Asus U30S review – top pick 13 inch laptop

Andrei Girbea May 19, 2012 Reviews 7 Comments

After playing with the Asus U36J last week, you probably remember I was a little disappointed by the old generation hardware Asus decided to pack on it. Luckily, this week I had the chance to play with a new 13.3 incher, the Asus U30S, which packs a nice looking body, great features and the latest Intel SandyBridge hardware platform. All these make it a goody many would love having on their desks. Me included!

In the post below you will find a thorough review of the Asus U30S, with details about exterior, design, keyboard+trackpad, hardware, performances, battery life and pretty much all the things one would need when looking to buy such a notebook.

I do have to mention that this is an early sample model, thus benchmarks might be influenced by this. Plus, some features might change by the time the device actually hits the shops. However, our friends at Asus assured us this U30S we have here is up for testing and overall very close (if not identical) to what we’ll see in stores in the near future.

Asus U30S - power and looks

Asus U30S – power and looks

The specs

But first, let’s take a look at the specs, just to see what we’re up against.

  • 13.3 inch LED backlit display, 1366 x 768 px resolution, glossy
  • Core i5-2410M processor clocked at 2.3 GHz
  • integrated Intel HD Graphics + dedicated Nvidia 520M graphic chips
  • 8 GB DDR3 memory
  • 500 GB 7200 rpm hard-drive
  • internal DVD-RW optical unit
  • Wi-Fi N, Bluetooth 3.0, Gigabit LAN
  • 3 x USB 2.0 slots, VGA, HDMI, audio, mic, card-reader, webcam
  • 8 Cell 5600 mAh 84Wh battery
  • Windows 7 Home Premium OS
  • weighs around 4-4.2 pounds (do not have a precision scale to actually measure the weight exactly)

Nice ay? Right there on pair with the likes of MacBook Air 13 inch and even better on some aspects. Only an USB 3.0 slot is missing to have a complete fun package.

Design and construction

This Asus U30S is for sure a solid looking device. Covered in fancy charcoal aluminum, it’s both stylish and solid built. Lid cover bends only a tiny bit and screen hinges looks solid, unlike on other Asus notebooks we saw before. Inside, there’s the same aluminum finish, but the area around the screen is still made from glossy plastic so will scratch and catch fingerprints.

Covered in aluminum

Covered in aluminum

You will notice from starters however that the U30S is kind of bulky, measuring 1.3-1.4 inches in thickness. That’s not what we expected after seeing the likes of the U36J, but that’s not really something that bothers me as I rather have a more massive body and get the proper hardware and features, than the other way around. Plus, this one also integrates an optical unit.

Rather thick for a 13.3 incher

Rather thick for a 13.3 incher

As for weight, it’s around 4.0 – 4.2 pounds. Can’t say exactly as I lack a precision scale to measure weight, but it doesn’t feels too heavy for a portable laptop.

On the bottom part of this laptop you get easy access to both hard-drive and memory, which is great if you plan for upgrades. As for ports layout, you can take a look at them in the images below.

Front: ard reader and status LEDs

Front: ard reader and status LEDs

Left:

Left: Kensington Lock, Cooling fan, VGA, HDMI, two USBs, headpone and mic jacks

Back: battery and screen's hinges

Back: battery and screen’s hinges

Right:

Right: DVD-RW unit, USB, Lan and PSU

Bottom: easy access to battery, memory and hard-drive

Bottom: easy access to battery, memory and hard-drive

Also, this video review will tell you more about the exterior of the Asus U30S laptop.

Keyboard and trackpad

Next in our Asus U30S review are keyboard and trackpad, and they both score high for this notebook.

Good keyboard and trackpad

Good keyboard and trackpad

First, the keyboard is just the way it should be. Full-Size keys with just enough space between them and a nice rubbery finish on top, making typing a true pleasure. Layout is standard, with oversized keys where they should be (Shift, Enter, CTRL) and the keyboard is neither too noisy, nor does it flex too much.

Full size keys with a rubbery finish

Full size keys with a rubbery finish

As for trackpad, it comes with a smooth aluminum finish and is decently sized. Of course, it’s not as big as on a Macbook, but it’s enough to comfortably use it even for multi-gestures. Click button is fairly good as well, although separated buttons for right/left click would have been welcomed. Oh, and there’s one more thing to add: palm rejection, a much needed function for those of you spending a lot of time typing on their laptops, like I do.

Decent sized trackpad

Decent sized trackpad

Display

Pretty standard 13.3 inch display on this laptop, LED backlit and with 1366 x 768 px resolution. Typical problems seem on most displays used on Asus laptops are present: glossy finish and glossy bezel around (although quite a narrow one), medium to poor viewing angles (although not as bad as on others, the U36J for instance) and the fact that the screen doesn’t bend to more than 130 degrees on the back, as the battery placement prevents it.

