Netbooks may offer serious mobility at a low price but, as many users have found out, their performance leaves a lot to be desired, especially if you frequently run multiple applications at the same time -- and who doesn't these days? A better option may be a more powerful ultra-portable such as the Asus U35Jc, which has a beefier Core i3 processor yet is still less than an inch thick. Our model was supplied by Laptops Direct, where you can buy it for £650.
The combination of the brushed-aluminium effect used on the lid and the carbon-fibre-style crosshatch pattern of the keyboard surround means the U35Jc is definitely one of the better-looking laptops around. It's very slim, measuring a mere 25mm thick, and supremely light at just 1.9kg, so it's ideal for frequent travellers who need a compact machine for use on the go. The slimness of the design, however, means there's no room for an optical drive. If you use DVDs often, something like the might be a better option.
The U35Jc isn't exactly laden down with ports, either, although most of the basics are covered. There are three USB ports, an HDMI output and a VGA socket. Along with these, you also get an Ethernet port and SD card reader, which often comes in handy for transferring photos from a digital camera. The laptop lacks an ExpressCard slot, so there's not much room for expansion. In saying that, this isn't a huge issue for many, as most peripherals for laptops, such as mobile broadband dongles, are designed to connect to a USB port anyway. On the wireless front, the laptop manages to pack in Bluetooth support as well as 801.11n Wi-Fi. The largish 320GB hard drive goes some way towards making up for the lack of an optical drive, especially as it provides plenty of room for storing movies in Xvid or DivX format.
Open the lid and you'll find that Asus has followed the trend set by previous consumer-focused laptops -- it uses a keyboard with Scrabble-style keys. Each individual key seems to be stamped out of the chassis. The keys are also quite wide and flat, so despite the laptop's smaller size, the keyboard doesn't feel cramped, and the lack of flex makes it feel solid to type on. There's very little compromise in the layout as well, with only the function keys across the top slightly reduced in size. We also like the large, wide trackpad -- the slightly dimpled surface feels good to the touch. Although the single, long trackpad rocker button doesn't have much travel, it is quite responsive.