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Vital statistics — continued

Intel's Santa Rosa platform lies at the heart of the VX3, with a Penryn-based Core 2 Duo T9300 handling processing duties. The T9300 isn't the most expensive CPU in Intel's mobile lineup, but it comes clocked at 2.5GHz on a 667MHz front-side bus. The chip also features 4MB of L2 cache, and it's rated for a 35W TDP. Given the VX3's lofty price tag, one might expect to find an Extreme Edition or quad-core processor here. However, those chips carry higher TDPs and would be more difficult to cool within the VX3's 12" chassis. Asus puts the VX3's CPU in a standard socket rather than soldering it directly to the motherboard, so you're free to perform an engine upgrade on the Lamborghini by swapping in another Socket P processor.

Socket P for Penryn

Asus smartly specs the VX3 with 4GB of memory and a 64-bit version of Windows Vista that can make proper use of it all. Western Digital gets the call on the storage front, providing a 5,400-RPM hard drive with 320GB of capacity. The hard drive is a little low-rent given the VX3's $3,000 price tag. We'd expect something spinning at 7,200 RPM on a premium notebook, or perhaps even a solid-state drive. Asus also includes a dual-layer DVD burner with label etching support, which is better than not getting an optical drive at all. But again, on a premium system such as this one, we'd expect a Blu-ray reader. The VX3's WXGA resolution may only be good enough to display 720p content, but the system does come with an HDMI output and a discrete graphics processor capable of HD video playback acceleration.

That graphics processor is Nvidia's GeForce 9300M G, whose PureVideo HD component can assist with Blu-ray decoding in hardware. The 9300M is a DirectX 10-class GPU with 16 stream processors, a 400MHz core clock, and an 800MHz shader speed. TurboCache allows the graphics processor to borrow system memory, but the GPU is also equipped with 256MB of local RAM running at 600MHz (an effective 1.2GHz) via a 64-bit interface. The 9300M is leagues ahead of the Intel integrated graphics solutions commonly found on notebooks of this size, and it can even handle light gaming with titles like World of Warcraft and Team Fortress 2. Even most newer games run nicely if you turn down the in-game detail levels.

Over on the left we see three USB ports, an HDMI output, and a Wi-Fi toggle switch

The VX3's SDHC slot, optical drive, and mini jacks join a USB port and Kensington lock

The VX3 feeds its audio output through a 'stereo speaker' (yes, that's right) whose playback is tinny and light with very little bass—typical small notebook fare. Routing audio through the headphone jack improves sound quality, and the jack doubles as a digital S/PDIF output. It's also possible to pass digital audio through the VX3's HDMI output. On the input side of things, the VX3 features an integrated microphone and a dedicated mic input port.

Intel's 4965AGN Wi-Fi chip provides the VX3 with 802.11a/b/g/n wireless compatibility. Reception and signal retention are very good. Bluetooth 2.0 with EDR support is also included, and tethered networking is available courtesy of a Realtek RTL8168 Gigabit PCIe NIC and an Intel HDA software-based fax modem.

Sir Mix-a-Lot's Lamborghini! The 9-cell battery makes for big butts

True to Lamborghini's reputation, the VX3 is a gas guzzler. Asus ships the system with two batteries: a 3-cell unit rated for 2200mAh and a 9-cell one good for 7800mAh. The smaller battery fits flush with the VX3's chassis and looks good, but the mighty 9-cell sticks out substantially, like a Gallardo towing a giant gas tank. Naturally, we'd prefer not to have a battery sticking out the back of a laptop, but we'll see in a moment just how long the 3-cell unit can keep the VX3 running.

If you're not running on battery, the VX3 comes with a 90W AC adapter that's a little large for a compact notebook. Here you can see it posed with a PlayStation 3 game for reference.

The only ugly item in the box

In addition to Windows Vista Ultimate x64, the VX3 is set up with a 90-day Norton subscription, WinDVD (a version not compatible with Vista x64, DOH!), a 30-day Office trial, and a slew of Asus utilities. Vista Ultimate is positively bursting at the seams with goodies—when you run Windows Update, the amount of optional enhancements and widgets is staggering. However, it stinks seeing Norton trialware on a notebook in this class. If a full version is so expensive, why don't PC makers deal with the smaller anti-virus firms like Avira?