Asus Lamborghini Eee PC VX6 review

2 out of 5
£499.97

For

Powerful netbook, with a high quality screen and good sound

Against

Netbook level performance, lack of GPU acceleration

Beautifully presented in Asus's signature black coffer, the VX6 is all dramatic angles and chrome inserts as it tries to bring the feel of Lamborghini design to what's essentially a high-end netbook. But is it a luxury sports car or a tricked out go-kart?

Supercar design?

Certainly the glossy and angular case is reminiscent of a supercar's lines. Available in black or white, the VX6 mixes plastic with a sturdy metal frame, making this one of the toughest netbooks we've seen. It’s also as shiny as a freshly-polished Diablo. The surprisingly heavy battery means that you're going to have plenty of time to work while out and about but it does make the Lamborghini rather off balance when it’s on your lap, though it's stable enough on a desk where the angles provide a pleasing keyboard rake.

Like many modern laptops the Lamborghini gets a chiclet-style keyboard. However it's not particularly successful at a netbook scale, with the nearly full size keys slightly too close together for efficient typing. A short palm rest makes it a little hard to get the right angle for typing, and we found the mix of this and those angular sides uncomfortable, with the points digging into the edges of your palm. As usual Asus has scattered special function keys around the keyboard - some on the function keys, some on the bottom row - with the space bar controlling the Asus Super Hybrid Engine power management tools. The cursor keys double as media controls, simplifying working with full screen movies.

Start your engines

Again as usual for Asus there are two power buttons, one on the right for your normal Windows experience and one on the left for Asus' ExpressGate quick boot Linux environment. That can be a little confusing at first - the icons for the two start-up options are very similar at first glance. The Lamborghini's indicator lights are under the trackpad, making them hard to see (and use). A single button on the small and slick trackpad works reasonably well, though the action isn't as positive as other trackpads. The trackpad itself is the usual Synaptics multi-touch device, with support for one and two finger gestures - as well as the complex three finger gestures usually found on larger trackpads. We'd recommend sticking with the traditional scrolling techniques - there's not much room for a pinch zoom, let alone a three finger flip.

The Lamborghini comes with plenty of ports. The large battery means that they're all on the sides - VGA, HDMI and one USB 2.0 port on the left and two USB 3.0 ports on the right, along with Ethernet and headphone and microphone sockets: a generous selection for a netbook. There's also a memory card slot on the left.

We're usually unhappy with netbook screens. They're often unusual resolutions, or use older, cheaper displays that harken back to the VGA days of yore. That's not the case with the Lamborghini, which manages to squeeze a 1366 x 768 display into its 12.1-inch form factor. That's good enough for 720p HD video, and for most streaming video services. Don't expect the quality of some of the latest LED displays, but what you do get is better than average with reasonable contrast and good response in fast action scenes. There's also a good set of speakers, the Bang and Olufsen-designed ICEpower. Sound quality is good, with little or no distortion. Quiet pieces are clear, while load sections play with enough volume.

Performance

Lamborghini isn't a name you'd normally associate with netbooks, and we're not entirely sure why this model gets that accolade. No matter what you call it, this is a hyper-threaded dual core Atom with only 2GB of RAM and an Nvidia ION graphics accelerator. Storage is adequate, with 250GB of hard disk (there's an additional 500GB in Asus' cloud storage service). Performance, while reasonable, is still a netbook, with considerable lag when using some processor intensive applications.

You won't even get GPU acceleration with the ION, which is primarily an H.264 accelerator - so you'll have great video but poor performance on GPU-accelerated software like HTML5 in Firefox or Internet Explorer 9, which will make it hard to take advantage of the next generation of software. At least Asus includes Windows 7 Home Premium rather than the Starter edition, and battery life is reasonable. We got over 4 hours usage with Wi-Fi and general browsing and some streamed video and audio on a medium power setting (4 hours and 17 minutes in all).

The software bundle is surprisingly light, with Microsoft's Office Starter and Windows Live Essentials 2009 the centrepieces, along with a tool for keeping data in sync with desktop PCs, Syncables. Asus hasn't forgotten the roots of its netbook market, and there's also a full suite of Eee tools, including tools to ensure all your drivers are up to date. The Lamborghini also has one of the most annoying screensavers - be prepared to mute its speakers as soon as the throaty roar of the car it doesn’t really resemble starts up.

Verdict

With ultra-low power laptops approaching netbook levels of battery life (and in some cases surpassing it) and with tablets usurping the netbook's traditional role as companion device, netbooks need to do something different to stand out. Despite the styling and the Lamborghini branding, the VX6 remains an Eee in wolf's clothing. You're paying a premium price for something that could be bought a lot cheaper elsewhere, and no matter how fancy the looks, the fact that this is a 32-bit Atom with only 2GB of RAM and no GPU shows as soon as you try to run any demanding applications. Sadly then, the NV6 doesn't even reach go-cart levels, despite its sports car looks - instead it's just a die-cast children's' toy sat in the window of the show room.