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Introducing the Asus K42F notebook
Arrandale arrived on my doorstep inside a pre-production version of Asus' upcoming K42F 14" notebook. Behold its freshly buffed, glossy plastic sheen:

The glossy glare makes K42F's textured underlayer a little difficult to see here. You're not missing much, though. The series of curved grey lines that adorn the black top panel are faintly fingerprintesque, and certainly less visible than the collection of smudges and actual fingerprints that the glossy coating manages to attract with only light handling.

Asus doesn't appear to have any other cosmetic treatments lined up for the K42F, but several models are planned, including two that are set to be available on January 17. The K42F-B1 will set you back $999; it features a Core i5-520M, 4GB of DDR3 memory, a 320GB 5,400-RPM hard drive, a Blu-ray reader, and an eight-cell battery. If you're looking to spend a little less, the K42F-A1 rings in at $729 with a Core i3-350M. You also lose the Blu-ray drive in favor of a DVD burner and end up with a 6-cell battery. Neither the A1 nor the B1 comes with Bluetooth, which is odd considering that both support 802.11n Wi-Fi.

Additional K42F models are planned between $799 and $899. Arrandale will also get a taste of discrete graphics in the K42JR-A1, which will be similar to the K42F but with a Mobility Radeon HD 5470, Core i5-430M, and a 7,200-RPM hard drive. There's no word on pricing for that model just yet.

Processor Intel Core i5-540M 2.53GHz
Memory 4GB DDR3-1066 (2 DIMMs)
Chipset Intel HM55 Express
Graphics Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD
Display 14" TFT with WXGA (1366x768) resolution and LED backlight
Storage Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB 2.5" 5,400-RPM hard drive
Optical Hitachi HT-DT-ST Blu-ray reader, DVD writer
Audio Stereo HD audio via Realtek codec
Ports 3 USB 2.0
1 HDMI
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Gigabit Ethernet via JMicron controller
1 1394 FireWire
1 analog line/headphone output
Expansion slots SD/MMC card reader
Communications 802.11a/g/n Wi-Fi via Intel Centrino Advanced-N 6200
Input devices "Full size" keyboard
Trackpad with two-finger scrolling
Internal microphone
Camera 0.3 megapixel webcam
Dimensions 13.7" x 9.3" x 1.4" (349 mm x 237 mm x 36.5 mm)
Weight 4.85 lbs (2.2 kg)
Battery 6-cell Li-Ion 63Wh

Of course, none of these configurations actually match the K42F demo unit we used for testing. Our review sample sports a Core i5-540M that's a little bit faster than the quickest CPU planned for the K42F series. This system also features a Centrino Advanced-N 6200 wireless card that will be replaced by a similar Atheros unit in retail versions of the K42F. Intel put a 500GB hard drive into this demo system, as well, and equipped it with Windows 7 Ultimate x64 rather than Home Premium. The CPU and hard drive upgrades should make our K42F a little bit faster than what you'll be able to buy starting in a couple of weeks.

Intel says Arrandale can slide into notebooks at thin as 0.8", but the K42F is quite a bit beefier. Too much holiday gluttony, perhaps. The K42F is close to an inch and a half thick and tips the scales at a little under five pounds. Here's how it looks next to Acer's thin-and-light Aspire Timeline 13.3":

As you can see, the Asus' footprint is only slightly larger. The difference in thickness is quite apparent and not entirely the fault of the optical drive. Asus managed to squeeze a DVD burner into its 14" UL80Vt, which is just over an inch thick.

Keep in mind that the K42F is but one example of what will no doubt be a torrent of Arrandale-based notebooks. Even as I sit here writing this, hours before the official press embargo lifts, gadget blogs are littered with leaked marketing materials detailing notebooks of all shapes and sizes with Core Mobile CPUs inside.