Thus far it’s clear the Asus U2E-1P057E is both an attractive and exceedingly well featured notebook selling at a price that makes a mockery of its more expensive competition, but what is it like to use? As you’d expect it’s exceedingly light and effortlessly portable. It’s not quite as light as the 1.19kg Sony TZ with its standard 6-cell battery, weighing in at 1.41kg, but the lower capacity 3-cell brings this down to 1.25kg and either way it’s hardly back achingly heavy. It goes without saying, too, that this is a thin machine. Measuring a mere 29mm thick, 277mm wide and 194mm deep, it’s everything an 11.1in ultra-portable should be.
You won’t be disappointed by that 11.1in screen, either. We’re willing to bet this is an identical panel to that found in the Sony TZ and even if it isn’t, it’s just as good. As with the TZ it’s an LED backlit affair and it’s superbly bright, colourful with black levels that will delight anyone used to even reasonably good notebook displays. Its 16:9 ratio 1,366 x 768 resolution makes it ideal for watching films, though its glossy finish means predictable, though relatively minor, reflection issues in strong ambient light scenarios despite moderately good horizontal viewing angles.
Speaking of watching films, it won’t come as too great a surprise to hear that the integrated speakers are pretty poor. They’re ‘stereo’ only in name, with two speakers set into the right side of the front edge. Headphones, speakers; whatever your preference you’ll need one or the other.
This, however, is an entirely insignificant complaint compared to those that can be made of the keyboard. As with many keyboards, it lives and dies on the smaller details and there are one or two glaring issues on the U2E. First, the placement of the right Shift key is exceedingly poor. It has been reduced in size and set to the right of the upward cursor key and as someone who has always favoured this over the left Shift this proved a cataclysmic annoyance; one that regularly resulted in me hitting the cursor key at inopportune moments.
As ever, the relevance of this problem will vary from person to person so if you can manage it, it’s worth seeking out a demo unit to try it out. Moreover, though the rest of the layout is fine, another concern about the keyboard is an appreciable level of flex. This does give the keys an ever so slightly sticky feel to them and though it’s nothing like as annoying as the Shift key issue, if there’s one area the U2E falters in reference to its competition, the keyboard is it.
Another notable annoyance is the noise levels the U2E occasionally produces. Few if any notebooks can claim silence and even the Sony TZ is known to get a tad blowy at times, but the fan on our U2E exhibited a tangible buzzing noise at high speeds. We’d be willing to dismiss this as a one-off, but others have reported similar issues and in situations where silence is appreciated, it’s bound to grate. As will, for that matter, the abundance of Asus’ own software loaded onto the machine, most of which could quite easily be dispensed with.