Outfitted with a new low-voltage processor and plenty of internal storage, this ultraportable offers 10 hours of endurance and enough muscle for work and play.
Price as Reviewed: $799.99Review Contents:Pros
- Light, attractive design
- Long battery life
- Solid overall performance
- Good keyboardCons
- Poor graphics performance
- Screen a bit too glossyQuick Specs Full Specs
Operating System: Windows Vista Home Premium (32-bit)
RAM/Expandable to: 4GB/8GB
Hard Drive Size/Speed: 500GB/5,400 rpm
Display Size/Resolution: 13.3 inches/1366 x 768
Optical Drive: N/A
Price as Reviewed: $799.99
The ASUS UL Series is the company’s first entry into the low-cost ultraportable notebook market, and the UL30A shows off what’s great about the line. Taking full advantage of its Intel Ultra-Low Voltage (ULV) processor, this 13.3-inch notebook combines a lightweight chassis with nearly 10 hours of battery life and solid productivity performance. You can get a faster dual-core notebook with a DVD drive for the same price, but if you want lots of endurance and a thin design, the UL30A is a winner.
The UL30A, like several recent ultrathin ULV systems, is a study in minimalism. The brushed aluminum lid eschews fingerprints and exudes a quiet elegance. Inside, you won’t find a deck cluttered with multimedia controls or extraneous launch keys. There are just two small buttons: one on the left for launching Express Gate or switching between power profiles, and a power button on the right.
This system features a full-size island-style keyboard, and the black keys contrast nicely with the subtle interlinking diamond/wave pattern that fills the deck space around it. This design extends to the palmrest on the bottom, and blends almost seamlessly with the touchpad; only a slight dimpling reveals the 1.8 x 3.0-inch touchpad area.
Status lights for power, battery, hard drive access, and wireless are on the edge of the skinny front lip of the notebook, rounding out the machine’s subtle design touches.
In terms of overall dimensions and aesthetics, it’s easy to compare the UL30A to the MacBook Air. With a footprint of 12.7 x 9.2 inches, the UL30A takes up about as much space as Apple’s ultraportable; though a bit thicker at .94 inches, those extra tenths-of-an-inch allow for more ports. At 4.0 pounds, the UL30A is 0.4 pounds heavier than the Acer Aspire Timeline 3810T, another favorite ultraportable system of ours.
Keyboard and Trackpad
The keys don’t have as much spring as we’d like, but they provide decent tactile feedback, and we were able to achieve our normal typing speed right away. Touch typists may find the slightly undersized Shift key an issue, though the placement is good. We appreciated that the Home, End and Page Up/Down keys share their own column on the right with the Delete and right arrow keys, but wish the arrow buttons were smaller (to make more room for Shift). One minor drawback is that we kept accidentally hitting the Home key when reaching for Backspace, but this happened less frequently over time.
The slight friction on the touchpad allowed for precise movement while also marking the usable area. We appreciate that the pad is flush with the palm rest area, but it was too easy for our finger to accidentally glide right off into no man’s land. The touchpad also supports the two-finger scroll multitouch gesture, but this took a few hours to get used to since we instinctively want to use right-side scrolling. Though we prefer two distinct buttons for left and right clicks, the single mouse button is long enough that we never accidentally clicked the wrong side. It is, however, a bit stiff.
Display and Audio
The bright 13.3-inch display offers rich colors and deep blacks, though the 1366 x 768-pixel screen is a bit too glossy. While watching an episode of Torchwood: Children of Earth under flourescent lights, we could see our reflection during the darker scenes; this issue isn’t as pronounced in low light. Despite the glossiness, horizontal and vertical viewing angles on the UL30A are quite good. Three people can sit and watch video comfortably without encountering color distortion.
When streaming video from Hulu, we noticed a lack of sharpness in both standard and high-definition videos. The opening scene from Legend of the Seeker, a fast-paced action sequence, played smoothly after it buffered, but lacked the crispness we’re used to with 720p video. Downloaded clips, however, didn’t have the same issue; The Discoverers (from the Windows WMV HD Content Showcase) looked sharp, and played back entirely stutter-free.
Given the UL30A’s size and price, we didn’t expect stellar speaker performance. It produced enough sound on 50 percent volume to fill a small room, and on 100 percent we could still hear tracks clearly over noise from an air conditioner. The distinct bass line from Superchick’s “One Girl Revolution” was barely audible, even with the Realtek HD Audio Manager’s equalizer setting on Bass. But Jill Sobule’s rock/folk-flavored “Nothing to Prove” sounded good on the default settings.
Ports and Webcam
On the left side of the UL30, HDMI and VGA connections join one USB port, while Ethernet, headphone, mic, two USB ports, and a 5-in-1 card reader fill out the right side. There’s no integrated optical drive, which isn’t surprising on a system less than an inch thick. Unless you burn a lot of discs, it’s easy to live without an internal drive with the advent of ubiquitous software and media downloads.
The 0.3-megapixel webcam naturally doesn’t deliver great video. When chatting with a friend on Skype, she noted a lack of sharpness and washed out colors. However, the video didn’t stutter, and audio came though clearly. The webcam management software, LifeFrame, will not only record video and take pictures, but also adds fun accessories, filters, and frames to both still and moving images.
Thursday, 29 October 2009
Asus UL30 review at www.laptopmag.com
ASUS UL30A - Review of the ASUS UL30A
Posted by avilella at 03:17
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