00 VX6S KeyPad

After presenting the first EeePC several years ago, ASUS created an entirely new category of notebooks, one that would soon prove to be a massive hit. It’s been almost four years since then, and ASUS still keeps surprising us with models that don’t follow the familiar netbook path, despite the fact that they are pretty much the ones who created that path to begin with. “Unusual” can be achieved in many ways, mostly through hardware or design changes – for instance, we’ve seen a fair share of netbooks designed by famous people in the fashion industry, with SSDs instead of conventional HDDs, stronger graphics chips instead of the ordinary integrated ones and so on. Well, ASUS’ EeePC VX6S is extremely different from both typical netbooks and powerful and expensive ultraportable machines.

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Exterior and interior

We’ve already encountered a few models from the VX-series, designed in line with Lamborghini’s automobile appearance. This new VX model follows the same trend, with its sharp Lamborghini lines, an unusual lid design and the golden emblem featuring the raging bull, but also the choice between two colours – orange and black. That said, the design hasn’t really changed much, but it’s remained just as striking and interesting, starting with keyboard keys, over the trapezoid touchpad, to the strangely shaped lid.

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The lid is the only orange part and contains three indentations that resemble the hood of the famous sports car, a Lamborghini logo in the middle, a net (covering the cooler) below, and ASUS’ signature at the very bottom. Design is as subjective a category as ever, so we’re sure that not everyone will like this appearance, but it’s definitely instantly noticeable, which is sure to appeal to many sports car enthusiasts. The lid hides a 12.1” display with marvellous specs. Its only feature that we’ve come to disapprove of is the glare coating, as it seriously hampers the user’s ability to see the display clearly in broad daylight – these are, after all, extremely portable pieces of hardware. The rest of the characteristics – diagonal, viewing angles, response time, brightness and colour precision – are all top-notch, which is to be expected of a netbook like this.

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The Chiclet keyboard is rather unusual. The keys are firm and square-shaped, which gives it a very peculiar look. It’s uncompromisingly high-quality, though, which becomes evident very quickly; it’s so much of a pleasure typing on it that business-oriented people and Facebook addicts will certainly love it. We’re glad to see that there’s no bending or crackling anywhere on the keyboard, which can grow to become a huge annoyance when present. The full width of the enclosure has been used, so the keyboard stretches from one end to the other, which was reflected in a larger surface of all the keys, and consequently a reduced chance of hitting the wrong button while typing. The silver trapezoid frame contains a largish touchpad with very attractive looks.

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The active surface is smaller than the visual one, though, so don’t be surprised if you land your finger in a dead zone and wonder why the cursor isn’t moving. The left and right click have taken the form of a see-saw button, which means that about a third of the button (the one in the middle) is completely unresponsive; again, it’s not a big deal, but it may take some getting used to. The section below the keyboard has a leather texture, but it also has a thin rubber coating, preventing palm sweating and slipping, which is a definite plus.

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The power and mode switch buttons are situated in corners above the keyboard, right next to the lid hinges. They have a glossy metal finish, making them feel stylised and remarkable, and the same goes for the inscription between them to remind you of the source of this model’s design.

V6 twin turbo

The hood conceals a most unusual engine system for a netbook. Intel’s Atom CPU was used, but in its desktop version, or more specifically, D2700 (Cedar platform); it’s the first time we’ve encountered this in a netbook. This has resulted in much better CPU performance, and even demanding 1080p video is no longer a netbook dread, so we can freely deem this model the first truly multifunctional PC of this size. Extra horsepower is provided by the graphics subsystem in the form of the mobile Radeon HD6470M (all praise to it for Full HD video playback), changing the usability and construction of this model from the core.

