ASUS U1F: An LED-Lit Ultraportable

The ASUS U1F is a sweet ultraportable with awesome picture quality and an innovative design. It’s a traveler’s delight, packing a lot of appealing features, but one thing you’ll miss is an optical drive.

Thanks to LED backlighting, the U1F’s 11.1-inch screen looks magnificent. Digital photos and even YouTube videos look amazing under low light. However, the screen is very sensitive to glare coming from any light source above you. ASUS uses a magnesium-aluminum alloy in its frame to protect the screen, which is only 5mm (0.2 inches) thick.

The small form factor presents challenges to ultraportable manufacturers. It’s unfortunate that ASUS didn’t integrate an optical drive, as Panasonic, Toshiba, and Sony have managed to do on similar lightweight systems. (See the review of Sony’s VAIO VGN-TZ150N, page 50.) Another nit is that the U1F runs a weak ultra-low-voltage (ULV) 1.06-GHz Intel Core Duo U2400 processor, which hampers performance. Also, its hard drive spins at just 4,200 rpm.

The keyboard is a bit unwieldy, though the leather on the palm rests is a nice touch. The touchpad is responsive, but the mouse buttons were difficult to press. The U1F has four USB ports, rare on such a small system, and adds a FireWire port, an ExpressCard slot, and a 4-in-1 card reader.

The U1F has a peculiar RAM configuration. It comes with 1.5GB of memory (a 512MB and a 1GB module), enough to run Windows Vista Business. Still, I’d have liked to see a full 2GB of RAM.

Good battery life is just one of the things we like in this 2.7-pound wonder. The battery lasted 2 hours 48 minutes running a DVD; you’d probably get 5 to 6 hours on more basic tasks. I’d like the U1F better, though, with an integrated optical drive and a little more power.

ASUS U1F: $2,100 street

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