Asus Lamborghini VX3 review
A hugely powerful luxury ultraportable, but it's undermined by poor ergonomics and a wallet-busting price.
When we recently reviewed Asus's ultraportable U2E, we thought that the premium end of the light laptop market had reached a zenith of luxury: a leather-clad chassis, a keyboard surrounded by brushed metal and a velvet pouch for the machine itself. We've been proved wrong, though, by the arrival of the Asus Lamborghini VX3.
As the name attests, Asus has joined forces with the luxury car manufacturer with the aim of producing a laptop of unrivalled quality and performance. And on first impressions, it's done reasonably well.
It's not the lightest laptop - with the extended battery the VX3's 2kg weight pushes the boundaries of ultraportablility - but no corners have been cut. There's a quick processor, lashings of memory and storage, and dedicated graphics alongside the lavish exterior.
While the leather only extends to the wrist-rest of this machine, as opposed to the all-over coating of the U2E, the lid is glossy black and adorned with a gilded Lamborghini logo.
Open the notebook and you'll be greeted with more extravagant design. The keyboard takes inspiration from the U2E with a light dusting of glitter, and it's surrounded by a metallic border with the Lamborghini logo etched into it.
The VX3 even includes sound effects: when booting the machine up, you're greeted with a couple of roars from Lamborghini's finest - a novelty on first use, perhaps, but potentially annoying on a busy train.
Some elements of the design, though, fall down when in use. The screen is similar to the preceding U2E and feels a tad flimsy, with only slight pressure on the rear causing distortion on the desktop - especially disappointing given that the VX3 is bulkier than the U2E.
The keyboard also suffers from being less comfortable than its rivals. The keys themselves feel unnervingly delicate, and there's less travel than we'd like. The trackpad and mouse buttons disappoint - there's no scroll function on the pad itself, the buttons are difficult to press, and like the keys, they offer little travel, which makes them uncomfortable to use. While the problems here aren't terminal, we much prefer the solid keyboard of the Lenovo ThinkPad X300.
Thankfully, the VX3 begins to redeem itself when you take a look under the hood. The 2.5GHz Intel Core 2 Duo Mobile T9300 processor is one of the fastest we've seen in an ultraportable, and along with a remarkable 4GB of RAM it delivers a benchmark result of 1.22 - almost twice as quick as the VX3's direct competitors. The Asus U2E, for instance, could only manage a score of 0.59, while the Sony Vaio VGN-TZ31MN limped in with a result of 0.62.
The VX3 also goes beyond its lighter ultraportable rivals by offering some gaming potential. Whereas the Vaio, U2E and Lenovo X300 all rely on Intel's GMA X3100 integrated graphics, the Lamborghini includes a brand new Nvidia GeForce 9300M mobile part. It's not hugely quick - in our least demanding Crysis benchmark it hit a peak of 12fps - but will have you playing less intensive older games without having to sacrifice too much quality.
The specification also includes a plethora of other features for customers who demand more from their ultraportable. A massive 320GB hard disk dwarfs the 80GB of the MacBook Air and 120GB of the U2E. Wireless internet comes in draft-n flavour alongside the usual a, b and g connections. There's also the option of adding a 3G connection, which is something that only one of its recent rivals - the X300 - can also boast.