Asus 13.3" UL30A CULV Notebook Review

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In our 2009 Notebook Buyer's Guide, we discussed the merits and perils of CULV based notebooks. This suddenly popular and quickly growing sector looks to bridge the gap between the bargain basement netbook and the full-size notebook. It makes sense to think that a swath of 13.3" to 14" machines would be needed for those who find 10.1" netbook displays too tiny and 15.4" rigs too large, and that's exactly the sweet spot that Asus is attempting to hit with its new UL30 range. The particular model that we're looking at today is the UL30A-A1, though a handful of other configurations will be available as well. This 13.3" machine looks to offer more power than a typical netbook, yet provide nearly the same level of portability and battery life.



The UL30 was just introduced last week along with a few other CULV machines, which stands for Consumer Ultra Low Voltage. This moniker refers to the Intel processor within, which is a more powerful chip than the Atom options found in most netbooks, yet isn't quite as potent as the full-fledged Core 2 Duo CPUs found in most full-size notebooks. Again, this whole machine is about splitting the difference, and we have to admit, it's a fine line to walk. Most folks are either satisfied with having a netbook to surf the Web and handle basic Office tasks or having a full-size notebook to handle desktop-like tasks; so, who exactly is the CULV machine for? On-the-go business travelers, consumers who need just a bit more power than a netbook can offer, and consumers who have realized that those full-size notebooks are just too powerful for their needs.


Asus UL30; Click To Enlarge

There's no doubt that many will compare the UL30 to Apple's MacBook Air, and rightfully so. Asus has settled on a striking brushed aluminum lid, and while the rest of the machine is indeed plastic, the lid is definitely attractive. Measuring in at just an inch thick, this machine is nice and thin. Unlike some of Asus' thinner Eee PCs, the 8-cell battery (which Asus claims is good for up to 12 hours of life, a figure that we'll be putting to the test later) is removable. This machine is equipped with Windows Vista, as it's too potent and too large to fit the mold required to run Windows XP as a "netbook" (by definition). We'll be putting this machine to the test in the pages to come, but right from the get-go, we'd say Asus has assembled a compelling package for just $799 (as tested). So, is it worth it? Join us as we find out.

Asus UL30 CULV Notebook
Specifications and Features (as tested)
  • Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 @ 1.30GHz, 533MHz FSB; 512K Cache 
  • 4GB of DDR3 RAM (1066MHz)
  • 13.3 inch LCD (1366x768 resolution); LED backlight
  • Intel GMA 4500MHD integrated graphics
  • 500GB (5400RPM) Seagate Momentus 5400.6 Hard Drive
  • 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 2.0
  • No optical drive
  • 0.3 megapixel webcam
  • VGA and HDMI Outputs
  • USB 2.0 x 3
  • RJ-45 (Ethernet 10/100/1000)
  • Headphone / Mic Input Jacks
  • 5-in-1 Multimedia Card Reader
  • Twin speakers
  • Gesture-enabled trackpad
  • 3.7 Pounds (with 8-cell battery installed)
  • Removable 8-Cell Li-ion Battery (Up To 12 Claimed Hours of Computing)
  • 12.9 x 9.3 x 1 inches
  • Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Carrying Bag
  • 2 Year Global, 1 Year Accidental Warranty

 






As you can see, there's an awful lot here for $799, and if you don't quite need 500GB of storage, Amazon offers the UL30A-X3 for $749 which includes a 5400RPM 320GB HDD.

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Holy start up programs Batman!

Looks like a decent little laptop. I have never been able to stand those apple style keyboards though.

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OK, I must admit, I actually love those Apple style keyboards. :)

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Just stab me in the heart, Davo.

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Marco C:

Just stab me in the heart, Davo.

That made me laugh way more than it should have.

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I've been on the fence about buying a laptop/netbook for months now. It's hard to decide what to get with all of the new stuff turning up all of the time.

So I wait,...............

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realneil:

I've been on the fence about buying a laptop/netbook for months now. It's hard to decide what to get with all of the new stuff turning up all of the time.

So I wait,...............

Consider a Mac Book Pro.  Really!  The new cheapest model is very nice.  My friend picked one up and I think it's the best quality laptop for the price.  You should be able to get a Windows installation on there too, if that's your fancy.

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You guys need to tell the readers that this machine can indeed play 1080p content. No, you can't do it in WMP. You have to use software that allows hardware decoding through DX10, like MPC-Home Cinema, or KMPlayer with PowerDVD8 codecs installed (takes some doing in the options).

Basically, all 4500MHD equipped laptops will play 1080p without problems. That GPU is rated to decode 1080p h.264, mpeg2 and VC-1 content fully. It's the first Intel GPU to do full hardware decoding for those codecs.

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