Asus wins the prize for being the first manufacturer to cook up a laptop design that puts Vista's SideShow feature to use. The W5Fe SideShow notebook looks like your typical 12.1-inch laptop with one small addition: Embedded in the lid is a 2.8-inch LCD. It's a full-color screen with a 320x240 resolution that lets you access your data even when the laptop itself is powered down. Using the four-way navigation button to the right of the LCD, you can jump through the SideShow menu to check e-mail and calendar appointments, view pictures, choose a song from your music library, or--if you're really bored--play solitaire. SideShow updates itself when the laptop is on, loading data from the hard drive into SideShow's 1GB of flash memory for instant, anytime access. SideShow requires little battery power; Asus estimates that it will run for 140 hours on the W5Fe's tiny, three-cell battery.
The SideShow module does not look like an afterthought, but rather a neatly integrated feature. It creates a slight bump in the laptop's lid, but not so much to make this trim, 3.7-pound notebook feel or look awkward.
An Asus rep told us the W5Fe is about three weeks away from shipping, and when it does, it'll cost $2,199 and will include an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 512MB of memory, a 160GB hard drive, and a 1.3-megapixel Webcam. It uses the Home Premium version of Windows Vista.