Screen only bends back this much

Screen only bends back this much

Hardware and performances

Definitely the most important upgrade this Asus laptop brings is the new generation hardware inside, on Intel’s SandyBridge platform. There’s a powerful Core i5 processor clocked at 2.3 GHz, with HyperThreading, 3 MB Cache memory and 35 Wh TDP. Plus the new generation graphics: Intel HD + Nvidia 520M + Optimus, just enough to get the extra punch in games and multimedia content. Add 8 GB of memory and a fast 7200 rpm hard-drive and you get a very nice mix.

Enough to run flawlessly any kind of apps you might throw at it, enough to play any kind of HD content and enough to actually run some games. Ive’ tested my usual ones: Fifa 2011, Anon 1404 and COD: Modern Warfare 2 and all ran nicely on native 1366 x 768 px resolution, although with details set towards medium (even low in some cases). Still, you do have to remember the 520M is an entry level mobile chipset from Nvidia so don’t expect wonders from it.

The clips below should tell you more about hardware and performances on this one, with details on HD content, games and others.

And the following one.

Plus, I’ve ran a bunch of different benchmarks and results can be seen below.

Windows 7 rating

Windows 7 rating

PCMark Vantage

PCMark Vantage

3DMark Vantage Entry

3DMark Vantage Entry

3DMark Vantage Performance

3DMark Vantage Performance

Cinebench 11.5

Cinebench 11.5

3DMark 11 Entry

3DMark 11 Entry

3DMark 11 Performance

3DMark 11 Performance

Pretty big differences when compared to the older platform used on 13.3 inchers (with first gen Core i3/i5 processor + Nvidia 310M + Optimus), especially in terms of graphics. And while synthetic tests remain synthetic tests, these differences are actually easily noticeable during everyday use, as the U30S feels faster than any 13.3 incher I’ve tried so far.

Connectivity and ports

Pretty much all the things you would need on this one, except for 3G and USB 3.0 . While the first is not a common option on laptops anyway, the second should be on a device launched in 2011. Still, since this is an early sample, we can hope the final Asus U30S will get an USB 3.0 slot as well.

As for the others, you get USB 2.0 slots, VGA, HDMI, mic and headphones, card-reader plus Wireless N, Gigabit Lan and Bluetooth 3.0, so pretty much what laptops offer as standard nowadays.

There’s also an internal DVD-RW optical unit on this one, which is something we don’t find too often on laptops in this class. And while not particular a fan of it, I’m sure many of you will find this addition welcomed. And if not, you can replace it with a second hard-drive (maybe an SSD) with some skills and enough work.

Optical unit, not something you find on this class of notebooks too often

Optical unit, not something you find on this class of notebooks too often

Heat, noise, speakers and others

If you’ll take a quick look at the pic with the bottom of this laptop, you’ll notice almost no cooling vents on it. This made me worry the laptop will get hot, but in practice it doesn’t. Bottom part will get warm during daily use, while the upper part stays cool as a breeze (yes, i know measuring temperatures with a thermometer would be the way to do things, but I’ve yet to get one of these, although it’s been on my shopping list for many months now).

As for noise, CPU’s fan does become active when running resources hungry apps, but it doesn’t get louder than it should. So overall the U30S can be called warm and fairly quiet.

You’ll notice an Altec Lansing logo on this laptop thus you would expect speakers to be quite good. And indeed they are, especially in terms of quality, as volume is good but not insanely loud.

Altec Lansing speakers

Altec Lansing speakers

As for webcam, not much to say about it. Good for chatting/skyping in good light conditions, not so much in dim light. Will do the job, but there’s nothing fancy about it.

Software

This laptop comes with Windows 7 Home Premium as default and of course a bunch of bloatware preinstalled. Luckily, thanks to that punchy hardware inside, those won’t really have any effect on everyday performance, but I do advice getting rid of them asap. Trend’s Micro antivirus solution, most of the Asus utilities and the Trials included are the ones to cut of first. But make sure you get a proper antivirus instead, like Avast or Windows Defender (which I’ve been using for a while without any problem and it’s free).

Here's our blog

Here’s our blog

Battery life

There’s an 8 Cell 5600 mAh 84 Wh battery inside this one, so you probably expect good battery life for the Asus U30S.

