Asus 13.3" UL30A CULV Notebook Review

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Asus has shown its ability to pump out stylish machines, especially lately. The Eee PC lineup has grown increasingly sexy, with the 'Seashell' range being particularly attractive. The 13.3" UL30 is just another notebook from the company that is exceptionally easy on the eyes. It's hard to describe exactly how thin this machine is. If you've ever played with a MacBook Air, this machine has that same sexy, thin feel. Sporting a brushed aluminum lid that will certainly catch the eyes of onlookers, this silver/black machine is a cut above most other CULV machines in terms of design. We know it sounds minor, but we really dig the fit and finish here. This machine is put together in a way that feels quite luxurious; it's tough to believe that a machine of this quality is "just" $799.


Asus UL30 Inside; Click To Enlarge

The port layout is fairly robust, with a trio of USB 2.0 ports, VGA and an HDMI outputs, a multi-card reader and an Ethernet port. The only knock here is the lack of an optical drive. We understand the need to leave it out in order to keep the machine thin (and priced right), but it's something you should certainly consider. Granted, USB optical driver aren't terribly expensive, but they definitely aren't as handy as having one built-in at all times.

    
Asus UL30 Ports; Click To Enlarge

Once you crack the lid open, you'll notice a silver casing with black chicklet style keys. We love the contrasting colors, and we have to confess that we love the keyboard. We're not quite sure how Asus managed to make this keyboard feel so roomy on a 13.3" machine, but it has. Next to the Dell Studio XPS 13, this is our favorite keyboard on an ultraportable. There is a bit of flex when mashing on the keys with some degree of force, but in general use you won't be bothered by it. Our thoughts on the textured trackpad are mixed; we liked the fact that it supports gestures like two-finger scrolling, but it simply felt a bit too slick during general use. It's easy to slide your fingers off the side of the trackpad without noticing, and the chrome left/right click bar isn't ideal.


Asus UL30 'Chiclet' Keyboard; Click To Enlarge

It's the same bar found on the 'Seashell' line of Eee PCs, and it's simply too thin and too clicky for our liking. It's also far too near the edge of the machine. We know Asus did this to expand the size of the trackpad, but we think it slimmed the click bar down a bit too much when compromising. We should also point out that Asus got the "Fn"/"Ctrl" key layout correct in the lower left corner. Many keyboards have the Function key on the lower-left corner, while every desktop keyboard ever made has a Control key. Asus realized this, and it correctly put the Control key where you'd expect it to be--in the lower left. Kudos!

    
Asus UL30, A Look Around; Click To Enlarge

The 13.3" LED display is, of course, very glossy, and it's surrounded by a glossy black bezel. We're not huge fans of glossy displays in general, and we didn't like how quickly the panel and bezel picked up fingerprints. That said, the display was crisp and sharp, but reflections were present when using it in well-lit rooms. Overall, the display was on par with other ultraportable panels, though we couldn't help but long for a matte option for those who will be using this outside from time to time.


Asus UL30 Glossy Display; Click To Enlarge

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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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