Design & Build Quality
In terms of appearance, all members of the ASUS U-series share common design queues. The U6S is certainly no exception and it sports the same wedge-like shape, chrome accents, leather bound palm rests and plain lid, adorned only by a small ASUS logo. The U6S' design, like the rest of the U-series, speaks of class and sophistication. You won't find any soft, rounded plastic here.
The U6 is a very sturdy and well constructed notebook. The chassis is made entirely of light weight magnesium metal. This makes it feel very solid while it is being carried and handled. The underside of the U6S is painted a plain, flat black and while it appears to be plastic, the entire underside of the notebook, including all removable panels, are made of metal. Seams in areas where different parts and materials join are all very tight, which attributes to the U6's high quality appearance.
The notebook is made from high quality materials and it doesn't appear or feel cheap in any way. This is especially true of the lid's hinges, which are some of the best we have ever encountered. The hinges are extremely smooth throughout their entire range of motion, with an almost liquid-like feel to the movement. The lid does not have a clasp or magnets to keep it closed, but the hinges manage to do a good job on their own.
The notebook lid is made of plastic and it is quite thin, as a result there is a significant amount of flex to it. This would normally be of great concern since a standard LCD is backlit by one or more cold cathode tubes which can break if the screen is bent too much. However this isn't much of an issue for the U6 since they are all equipped with LED backlit screens. While it is still possible to damage a LED backlit screen by bending it, they are significantly more robust than standard cold cathode backlit screens since there are no tubes to break. We don't believe there is enough flex in the U6's lid to damage the screen.
By far the most striking and unique feature of the ASUS U-series is the usage of genuine leather. ASUS first experimented with combing notebooks and leather with the ASUS S6F, a 11.1" ultraportable released in 2006. Since then, several ASUS notebook models have appeared that feature varying amounts of leather. All U-series notebooks come with leather bound palm rests.
We liked the use of leather and found it to be quite appealing. The leather used on the U6 has been specially treated to help prevent wear and tear. The leather is rather hard and not padded so you don't need to worry about it feeling squishy. The treated leather also appears to be quite tough and difficult to scratch. It isn't wholly different from a textured plastic palm rest and other than its looks, you're unlikely to feel the difference while using it. If you opt for the 3-cell battery, which sits flush with the notebook, you'll be treated to even more leather, as the 3-cell has a leather back. However, the 6-cell and 9-cell batteries are of the plain plastic variety.
As we mentioned on the previous page, the U6 comes in two flavors, each with its own unique paint scheme. While the U6S comes in Mocha Brown and has brown leather palm rests, the U6E has a Pearl White paint scheme and white leather palm rests. Both notebooks look quite striking, however we believe the U6S got the better end of the deal. While the Pearl White paint job is simply your standard high gloss affair, the Mocha Brown paint used on the U6S is very special.
The paint job used on the lid of the U6S is very deep with a brilliant sheen. You'll notice that in most of our photos, the U6S appears to be glossy black and more like coffee than mocha, contrary to what the name would suggest. The paint job on the U6S actually looks different depending on the angle and distance you are viewing it from, as well as the quality and type of lighting available. In some instances the U6S will appear to be black, like in our photos. In other instances, the notebook will clearly be dark brown. In settings with very harsh, bright light such as outside in the sun, the U6S may actually appear purple with shimmering blue fibers. We're not kidding. We tried to capture this effect in one of our photos using a bright flash but it is much more impressive in person, and you'll just have to take our word for it.
Luckily, the high gloss coating seems to be relatively resistant to finger print attack and we rarely had to use the included cleaning cloth. According to ASUS, the Mocha Brown paint job is made from a 13-step process and they call the resulting effect, Voile. We just call it awesome.
The ASUS U6 features a cylindrical hinge design that looks like an updated version of the design used by older ASUS models like the W3J. This design is quite characteristic of smaller ASUS notebooks and it is quite common on Sony models as well. The U6's status and activity indicator LEDs are located along the cylinder, as well as three buttons and the built-in microphone. One of the two buttons on the right launches the webcam program while the second button toggles between power conservation modes via ASUS' proprietary Turbo Gear utility. The power button is located on the far right.
As previously mentioned, the ASUS U6 is a well connected notebook. Ports are spread out on all sides of the U6 except for the front. Starting on the right side, you'll find a USB port, microphone jack and a headphone jack that also offers optical S/PDIF output. Also found on the right side of the notebook is an 8-in-1 memory card reader and the optical drive. Due to the unique constraints of the ultraportable format, many currently available ultraportable notebooks sacrifice the optical drive to save space and weight. We're glad the U6 manages to hold on to its optical drive while still maintaining such a small profile.
Located on the rear of the notebook is the mini D-sub port, RJ45 network jack and RJ11 modem jack. The battery also plugs into the rear of the notebook. Our review sample came with the 6-cell battery which protrudes from the rear of the notebook by over half an inch. The optional 9-cell battery is even larger and more bulky, while the standard 3-cell battery sits perfectly flush with the notebook. We found that the battery sits very tightly when attached. Unlike some other laptops with similar battery configurations, the battery does not jiggle or feel loose while it is attached.
The left side of the notebook has three USB ports, an HDMI port, AC adapter connector, ExpressCard slot and a wireless switch which disables the internal wireless card to save battery life. The notebook's only cooling vent is also found on the left side. The speaker is located on the front of the notebook, which is devoid of any ports.
Overall, we are very impressed by the number and variety of ports ASUS has managed to cram into the U6's tiny frame, absolutely no space was wasted. The only thing it seems to be missing is a Firewire port. Just like the rest of its specifications, the U6 offers full-sized notebook connectivity in an ultraportable form factor which is quite rare.