Another area where Asus has moved a little ahead of the curve is connectivity. As ever the U3 includes all the normal things such as USB ports, an ExpressCard slot, memory card reader and FireWire, but also included are HDMI and eSATA ports. The latter is a particularly desirable feature and is something notebook users have been hankering after for some time, while HDMI is always a welcome addition and a rarity on notebooks of this size.
Wireless connectivity is also well covered, with Draft-N and embedded HSDPA making it an ideal companion for the mobile worker. In an altogether stranger twist Asus has also seen fit to include integrated GPS receiver, though for the life of me I can't understand the need for such a thing. Why would you use a notebook with GPS rather than any number of the PDAs or Smartphones which now sport GPS receivers?
Unfortunately, all these little extras do come at a cost because there's no built-in optical drive. In this sense it's rather like the U1F, though paradoxically Asus has told us that a version of the U1 with an internal optical drive is in the works.
Naturally there is an external option, and there's a DC-out to power it, but this is intrinsically less convenient than having an internal drive. How inconvenient is a matter for the individual, though obviously it'll make watching a DVD on the move rather convoluted.
Thankfully you can always fall back on downloaded video content, which will look stunning thanks to another of the U3's key features: the LED backlit display. As with Sony TZ the LED backlighting has a pretty dramatic effect on contrast and colour. This combined with the high contrast glossy finish makes this a great display for watching video, while also ensuring that the casing remains very thin, thus reducing the overall weight and thickness.
The Asus U3 is certainly quite an unusual product. It approaches the 13.3in form factor quite differently to competing products, removing the optical drive but adding discrete and integrated graphics along with eSATA, GPS, HDMI and HSDPA. In this sense it's very feature rich, and caters for a whole raft of niches not normally found on other notebooks. Whether this proves winning formula we'll just have to wait and see, and naturally you can tell us your thoughts in the forums.