Luckily for me, my contact with Asus rewarded me once more with a goodie, the ultra-powerful version of the UL30A netbook, announced just yesterday by Asus . I was very excited to get it and spent the entire last night playing with it so i can post my review right now. And I’ll probably update it in the next days with new info as i spend more and more time with it.
Anyway, i have to say the UL30A is impressive from almost any point of view. And I’m not at all an easy to impress person and always pick on the tiniest of details. In the next lines you’ll find a little bit of every aspect of this ultra-portable netbook and understand why i like it so much.
It’s actually very hard not to like the Asus UL30A once you get it out of the box. The ultra thin 1 inch body with the low profile and the brushed aluminum lid cover are especially made to make you drool. I have the black version, and I’m sure i like it a lot more than the silver one (similar to the one of the silver UX30 i tested last month). Battery connects on the back just to make the overall shape almost perfect. The gadget weighs around 3.7 pounds with the battery connected and some might say that this is just a little bit too much for an ultra-portable device.
On the sides you have:
- left: cooler grid, VGA output, HDMI, USB slot
- right: CD In, Ethernet port, 2 x USB, Mic, Audio jack, card reader and SIM slot
There’s nothing on the back, except the battery. And on the front you get some tiny and very discrete blue system activity LEDs, just bellow touch-pad.
Once you open the lid, you notice the glossy (yachs) interior, the chiclet style keyboard, touch-pad and the Power button on the right corner.
On the back you’ll find the battery, heating admission grills and two detachable covers for easy access to RAM memory and hard-drive.
Keyboard and touch-pad
Keyboard is actually very nice, with keys just the right size and perfectly spaced, so typing proves to be a pleasant activity. It even comes with full size Enter and right shift keys, and that’s something you rarely see on portable notebooks. But, there’s a little bit too much flex in there and the entire keyboard seems to wobble a bit when typing and pressing the keys harder. It’s not disturbing after you get used to the effect though.
Touch-pad changed a little bit from the other Asus notebooks i tested lately. It used to have tiny bumps, not it has tiny holes (inverted bumps), and i for one find the new approach a lot better in terms of tactile feeling. Precision is OK and so is the click button (there’s only one big button and not two different ones for left/right click). Still, touch-pad is not delimited by the rest of the surface in anyway and some might find this inconvenient, especially when you have to find the exact area for scrolling up/down on the right part of it.
The UL30A notebook from Asus packs a 13.3 inch screen with a HD ready 1366 x 768 resolution. This combination offers just the right rapport to make the working space big enough, without becoming tiring for the eyes when browsing and reading texts. Screen is LED back lit and also glossy, so colors and brightness are towards the upper limits. Still, because of the glossiness, it will be nearly impossible to use the device outside in broad day light, and that really sucks and i can’t understand why aren’t the guys from Asus offering some versions with matte displays also (they’re not from what i know and i don’t think I’m wrong).
I might add that horizontal viewing angles are very good, but the vertical ones are not. They’re in fact similar to the ones on the other notebooks in this class (except the more expensive Vaios or Macs): only perfect in an exact position. But hey, that’s not really a problem, you can easily adjust the screen to provide just the best image quality for you.
Hardware and performances
Hardware specs are in fact one of the strongest points of the UL30A. Asus equipped it with a CULV porcessor, but one of the most powerful at the moment, the latest generation 1.6 GHz SU9600 (3MB cache, 800 Mhz FSB) with Virtualization Technology. Along with an Intel GMA4500 graphics, 4 GB of RAM and a 500 GB hard-drive , this portable notebook really kicks some ass in terms of performance.
It comes equipped with Windows Vista Home right now and runs it without any problem, with Aero and all the effects turned on. And I for one can’t wait to get Windows 7 installed, as this config simply craves for that OS. This is of course the most powerful configuration Asus offers for the UL30A at the moment, and you can get others with poorer CPUs or smaller hard-drives, if you want to cut some bucks out of the final price.
In terms of performances, this laptop scored a 3.7 mark in Vista, that’s because of the low consuming graphic solution. Cause else the score would have been a lot better. Thus, this device is not meant for gaming or other applications hungry for graphic resources, but it can run every-day standard software and easily play 1080p movies (with CPU load around 60% – see the picture for details) .
In one word, this is the most powerful portable notebook i tested lately. Even though it has a CULV processor, it can manage almost any type of application with fair ease. And since it uses a low power platform, it does that without sacrificing battery life.
In terms of connectivity there’s just nothing missing to the UL30A. Wireless 802.11 draft N is here, along with the standard Ethernet port. Bluetooth with AD2P is in there also. But these are features other portable notebooks have too.
What most of them lack is however the integrated 3G module this one has. The SIM slot is easily accessible on the right side of the device, just above the card reader.
So, with Wireless and 3G, this device can easily become a best friend for an Internet addict like me, that also learns its living on Internet. And that’s simply another reason to love it.