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In this category, both the CPU and the graphics chip are almost excessively strong, giving the true feel of a supercar. Interestingly enough, Atom CPU’s integrated graphics hasn’t been put to any use whatsoever, but after Intel’s announcement that no 64-bit Windows 7 (which is preinstalled, by the way) driver is to be developed for the integrated GPU, it feels really good to have the discreet Radeon GPU to rely on, as it’s proven to be fantastic, both in terms of performance and battery life. Out of a total of three USB ports, two are USB 3.0-compatible, and there’s also been enough room for VGA, HDMI, LAN, two audio connectors and a memory card reader.

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As with all sports cars, cooling is essential. VX6S has several openings and a serious high-end cooler to cope with heat. However, it’s worth noting that, in high performance mode, the lower left corner of the netbook can get incredibly hot, enough to make it unpleasant to hold in your lap after a quarter of an hour already, even when the PC is idle. We can’t really call this a surprise, though, having in mind the mad hardware located within, especially with such a thin and compact enclosure.

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0-100 in how much?

So, 0-100 in how much? Well, it’s best that you have a look at the charts, but as far as we’re concerned, this is the first netbook ever to enable any sensible gaming. Details still have to be reduced, and serious hitters such as Metro 2033 and similar should be disregarded to begin with, but the rest of the gaming market will suit this netbook just fine. Consumption is another strong point of this netbook, as a single tank fill will enable driving for about 11 hours straight, as long as you keep it cool, while this figure drops to just over two hours in maximum aggression-mode (aka gaming). We have to say that we’re pleasantly surprised by the low consumption and excellent optimisation in idle mode, especially from AMD’s graphics, which we’d expected to suck out much more juice out of the system.

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CPU Intel Atom D2700 2,13 GHz (Dual core sa HT, 1 MB cache)
Chipset Intel NM10
RAM 4 GB (2x2) DDR3 1333 MHz
HDD [GB] Seagate 500 GB 5400 rpm
Optical drive n/a
GPU AMD Radeon HD 6470M 1 GB GDDR3 (Seymour XT)
Display 12,1'' WXGA 1366x768 pix, Glare
Ports 2x USB 3.0, 1x USB 2.0 (off charge), VGA, HDMI, LAN, 2x audio, 1,3 MP web kamera
Other WiFi b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0, card reader, Bang&Olufsen speakers
Battery 6-cell, 5200 mAh, 57W/h
Weight 1,6 kg
OS Windows 7 Home Premium 64 bit + Express Gate Cloud
Price [€] around 600
Contact www.asus.com

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Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL [fps] / CPU [pts] 11,04 / 0,72
HDTune Pro 5.00 avg [MB/s] 61,8
Battery Eater Pro 2.7 Max/Min 2h 09' / 11h 02'
1366x768 (Radeon HD6470M)
3DMark 11 Performance Score/Graphic/Physics P559 / 535 / 780
Resident Evil 5 High DX10 [fps] 18,4
Street Fighter IV High DX10 [fps] 39,79
Dirt 3 Medium DX11 [fps] 13,1
Alien versus Predator Medium, Tess OFF DX11 [fps] 14,8

A most unusual racer

As with all sports cars, if they’re any good, the price tag is accordingly high, and ASUS’ VX6S is no exception. For the money you have to invest in this netbook (if it falls under the netbook category at all anymore), you can buy a serious 15” model with a moderately strong configuration. On the other hand, this model isn’t supposed to sell in millions anyway. It’s a very specific concept catering to a fairly limited population (automobile industry enthusiasts), and these won’t be let down in terms of performance (we take design as a given).

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The peculiarity of this model has enforced a few compromises as well – just like you don’t get a really good stereo system and comfort in a high-end supercar, things such as touchpad precision and the accompanying buttons had to be sacrificed for a higher cause. Heating is a logical consequence of cramming this much strong hardware in such a small housing, so it’s something to make peace with rather than complain about it.

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One this is guaranteed – this netbook will turn heads, just like a parked Lamborghini would; there’s literally been not a single passer-by that hasn’t taken a quick look of our netbook, which is a feat some buyers value more than the PC itself. Besides, do you know anyone who has an “engine start sound” option in BIOS’ booting section?