In a world where most netbooks have a similar aesthetic, ASUS's limited-edition Eee PC VX6 really stands out. Based on the Editors' Choice Award-winning EeePC 1215N ($499), this Lamborghini-themed 12-inch netbook ($699) turns heads with its sports-car like appearance --and a roaring engine sound when it boots. Asus backs up that flair with a dual-core CPU, switchable Ion graphics, and super-speedy USB 3.0 ports, which are unique to this version. But does a snazzy chassis and some neat extras justify spending nearly $200 more for a souped-up netbook?
Even though it has the same internal specs as the Eee PC 1215N (Atom D525 CPU, Ion 2 graphics), the VX6 looks completely different. The glossy white lid emblazoned with the Lamborghini logo reminded us (appropriately) of the hood of an expensive Italian sports car. The sides are emblazoned in a subtle matte, chrome color that tapers against a rubberized matte black shade. Inside, the hinge area is one of the most attractive we've seen on a netbook, with chrome hinges and mirrored power and turbo buttons above the keyboard with a script Lamborghini logo sitting in the middle of the mirrored surface.
The touchpad and touchpad button have a sleek, trapezoidal shape and a dark mirrored surface, but we found that this area picked up fingerprint smudges. The webcam also sits against a mirrored, trapezoidal background. The palm rest is made of a matte black, rubberized material that was really comfortable on our wrists and attractive to boot. Even the bottom of the notebook has air vents that look like they belong on an expensive car, rather than a netbook.
At 11.6 x 8.x 1.1 inches and 3.1 pounds, the Eee PC VX6 isn't the thinnest or lightest netbook on the market, but for a system with a 12.1-inch screen, it's more than reasonable. In fact, it's a little bit lighter than the ASUS Eee PC 1215N (3.4 pounds), but it stands a bit taller on a desk due to the difference in hinge design.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The subtle black, island-style keyboard is nearly identical to those we've seen on other Eee PCs made in the past year or so. It offers decent tactile feedback, good spacing, and was more than adequate for typing. Using it, we were able to achieve our typical 80 words-per-minute score on the Ten Thumbs Typing test, with a two-percent error rate. What's more, we noticed that this layout exhibited less flex than the EeePC 1215N.
The 3 x 1.75-inch touchpad on this machine is a bit smaller than the one on the Eee PC 1215PN, but more than adequate for navigating around the desktop. It even handled multitouch gestures such as pinch-to-zoom with ease. Like all Eee PCs, the VX6 only has a single mouse button that clicks left or right. While it's somewhat stiff, it gets the job done.
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Despite its relatively powerful components, the VX6 stayed pretty cool. After streaming a video at full screen for 15 minutes, we measured the keyboard at 88 degrees, the touchpad at 89 degrees, and the bottom at 96 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures under 95 comfortable for the top of the system and under 100 pleasant for the bottom.
Ports and Webcam
The ASUS Eee PC VX6 is the first netbook we've seen that provides support for USB 3.0. Using either of the two high-speed ports on the right side of the system, users can connect SuperSpeed USB hard drives and other devices that transfer data up to 10 times as fast as their USB 2.0 counterparts.
In addition to the two USB 3.0 ports, the right side of the system houses audio / in out jacks, an Ethernet port, and a Kensington lock slot. The left side has VGA, HDMI-out, a third USB port, and a memory card reader.
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The 1.3-MP webcam provided smooth, sharp images even in low light. When testing Skype from our dimly lit living room, even fine details of our face were visible.
Display and Sound
The 12.1-inch 1366 x 768 glossy screen provided sharp images and bright colors. Viewing angles were solid up to 45 degrees to the left or right, but as is typical, video images started to wash out at wider angles. Despite the power of its dual-core Atom D525 CPU and Nvidia Ion 2 graphics chip, video playback was a mixed bag. We were able to play back streaming 720p Flash episode of Fringe from Fox.com without a hitch, but a 720p QuickTime trailer of The Girl Who Kicked Over the Hornet's Nest played at only 18 frames per second. After talking to Nvidia, we learned that the current version of QuickTime Player doesn't take advantage of discrete video cards like Flash does so clearly the Eee PC VX6's 1.8-GHz CPU isn't powerful enough on its own to enable HD playback in QuickTime.
The speakers provided sound that was loud and distortion-free if not overly rich. When streaming both an R&B and a hard rock tune from Napster, we were able to make out different instruments clearly. The audio was also loud enough to fill our living room.
Click to enlargeInternally, the Eee PC VX6 has a couple of advantages over the typical netbook. First, it has a 1.8-GHz dual-core Atom D525 processor, which is meant for slim desktops, rather than the 1.6-GHz Atom N550 CPU we've seen in other dual core netbooks. Second, it has Nvidia Ion 2 graphics, which automatically switch back and forth with discrete Intel GMA 350 graphics using Nvidia's Optimus technology.
