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ASUS S6Fm Special White Leather Preview

Design (continued)

The S6Fm does not have a top cover latch unlike other notebooks, instead it flips shut with some force once a certain angle is reached, hence the presence of rubber pads on the LCD bezel. The notebook is so light that one has to hold down the bottom half of the notebook in order to open the top cover, which is slightly inconvenient.

The inside is also an all-white affair, and once again the S6Fm comes across as being sleek, with all the components blending nicely together.

The status LEDs have been neatly integrated into the hinge to save space, with the power button alongside. The design of the power button makes it a tad difficult to depress though. There is a built in microphone located midway, below the ASUS nameplate in the photo. The webcam which is present on many ASUS notebooks has made an unfortunate disappearance here, but given that portability is the main priority this is not surprising.

The top row of LEDs, namely power on indicator, charging indicator, and WiFi indicator, remain visible when the top cover is shut. The charging indicator is the only orange LED here, and it turns off when charging is complete. I would have preferred it to turn blue to indicate a full charge though.

On the other end there is a button which lets the user change power mode quickly – it cycles between battery saving, quiet office, multimedia and high performance profiles as indicated on screen. We didn’t find ourselves using this very often though. The built-in stereo speakers are hidden beneath the strip of tiny holes beneath the LCD – the sound quality and volume is average as one would expect from a notebook.

The wrist rest is covered with leather, which is somewhat more comfortable to rest on while typing, but otherwise this is just for looks, much like the leather on the top cover. The navigation keys have been squeezed onto the arrow keys as function keys which require one to hold down the Fn key, from the looks of it a necessary trade-off in such a small notebook. The right shift key is also much smaller than most people would be accustomed to.

The touchpad has also been designed with style in mind. The design is faintly reminiscent of those found on Apple’s Macbooks, but of course both left-click and right-click are still around. The underside of the S6Fm is nothing out of the ordinary – like the majority of notebooks the RAM and wireless card can be accessed, but nothing more.

The S6Fm is predominantly built with plastic – the shiny strips are actually plastic too. The top cover gave in slightly to a hard press and so did a area or two on the bottom, but otherwise the S6Fm feels quite well put together. Notably though the hinge feels solid while looking quite nice too.

ASUS has no doubt had to make some compromises in order to squeeze everything into such a tiny space – most evidently on the keyboard. We will be taking a closer look at functionality and ease-of-use in the next section, but we have yet to encounter any major flaws with the S6Fm.

Real-World Usage Tests

We took the S6Fm out for a day of use to see to take a even closer look. While the included soft case looks nice just like the S6Fm, it doesn’t provide much protection against knocks, and the mouse and charger and any other accessories also have to be carried separately. We therefore decided to leave out the adapter, since we wanted to see how long the battery would last. Compared to typical laptops that weigh upwards of 2kg, the S6Fm is certainly a breeze to carry around.

The wireless on the S6Fm is powered by the tried-and-tested Intel PRO Wireless 3945ABG – no support for Wireless-N just yet but hopefully ASUS will make the Wireless-N card a standard feature when the standard is ratified and becomes more common. There is also onboard Bluetooth, however the included Bluetooth mouse refused to be detected by the S6Fm for some reason. We also accidentally flipped the hardware wireless switch once and found ourselves wondering for some time why the wireless refused to find any networks.

Also, cramming so many pixels (1366×788) into such a small screen (11.1″ diagonal) makes reading text for extended periods on the S6Fm a strain on the eyes. Conversely though photos and pictures turn out smoother on the S6Fm’s LCD. This is somewhat subjective, but anyway one solution to this would be to increase the DPI via the operating system. The use of a glossy panel here, while featuring the much-advertised improved colour vibrancy, also has its downsides – bright lights become obvious reflections in the screen even when it is turned on, which can get rather irritating in places like offices, which have harsh, direct, lighting.

Due to the cramped keyboard we found ourselves occasionally pressing the wrong key. The right Shift key has been compressed so much that it is particularly prone to this, and we found ourselves often hitting the up arrow key instead. We found the keys to be a tad too bouncy, but otherwise quite silent. For some reason though the arrow keys produced a unusually loud noise compared to the rest of the keys, perhaps a defect with this particular keyboard?

The compression of the navigation keys (Home, End, Pageup, Pagedown) onto the arrow keys as function keys, therefore requiring a holddown of the Fn key to activate them, can be quite annoying when one wants to scroll quickly through lots of information (long web pages for example). A partial alternative is to use the right edge of the touchpad to scroll up and down (this can be customised via the touchpad driver software).

The S6Fm comes pre-installed with either Vista Home Premium or Business, with our set using Business. Aero Glass is turned off by default, presumably to conserve battery life. Despite using integrated graphics on the 945GM chipset Flip 3D works out fine, with slight jerkiness now and then. While the S6Fm isn’t going to churn out the latest in 3D gaming, it is more than sufficient for office work and some video watching, though you might want to attach ear/headphones of your choice for better sound quality.

After some time of usage the left side of the S6Fm tends to get rather hot, but it’s still quite a good way off from the thigh-scorching heat created by some laptops. The blower fan also turns on when the temperature reaches a certain threshold, but no worries about that since it is quite silent and barely noticeable even in a quiet room.

The S6Fm’s default 5200mAh Li-Ion battery lasted about 3½ hours doing light work such as typing, web surfing or browsing through photos, which is quite acceptable for an ultraportable notebook though there are similarly placed models out there that last longer than this. Also note that the included 6-cell battery is apparently swappable for a separately purchased 3-cell or 9-cell one, though the S6Fm is already so light that a 3-cell one seems quite pointless. It is unclear however whether the 3-cell one will do away with the “hump” of the default battery pack, or the 9-cell one will cause an even larger protrusion.

VR-Zone is a leading online technology news publication reporting on bleeding edge trends in PC and mobile gadgets, with in-depth reviews and commentaries.

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