And if you consider its power, you can call a 4 to 6 hours everyday autonomy good, right? Cause that’s what you can expect to get. Here are the results I’ve got:

  • 6 hours and a couple of minutes on Power Saving mode while running a browser, typing and listening to music via headphones, with Wireless On and screen at 50%
  • around 5 hours or regular use on Power Saving mode while running a browser, watching some HD clips on youtube, listening to some music (on speakers) with Wireless On and screen at 70%
  • just under 4.5 hours for looping a 720p clip on Entertainment mode with Wireless OFF but Screen at 90%

So overall fair battery life for a powerful laptop like this one. Having the new generation Intel hardware inside definitely pays out, as the Asus U36J with the same battery inside managed at least 1 hour less of battery life in most cases.

Good battery life thanks to that big 8 Cell battery

Good battery life thanks to that big 8 Cell battery

Prices and availability

No exact info on both availability or pricing for this one. Nor do we know if it’s going to reach the States or not with this particular name, as the U30S is a model meant for the European market.

Still, Asus targets the sub 1000 euros mark with this laptop, so that could be translated for around 1000 bucks in the US. Not sure if you’ll get this config for this kind of money, but Asus says you will (but probably with only 4 GB of memory).

We will update this section in time once we find more about prices and availability, so stay tuned for updates.

Update: The U30S is now available on the market as Asus U30SD (the black version) or Asus U31SD (the silver one). However, the black one offers the best bang for the buck, with basically the same configuration as out tested unit here, but only 4 GB of memory. All these for $799 right now, with a small discount and Shipping included.

Final thoughts

I do feel the Asus U30S is a proper 13.3 inch laptop for 2011. Solid built, stylish looking, powerful and with proper battery life, all these under one thousand bucks, that’s what I would want in a premium portable machine. It’s true, this one might not be the most portable of all, but it does come with an optical unit and a big battery which add up to the final weight.

The Pros

  • solid built exterior, encased in aluminum
  • nice design
  • good trackpad and keyboard
  • top hardware and solid performances
  • good battery life
  • fast hard-drive
  • internal optical unit
  • very good speaker quality

The Cons

  • glossy screen and bezel around it
  • no USB 3.0 slot
  • a bit thick and heavy for a portable 13.3 inch laptop
Overall, I am impressed with the Asus U30S and judging by the pictures, reviews and test results, you should probably be too. Looking forward to seeing a thinner Asus 13.3 incher without optical unit too, that might be the one for me, although the U30S is high in my tops as well.
Really an impressive laptop this Asus U30S

Really an impressive laptop this Asus U30S

As always, your feedback and comments are much appreciated, so don’t hesitate to leave a reply via the form at the bottom of this post.

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About The Author

Andrei Girbea, aka "Mike", is the Owner and Editor in Chief at tlbhd.com . He's been dealing with gadgets and writing about them for years and now focuses more on portable computers, like netbooks, mini laptops and touchscreen tablets. You can follow him on Twitter.

7 Comments

  1. G March 14, 2011 at 7:23 am

    Will this run Starcraft 2?

    You said the notebook 520M is an entry Nvidia, so how would it compare to say their 425M on the Asus U41 notebook model.

    Worth the wait?

  2. flakefrost March 14, 2011 at 8:40 am

    nice work asus, got a good gpu

  3. Zerbialex May 6, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    great review, keep going on!
    @Mike:
    I read about the release of the asus u31e, u31sd and u36sd, have you any information about it (date approx / price)? I am very interested in buying the u36sd if it is simple the sandy bridge version of the u36jc

    • Mike May 6, 2011 at 10:52 pm

      don’t know anything new now. they should be available by late May. Will update if I find out more so stay tuned

  4. unka lunka June 27, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Most people don’t realize this, but the Asus U30SD uses second gen Intel Core “Sandy Bridge” cpus, which is coupled with Intel HD3000 GPU.  The one couple with i5 clocked at 650mhz and vastly more powerful than the old Intel GPU. Asus could have omitted the nVidia and made the laptop cheaper.

    I’ve been searching for 11.6″ and 12″ laptop with HD2000 or HD3000, but they are slow to come out, no doubt will be plenty later in 2011 and 2012. Asus TimelineX 2011 series uses Sandy Bridges, but they decided to omit the 11.6″ version. Asus doesn’t have a 12″ Sandy Bridge yet either. I wonder if they think its too affordable for people or have problem cooling the APU at that size. 12″ and below are definitely going to be the preferred new generation notebook for consumers I think. Only with 13.3″ being the version large enough for optical drive.I went ahead and ordered a customized Lenovo X220 which is a 12.5″ with HD3000, but I’m keeping an eye out for a more affordable 12″ Sandy Bridge while the X220 is being assemble.

  5. Ronen_maslo2 September 11, 2011 at 8:47 pm

    i bought one for myself after reading your post. great job, thanks.

  6. Pietro January 11, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I have recently bouught the ASUS U30SD, but the speakers sounds terrible! Worse than my old EEEPC 900.

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