On PCMark Vantage, a benchmark that measures overall system performance, the VX6 scored 1774, well above the 1307 netbook category average and a few points behind the identically-specked Eee PC 1215N (1921). On Geekbench, another synthetic performance benchmark, the VX6 scored 1283, about 30 percent higher than the 891 category average and virtually identical to the 1215N's score of 1285.
It took the 250GB 5,400 rpm hard drive a whopping 90 seconds to boot into Windows 7 Home Premium (32-bit), but when we uninstalled the antivirus software that time dropped to a speedy 49 seconds. It took 4 minutes and 11 seconds for the VX6 to complete the LAPTOP File Transfer test, in which we copy 4.97GB of mixed media files. That's a rate of 20.3 MBps, slightly faster than the 18.9 MBps category average.
The Eee PC VX6 is actually fast enough to do real video editing and transcoding. Because of its D525 CPU, the netbook was able to transcode a 114MB MP4 file to AVI in just 3 minutes and 15 seconds, using Oxelon Media Encoder. That time is nearly twice as fast as the 6-miunute netbook category average, a minute faster than the dual core Acer Aspire One D255 (4:10) and nearly identical to the 3 minute and 17 second time provided by the Eee PC 1215N.
Graphics and Gaming
The VX6's Nvidia Ion 2 graphics chip enabled it to provide strong graphics performance. On 3Dmark06, a benchmark that measures overall graphics prowess, the VX6 scored 2,688, nearly ten times the netbook category average of 294.
Normally, you can't even consider playing a 3D game on a netbook. However, because of its powerful graphics chip, the VX6 was able to achieve a strong frame rate of 37 fps when playing World of Warcraft at its native resolution of 1366 x 768. However, when we turned up the special effects to ultra mode, that rate dropped to 21 fps.
Battery Life and Wireless
Click to enlargePerhaps because the ASUS Eee PC VX6 uses a desktop-class Atom N525 dual-core CPU, it lasted only 5 hours and 15 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Tests, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That number is only slightly below the ultraportable notebook average of 5 hours and 32 minutes, but over an hour behind the netbook average of 6 hours and 18 minutes and nearly 30 minutes behind the 12.1-inch ASUS Eee PC 1215N (5:40). Both the 1215N and the VX6 have the same capacity battery.
The Broadcom 802.11n wireless card returned mediocre transfer rates of 23.9 and 19.8 Mbps at a distance of 15 and 50 feet respectively. By comparison, the ASUS 1215N, which has an Atheros wireless card, delivered stronger rates of 39.4 and 23.7 Mbps. This card may also account for the difference in battery life, as the VX6 may have had to work harder to load the websites in our battery test every 30 seconds.
Click to enlargeFor those who can't wait for the Eee PC VX6 to boot into Windows 7 Home Premium, there's a button to right of the left hinge that launches ExpressGate Cloud, ASUS's version of the popular Splashtop instant-on OS. Within 20 seconds of hitting the button, we were presented with the option to launch a browser, photo viewer, or one of several casual games. If you're in a real hurry to get online, find a piece of information, then get off quickly, you may save a little time by using this option.
Software and Warranty
Unlike less expensive netbooks that come with Windows 7 Starter preloaded, ASUS powers the Eee PC with Windows 7 Home Premium. The Eee PC VX6 also comes with a wide variety of utilities. At the top of the screen, sits the Eee Dock, which contains shortcuts to all of the ASUS software. Considering that Windows 7 already has all the programs listed you can't add your own applications to the dock, we recommend disabling it to save screen real estate.
Among the applications ASUS includes is Eee Splendid, a utility that lets you change your color settings for a richer video playback experience. CyberLink YouCam allows you to shoot photos and video with the webcam. ASUS LocaleMe is a map program that uses Bing search technology. ASUS @Vibe is an interesting portal that lets you stream some music and try out a few casual games.
Syncables syncs your data with up to one additional computer, but to use all of its features, you need to purchase a premium version. ASUS also includes 50GB of free web storage for 12 months.
ASUS Voice Command allows you to perform a few tasks via speech recognition. It has sections for getting information on world cities, currency conversions, and playing back music via voice activation. For example, we launched the local cities section of the application and said "America New York" to get the current weather and time in New York and to get the current value of the euro by clicking on the currency button in Voice Command and saying "Euro to U.S. Dollar." This was cute, but not all that compelling.
ASUS supports the Eee PC VX6 with a one year warranty on parts and labor and 24/7 toll-free support. To see how ASUS did on our most recent tech support showdown, click here.
At $699, the ASUS Eee PC VX6 is one pricey netbook. While some will balk at paying $200 more than the similarly specked ASUS Eee PC 1215N, we like the Lamborghini styling and small touches like the soft-touch palm rest and recessed chrome hinges. We also appreciate the USB 3.0 ports, which enables lightning-fast backups and future-proofs your investment somewhat. If you're a car enthusiast or just want to carry a netbook that really stands out, the Eee PC VX6 is definitely worth a look.