Watch the SideShow
SideShow Test Drive
Our first impression of SideShow on the ASUS W5Fe notebook was sweet. Without powering on the notebook, the SideShow menu and functions can be accessed from a 5-way control pad that's flanked by a "Back" and "Menu" buttons found beside the panel. The color panel is easy to navigate and allowed us to access and play media files within its inbuilt 1GB NAND flash memory. The laptop lid when flipped open, will cleverly re-orientate the SideShow's display contents to rotate 180 degrees so that users from the rear of the laptop can still read and even use the SideShow functions. However, the novelty wears off quickly as it's almost akin to a standard Portable Media Player stuck on the exterior of the notebook.
The full set of SideShow's functions can only be accessed when the option "Turn Computer On" is selected. This boots up the notebook, minus the power drain from turning on the main display, but allows SideShow to access data from the hard drive and Internet. When we mention Internet, we don't mean launching explorer and such - yet. At the moment, Internet communication abilities on the SideShow are limited to checking e-mail (Vista e-mail), collecting RSS news feeds, stocks and shares data and the likes through the downloadable Vista SideShow Gadgets.
Our early test drive of the SideShow function however wasn't without gripes. We found the interface not as fluent or snappy as we would have preferred when traversing through the menu and functions. There were even moments where the interface would turn unresponsive, and forced us to reset the SideShow interface, showing that bugs haven't been fully purged out yet. Despite these findings, we are pretty sure that these kinks will be ironed out before the ASUS W5Fe hits the retail shelves, which would allow SideShow to further mature.
The ASUS W5Fe notebook with its inbuilt SideShow is quite fitting for busy executives who need to check their e-mail, get their fix of news updates or be entertained by music - all in another mode of 'convenience' and even saving some battery life. That's not quite the end for the SideShow as further functionality and usage models are clearly hedging upon the creative knack of programmers dealing with Microsoft Vista's Gadget feature. At the moment, while SideShow has its uses, the concept of having a secondary screen for a notebook doesn't really have the same functional use as a clamshell mobile phone's secondary display. Clearly it's a real niche scope and perhaps even superfluous given the operational mode needed to take full advantage of SideShow. Hopefully there will be more practical reasons in the near future to get everyone 'Wow'ed, but now's probably not the best time.
Given the ASUS W5Fe's purpose, its ultra-portable form factor and classy looks, ASUS seems to have quite a competent notebook in its hands for this group of early-adopters. Take note though, the notebook's viewing angle seems limited, but it should probably be viewed as a possible plus point for a business traveler as you wouldn't want someone peering on your work. Pricing details haven't been let known yet, but you can arrive at a ballpark figure based on the notebook's raw specs plus a premium for the SideShow module.