ASUS U6S Ultraportable Notebook

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Usage Experience


After careful examination, we have found the ASUS U6S to be a well constructed notebook made of quality materials. Now that we've examined the U6S, let's explore what it is like to actually use one.


ASUS U6S Usage Experience
Power & Style On The Go

For a full week, we incorporated the ASUS U6S into our daily routine, substituting it for our usual laptop of choice. We lugged the U6S with us around town on a daily basis and attempted to get into as many usage scenarios as we could think of. From reading HotHardware while sipping lattés and typing up this article to giving Powerpoint presentations and watching movies on the subway, we tried it all and feel we're ready to report our findings.
 




Throughout our week of testing, we brought the U6S around with us everywhere we went and we found that it was quite the attention magnet. People would walk by and openly stare or even pause momentarily to ogle. On more than one occasion we were asked the question "in that real leather?" from a passerby.

The U6S is a very sturdy notebook despite its diminutive size and thin profile. The magnesium chassis and metal underbelly kept the unit rigid when being picked up from one corner and there was never any flex. While we could carry the unit by the monitor and it didn't feel like the unit would come apart, the flex in the laptop lid did unnerve us. The U6S probably isn't as durable as a larger full-size notebook but the U6S never felt flimsy and we rarely worried about damage from rough handling.
While we made no attempt to overtly abuse our review unit to test its mettle, we are fairly confident the U6S can survive the bumps and bruises of daily on-the-go use.

Located above the LCD monitor is an integrated 0.3 megapixel camera. The unit is fixed and cannot rotate. Picture quality was unimpressive although it should be sufficient for webcam tasks. An integrated microphone is located next to the power button and did a good job of picking up our voice through moderate background noise, although it still can't beat a headset.

The overall impression that we were left with after a week of daily usage is that the ASUS U6S is a well mannered and reliable machine. We never had trouble with it overheating, or getting too loud even when it was rested on less than ideal surfaces like laps and sofas.


Upgradeability


All of the user serviceable components were covered by two metal panels. The hard drive bay has its own panel while the rest of the components were covered by a second panel. The hard drive and RAM were easy to access and in plain view once the panels were removed. Note that nothing else is user serviceable and 'warranty void if removed' stickers prevent further tampering.


     


Worthy of note is that the NVIDIA GeForce 8400M G is integrated into the motherboard, next to the chipset. The processor, chipset and video card are all in a row and connected to the system's single heatpipe. The heatpipe is connected to a blower-style fan, which is the only fan in the system.



Keyboard & Touchpad

We were quite surprised by the quality of the U6S' keyboard. The keys gave great tactile feedback and did not suffer from the 'squishyness' that afflicts many smaller laptop keyboards. The keys are of sufficient size and we liked their positioning. We also liked that all of the primary keys remain the standard size, with the exception of the Enter and left Shift keys which are a little shorter than usual. The Escape and F-keys are half-height, but this is fairly common for notebook keyboards. We noticed a small amount of keyboard sag which was uniformly distributed throughout the keyboard. It was quite minor and probably won't be a nuisance for most users. Overall, the keyboard was on par with other laptop keyboards we have used and relatively pleasant to type on.

The U6S' touchpad is responsive and tracking was reliable. A fingerprint scanner is located between the touchpad buttons and doubles as a scroll "wheel". The fingerprint scanner is not the best unit we have encountered and it sometimes had trouble interpreting what it was scanning.

The U6S' touchpad and touchpad buttons are made of a single piece of brushed metal. While it looks fantastic, it results in the touchpad buttons being quite stiff and difficult to depress. However, we discovered that over time, after a few days of use, the touchpad buttons loosened up. By the end of our week of testing, the buttons were much more flexible but remained somewhat more difficult to depress than they should be. Luckily the included Logitech V270 mouse is excellent and we were more than happy to use it instead of the touchpad.


Display

All ASUS U6 models are equipped with the same 12.1" LED backlit LCD panel. The 1280x800 resolution is quite suitable for the screen size and text remained easy to read. The LED backlight provided excellent brightness and good contrast. The screen was quite resilient to high levels of ambient light and we found that the screen remained viewable in direct sunlight. Color reproduction was good although we found the screen washed out slightly when the backlight was turned up all the way. Backlight leakage was average, with noticeable leaking at the top and bottom of the screen.

Unfortunately, viewing angles were less than spectacular. Horizontal viewing angle was average but vertical viewing angles were quite poor. There was a very narrow "sweet spot" for vertical viewing angle which meant we had to adjust the screen much more often than usual. It wasn't uncommon to shift in your chair and discover that you were no longer in the screen's sweet spot. Luckily screen adjustment is extremely easy thanks the excellent hinges and the screen always stayed at exactly the angle you put it without any fuss.

Overall, we found the U6's screen to be average. It had a few undesirable characteristics as well as some saving graces.


Speakers & Sound Quality

The ASUS U6 series is not positioned as a multimedia machine, which is fortunate since sound quality is not one of its strong points. The U6 has a single speaker located at the front of the laptop, slightly off center and to the right. The speaker is fine for reproducing many youtube videos and the standard beeps of operation but that is about it. Music and movie sound reproduction was weak. The speaker has absolutely no bass and the sound it makes is reminiscent of someone listening to a very loud pair of headphones next to you.

To be fair, most ultraportable notebooks aren't much better and mono sound is also quite common in small business notebooks. Since ultraportables tend to be aimed at business and productivity applications we won't penalize the U6 too much. Overall, we would suggest that anyone who wants to use their U6 for multimedia should invest in a good pair of headphones.


Heat & Noise

Considering that ASUS has stuffed a relatively well specified full-sized notebook into an ultraportable form factor and combined with the fact that the U6 only has a single heatpipe and fan, we expected heat to be a huge issue. Luckily, this is another area where the U6 shines. The notebook never overheated and the chassis never became hot. At worst, the left side of the palm rest became lukewarm after several hours of straight benchmarking.

You might expect that the U6's single fan must therefore make a lot of noise in order to move enough air to keep it cool. That isn't the case. In fact, the U6 is fairly quiet and best of all, the fan almost never spun up or noticeably increased in volume. Also worth noting is that the hard drive was completely inaudible at all times. The optical drive did make a bit of a ruckus, but nothing out of line with other notebooks we have used in the past.

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