For fashionistas that refuse to carry around a laptop out of fear that it will tarnish their immaculately maintained image, the ASUS S6 is sure to be a breath of fresh air. Its chassis is covered in genuine cowhide leather, which is so authentic that it even comes with "markings such as scars, wrinkles and grain variation", according to ASUS. As can be seen from the attached images, it's definitely unique, if not elegant.
Accompanying the laptop is a matching brown carry case and mouse, both of which add a touch of class to the overall package and, contrary to our initial expectations, are closer to elegant than tacky. The mouse isn't wireless, but its design is such that the cord can be wrapped around the base of the unit when it's not in use, avoiding wire tangles.
This is one notebook you'll want to show off to your friends, and you'll certainly have no trouble doing so thanks to its ultra-portable form factor. It boasts a weight of just 1.37kg with the three-cell battery (1.53kg with the six-cell) and dimensions of 270mm by 191mm by 22.5-37mm, so you won't need hulking biceps to carry it under one arm.
Overall build quality is pleasing, thanks to the laptop's metal base, sturdy screen hinges and smooth keyboard that's for the most part comfortable to type on. As with any ultra-portable, those with larger hands may feel uncomfortable, as the keys and key-spacing are noticeably smaller than on full-size desktop keyboards.
The S6's internal components seem to be fairly standard fare for an ultra-portable, and include an Intel Core Duo L2300 (1.5GHz) processor, up to 1536MB of memory and a lowly Intel integrated graphics chip. More importantly, though, the S6 is replete with networking options, including 10/100/1000 Ethernet, 802.11a/b/g Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.0. There's also a switch to disable the wireless feature should you wish to conserve battery power.
Three USB 2.0 ports are offered, as is a single Firewire port, headphone/microphone jacks and a memory card reader (supporting the MMC, SD and MS formats). Should you wish to add to the laptop's functionality down the track, an ExpressCard slot is also offered.
At 11.1 inches, the laptop's display may be frustratingly small if you often work with long documents or spreadsheets. That said, this issue is placated somewhat by the high 1366x768 resolution, which allows for more desktop space than other similarly-sized screens.
Given that it uses a low-voltage, 1.5GHz processor, we weren't expecting big things from the S6 in the performance stakes. Thankfully, the laptop more than proved us wrong, wiping the floor with the competing ultra-portable models that we compared it to. Given its size, it's certainly one of the most powerful laptops we've come across, but of course gaming isn't an option since the unit only packs Intel integrated graphics.
BAPCo MobileMark2005 performance rating
(Longer bars indicate better performance)
The unit comes bundled with two battery packs -- a six-cell and a three-cell -- but battery life falls far below our expectations. Using the default six-cell battery we recorded a run-down time of just 207 minutes, with the three-cell battery adding an additional 120 minutes, should you wish to carry it around with you. To put this result into perspective, the combined life of the two batteries offered by the S6 can be matched by the single six-cell batteries of many of the laptop's competitors (as shown in the below graph).
BAPCo MobileMark2005 battery life rating
(Longer bars indicate more battery-life minutes)
Despite its poor battery life, the S6's superb performance and compelling design make it worthy of your consideration -- just as long as you can shoulder the cost.