Asus has never been shy about taking a unique stance when it comes to design and so it is with the Asus U3 (£1599 inc. VAT).
A black lacquered lid opens up to reveal the use of leather on the palm rests, while even the plastic used on the chassis trim has been tooled to give it a metallic feel.
The battery pack protrudes from the rear of the chassis, which is the only design flaw on an otherwise well thought out look. The larger battery pack does mean you'll get a considerably longer battery life than if you opted for a smaller 4-cell pack. Under test, the U3 lasted for 302 minutes, although this dropped to 220 minutes when using the dedicated GPU.
It's not just the look that impressed us, as the general build quality is impressive. We've criticised Asus in the past for poor keyboards, but the U3 has no such failing. The keys are firmly mounted and well spaced. With a light key stroke and shallow travel, we found it easy to type on the machine while travelling as well as sitting at a desk, as you can support the machine with your palms.
The touchpad is of a good size and proved responsive, as did the small and flat mouse buttons. Resting between them is a biometric fingerprint scanner, which is backed by a TMP chip.
When it comes to performance, this is a powerful and well-specified machine. Using the latest Intel dual-core processor and supported by 2048MB of memory, we found the system ran smoothly and loaded applications with ease.
With an overall weight of 2.2kg, this is a lightweight solution that is kept slim and light through the use of a 13.3-inch Super-TFT panel. As is becoming increasingly common on smaller laptops, the panel uses LED backlit technology instead of fluorescent tubes.
This not only makes the panel slimmer and better for battery life, it also delivers a sharper and truer colour image. The dedicated GPU - in this instance the Nvidia GeForce 8400M G - can be switched off to the integrated chipset, offering an ideal mix of of power and battery life.
Unfortunately, it wouldn't run our graphics benchmark. With 3G/HSDPA built into the chassis and supported by Asus's own software controller, you can use this machine anywhere, either to gather or send email or simply to surf the internet. Other key features include the addition of 802.11g Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet and even an eSATA port fitted.
The Asus U3 has all the latest technologies the mobile user will need, but they haven't just been included to make a statement: this is a well executed machine that delivers on virtually every level and is highly recommended.