Asus 13.3" UL30A CULV Notebook Review

Article Index

Summary and Conclusion

Performance Summary: In our SiSoftware Sandra testing, the Asus UL30 managed to hold its own in most respects, though it never looked like a real speed demon. In other tests, it fell noticeably behind the other machines, but both of those were priced higher and aimed slightly upmarket. The UL30 kept cool throughout our testing, and real-world performance was great for the price. We were impressed with how quickly it booted up and how quickly applications loaded, and our HDD tests proved that the 5400RPM drive in the machine was about as quick as you could expect. During our multimedia tests, content up to 720p played back perfectly smooth, but a 1080p movie trailer refused to play back smoothly. Put simply, there's about 90% of the performance of a "full-size notebook" here, at a relatively low cost, with great battery life.

It's probably too early to call, particularly with the introduction of Windows 7 just about a month away, but we think Asus has a hit on its hands here. Asus managed to do many things right. The design is excellent. It's thin. And it's light. You can also remove the battery, which is larger (8-cells) than most rivals as well.  The machine has plenty of RAM and HDD space too. There are plenty of ports for the size. And the keyboard is spacious given the ultraportable form factor. It's the small things that add up, and Asus nailed them.

Our only gripes were ones that are easily overshadowed by the machine's overall performance. We weren't very high on the trackpad and click button, and the glossy display found too many reflections and fingerprints for our liking. But when a PC "feels fast," loads applications quickly, handles multi-tasking with ease and plays back 720p content, it's hard to really focus on minor quirks that are really just personal preferences. The battery, under real-world use, didn't last nearly as long as Asus claims, though it did manage to survive for far longer than most notebooks and even many netbooks. We still think the near-5 hour battery life is commendable, but we wish Asus were more up front with the results. The 12 hour figure is apt to get a lot of attention, and it may disappoint users who find that reaching that would require you to essentially do nothing on the machine for half a day.

Asus UL30 Keyboard/Display; Click To Enlarge

If Windows 7 came loaded on this machine, we'd give it two big thumbs-up. As it stands, we'd recommend waiting until Win7 begins shipping on it or buy it from somewhere that throws in a free/cheap Win7 upgrade once October 22nd rolls around. [Update: As with many other PC makers, Asus is also taking part in the Windows 7 upgrade program. In other words, users who buy this machine with Vista on it will be able to upgrade to Windows 7 after October 22nd free of charge. That's a pretty nice way to get you to buy in now and upgrade when the time comes.] Frankly, we were impressed with how well the 1.3GHz CPU handled Vista, which generally requires a higher-end CPU to run smoothly. At just over $700 depending on configuration (our build had an MSRP of $799), it's really hard to not give this machine a serious look if you need a new ultraportable. This rig is far more capable and far more enjoyable to use than any netbook we've tested to date, even the ones that soared above the $500 mark. If you can save up a few more bucks, you'll thank yourself for snagging a CULV-based system over an Atom-based system. There's really no comparison when it comes down to it. We think a new bar has been set, and for just over $700, we think you'd be hard pressed to find a sleeker, more enjoyable rig to buy than the UL30.

  • Good Value
  • Great Keyboard and Overall Design
  • Very Snappy For The Price
  • Fantastic Battery Life
  • Multi-Touch Trackpad
  • Windows 7 Upgrade Coupon


  • GMA4500MHD GPU
  • Glossy Display Bezel and Casing
  • Excessive Palm Rest Stickers
  • Trackpad Button Is Too Small

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