The design aesthetic of everyday PC casing has always been a moot point. While high-end desktop gamers benefit from lurid cooling units and haughty chassis design, laptop cases have been somewhat dour in comparison. The Alienwares of this world produce a case design that catches our eye every now and again, but these tend always to veer a little too much towards the brash than the attractive.

With the S6 series, Asus plans to change all that. Here's a laptop designed not simply to show off the power tucked under the bonnet, but to make the casing a desirable selling point in its own right - and that's not even mentioning the low wattage Core Duo that's tucked inside.

The Asus design team has elected to be sparing in its use of leather, choosing to kit out the back of the screen and the resting area of the keyboard only. And while the chocolate brown option supplied to us from Asus may not be everyone's preferred colour scheme, the pink and crocodile skin options, together with various natural tints, should mean there's something for everyone.

The design of the S6F works very well. The rest of the body is in a sturdy-looking gunmetal grey, which marries well with the dark brown of the leather. If nothing else, the S6F looks every bit as classy as the Mac Book Pro, and could well have Apple aficionados choking on their Mighty Mice.

The trackpad and keyboard layout are well-spaced and also comfortable. But how the S6F looks is only half of its appeal. This, remember, is a high-end portable with an Intel Centrino Duo running at 1.66GHz powering it, and 100GB of storage space available.

Our review model ships with 1GB of DDR2 RAM and sports a VGA port, a quicklaunch button for switching Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off, LAN and WLAN, two USB ports, an ExpressCard slot and a memory card reader. Asus hasn't scrimped on the onboard media either, providing an ultra-slim DVD rewriter that, given the S6F's dimensions, must take up a good third of its casing space. It's capable of writing and rewriting CDs at 24x and 16x, and DVDs at 4x.

On display

The 11.1-inch TFT is true to the smallform factor that the S6 concept is based on, and runs a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels. The Colour Shine coating keeps images both bright and crisp, while staying sharp even under harsh lighting.

The graphic performance of the S6F, however, doesn't match up to the quality of the screen. Relying on Intel's 945 chipset means that low frame rates and twitchy rendering blight the graphics benchmark; and while we openly admit performance graphics aren't what Asus had in mind when designing it, the overall quality of the S6F suffers.

Having said that, nothing more could be asked from the S6F in everyday use. It really is a joy to use: fast, powerful and comfortable to operate. In our tests, the standard battery life clocks in at a moderate 113 minutes, though this can be stretched with the addition of the extended battery pack, which adds an unsightly ridge to the back of the S6F but almost doubles its lifespan.

Having recently tested Dell's first Core Duo offering from its Inspiron range, we were prepared for impressive results, and the S6F produces a Mobile Mark score of 238 and a PCMark rating of 2,752 - a great achievement for a small form factor laptop. What's more, it handles these chores and tests almost silently, only kicking up a fuss when trying to read data from a filthy CD-R.

Yet for all its charm, it's hard to see who the S6F is aimed at beyond the fashion conscious. It's certainly a capable machine, but with Asus' other Core Duo's - such as the 12in W5FG001P - costing almost £500 less, you wonder just how much of the design budget went on the cowhide.

Overall, the S6F fits the small form factor bill perfectly. It's elegant and powerful, and above all, desirable. Asus could have produced a design monstrosity or even just a poor compact laptop, but the S6F balances each perfectly. Sure, it's not cheap, but it is a mightily impressive piece of kit, and a shining example of level-headed, alluring design. Tom Dennis