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Ignoring the low-resolution, standard aspect display, the U5F is a fast ultra-portable with great battery life.



The ultra-portable U5F comes in two different shells -- "jet black" and "pearl white". We tested the black model and, aside from the garish stickers that flank the touchpad, we found the design to be both clean and attractive.

It's refreshing to see ASUS making effective use of the notebook's available space, as the keyboard extends to the far edges of the chassis. The large, well-spaced keys are comfortable to type on, and we didn't notice a "stiff" feel to them as we've done on many previous designs. The touchpad isn't the largest we've seen, but it's not so small as to become frustrating to use. The left/right mouse buttons give an authoritative "click" when pressed, but it's worth noting that more force is required than we're used to.

Although it appears to be heftier than other ultra-portable notebooks since it's noticeably thicker (33mm compared to the Lenovo T60's height of 25mm), the U5F isn't a burden to carry around. With the default six-cell battery it weighs in at 1.58kg, however, it also comes with a spare three-cell battery that brings the weight down to 1.43kg (obviously at the expense of battery life).

Internally, the U5F is your typical Centrino Duo affair. It's got a 2GHz Core Duo processor, 1.5GB of DDR2-533 memory, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi and a fairly hefty 100GB hard drive. This places it towards the upper echelons of the market as far as on-paper specifications go.

Some nice-to-have but not necessarily mandatory features offered by the U5F include Bluetooth 2.0, an 8-in-1 card reader, a built-in microphone and a bonus carry bag and Bluetooth mouse. Notably, a webcam isn't offered.

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The U5F's port layout includes most of the staple inputs and outputs, but one curious omission is an S-Video port -- the only way to hook the notebook up to an external display is through the VGA output.

ASUS takes great pride in the U5F's display, which is enhanced by the "ASUS Splendid Video Enhancement Technology" utility. This includes a number of preset colour modes that adjust colour temperatures for optimal viewing under various environments (e.g. "Theatre" mode for when you're watching a film). It's a thoughtful inclusion, but we found that the "Normal" setting offers the most accurate colour reproduction. Further, we weren't so impressed with the display's 1024x768 native resolution, which is noticeably lower than most other notebooks we've tested in recent months and among other things results in decreased desktop space.

Another software feature unique to ASUS notebooks is the "Power4 Gear" power management utility, which offers a number of preset configurations to optimise battery life under various applications.

Given its powerful set of internal components, we expected the U5F to trounce the competition in the performance stakes. Under MobileMark2005's office productivity test, the notebook comfortably beat out the Sony and Samsung competition, but despite being equipped with a faster processor it failed to surpass Acer's offering.

BAPCo MobileMark2005 performance rating
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

161 73 98 227

Our own qualitative performance tests showed the notebook to be sufficiently fast for virtually all applications you'd be using while on-the-go, such as word processing, e-mail and DVD playback. That said, those who like to multitask may find themselves frustrated at the small amount of desktop space provided by the 1024x768 display. Similarly, the fact that the screen uses a 4:3 (non-widescreen) aspect ratio detracts from the overall DVD viewing experience.

Given that the notebook comes with two battery packs -- a six-cell and a three-cell -- battery life is expectedly superb. The score of 323 minutes (almost five and a half hours) plotted on the graph below was recorded using the default six-cell battery, while the spare three-cell battery will add an extra two hours or so to this time. The U5F is easily one of the longest lasting notebooks we've reviewed.

BAPCo MobileMark2005 battery life rating
(Longer bars indicate more battery-life minutes)

323 Minutes 336 Minutes 329 Minutes 284 Minutes

Ignoring the low-resolution, standard aspect display, the U5F is a fast ultra-portable with great battery life.

RRP: AU$2699