Asus W5Fe: Lovable SideShow freak

If you glued a PDA to the front of your laptop, what would you get? The Asus W5Fe, the first device to support the SideShow option in Windows Vista

If there's one PC technology Crave has been looking forward to, it's the SideShow option in Windows Vista. You can imagine our joy when we got to play with the world's first SideShow device, the Asus W5Fe.

As previously reported , the W5Fe is a 12-inch laptop that incorporates an auxiliary 71mm (2.8-inch), 320x240-pixel display on the lid. Conceptually it's like having a PDA strapped to the outside of the laptop, but unlike the semi-pointless external displays on clamshell phones, Sideshow is actually pretty useful.

The auxiliary screen gives you quick access to stripped-down versions of key applications including a media player, email client and calendar. All of these can be viewed without booting Windows, so you can check meeting schedules, telephone numbers, text documents and so on without any hassle. Anyone who has been frustrated by the painful boot time of Windows will love SideShow. To see it in action, check out our Asus W5Fe with SideShow video.

The applications, known as 'Gadgets' (no, they're not the same Gadgets as you get in Vista proper) are stored in 1GB of NAND memory and synchronise with their desktop counterparts whenever you switch on the laptop. Asus says the number of gadgets available for Sideshow will increase over time, so expect to see all manner of cool applications pop up over the course of 2007.

SideShow aside, the W5Fe is pretty attractive. The version we fondled uses a Core 2 Duo T7600 processor, a 160GB hard drive and 1GB of RAM. Best of all, it only weighs 1.7Kg -- it's in no way the unwieldy beast some industry folk thought it would be. We'll have one of our own to play with by the time we return from CES, so expect a full review before it goes on sale in February 2007. -RR

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