specification, with the fundamental difference being nothing more than the graphics solution and screen size, with the Q45 featuring Intel X3100 graphics, and the Q70 the nVidia 8400M GS. In subjective tests the Q45 managed an impressive three three hours and 20 minutes, whereas the Q70 died after a less impressive two hours and 40 minutes - which tells you pretty much everything you need to know.

For all this intrigue, however, there are still reservations about how useful this feature actually is. Although the 8400M G and GS are evidently quicker and more capable than an Intel X3100, it's not really adding another level of performance. Gaming performance is merely adequate but nothing special and you'll be restricted to mostly low intensity games such as The Sims and World of Warcraft. In which case would it not be easier and cheaper to stick with the X3100, and perhaps supplement this using the Asus' own yet to be released XG Station?

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