Asus flaunts first SideShow laptop

[intro]If you're wondering what cool new features Windows Vista has in store, look no further than Asus' new laptop and its handy external display[/

Windows Vista may only be an operating system, but it's inspiring some hardware innovations that are cooler than a night in the Icelandic tundra. Exhibit A: Asus' new W5Fe laptop, complete with external display.

The 12in notebook is the first in the world to take advantage of Vista's SideShow feature. This lets you access handy info – e-mails, Media Player, even photos – without booting your computer and wasting precious juice.

We had a play with the diddy screen at CES' pre-event preview, and it's an ingenious add-on. The controls let you scroll through whatever content you've saved to SideShow's flash memory, and the ability to pick up recent messages, check appointments or play simple games without booting your lappie up will warm the hearts of both suits and students. According to Asus, the feature hardly makes any difference to battery life too.

The W5Fe is due to start shipping in the US for about $2000 at the end of February, and will be making its way over to the UK soon after that.

While at Asus' stand, we also auditioned another handy little gizmo called the XG Station (below). It's one of the first external graphics cards for laptops, and supplies a generous hit of graphical power for home gaming, while letting you unplug and keep your laptop's portability on the move. It plugs into the PCI slot, and supports 5.1 channel surround sound. It'll be out in Asia this Spring – there's no news of UK release yet.