Asus equipped the UL30A version i received with a 4400 mAh 64 WHr battery. It perfectly fits the overall design of the device and slides easily in its place on the back. In terms of autonomy, this battery should offer a life of up to 9 hours, on paper. In reality, things are a little bit different:
- you can squeeze up to 6 hours when working on balanced mode, with Wi-fi on and screen brightness below half, while doing only basic stuff like writing texts.
- Once you get to web surfing, battery life drops a bit, according to your actions (watching movies online for instance will damage the autonomy faster)
- In the end, when visualizing a 1080p in High performance mode and with screen brightness at maximum, you battery won’t last for more than 2.5 hours
Still, a pretty solid performance in terms of autonomy. You can squeeze around 4 to 6 hours easily when using the device every day, and that’s satisfactory for me, considering this is not a powerless Atom equipped netbook, but a way more powerful toy.
Also, the versions on the market come with bigger 8 cell 5600 mAh batteries, so expect even better autonomy from the.
The first time i started playing a movie i actually went through a hell of a scare, as the speakers of the UL30A are freaking loud when at maximum volume. Once you set them right though, you’ll find out sound quality is actually quite good, definitely above what many other portable notebooks can offer. So it seems putting Altec Lansing speakers in this ultra-portable really worked for Asus, as the UL30A scores good points on this aspect.
Noise and heat levels
I can say this notebook heats more than some of the other CULVs i tested and definitely more than a regular netbook. The back part especially gets pretty hot when playing 1080p movies , but it’s still OK to hold it on your lap. I wouldn’t recommend putting the laptop on your bed though when running such resources hungry apps, as it’s better to allow the CPU enough air to cool (admissions fans are bellow and they should be kept clear if possible).
The UL30A is also pretty silent, you can barely even hear the fans. In fact, the noisiest part on the device I got was the hard drive that kind of clanked when accessed, but I’m sure that’s more a particular case. As for the fans, I for one didn’t even hear them when I watched some movies for like 3 hours in a row, but hey, my friends consider me pretty deaf and i might not be the best standard here. Kidding of course 😛
There’s actually not much else i could say about this laptop. I do have to mention the camera, which is pretty shitty with its 0.3 MPx, but still good enough for messaging or skypeing with your friends. Mic’s OK too, but nothing extraordinary. After all, these features are just there because they have to and i doubt most buyers would even use them at all.
You would expect to pay quite a lot for a device like this Asus UL30A, that offers looks, portability, top performances/features and good autonomy in a single gadget. However, price tags aren’t that high.
The Asus UL30A is available in a couple of different versions. None of them has the exact hardware as the version i tested in here, as Asus only decided to offer the SU7300 dual core processor for this notebook. Anyway, check out the most popular versions of this netbook below.
Asus UL30A-X5 – $599 + Free Shipping
Currently one of the best sold and most appreciated laptop in the US, this 13 incher offers the SU7300 processor, 4 GB of memory, a 500 GB storage and the Nvidia 4500HD integrated graphic option. Alongside comes the Windows 7 Home premium OS and a 8 cell battery capable of up to 12 hours of life. This version is only available in black and comes with a $130 discount, having a retails price of only $599. No wonder this laptop is so popular, as reviews and marks from previous buyers prove it also (click the link above to see them).
Asus UL30A-A2 – $694 + Free Shipping
This is in fact the silver version of the above model. has the same specs and features, but the increased price is explained by the fact that this one comes with 2 years global warranty and 1 year accidental drop warranty, while the X5 version only offers 1 year global warranty.
Asus UL30Vt-A1 – $748 + Free Shipping
Unlike the two versions above that only offered integrated Nvidia GMA 4500HD graphics, the UL30Vt-A1 is way better, as it comes with a hybrid switchable solution with the same 4500HD and an Nvidia G210M dedicated GPU. You can easily switch between the two with the click of a single button, as this laptop does not yet use Nvidia’s Optimus technology able to switch automatically between them. Still, this version offers way better graphic performance than the above UL30As, being capable of running modern 3D games and 1080p content (can output it via HDMI). Thus, the extra money you’ll have to pay for this model are worth it for sure.
These are the best options for the Asu Ul30A right now, but more could be available in the future. So stay tuned on this site for more details.
Photos (made by us)
A couple of photos with the important aspects of the UL30A, all 100% original and made by me and my friend George (here’s his photo blog, by the way).
The UL30A i tested here is not just a standard portable sub-netbook. No, it’s actually THE BEST 13.3″ mini laptop you may get at the moment in the under $1000 price range. And yes, there are better alternatives; for example, I would instantly give this UL30A for a Vaio Z, but heck, that one costs at least twice as much so it’s not really an option.
This toy has its flows, but nothing important: style, speed, battery life, construction quality, these are all towards the upper limit. And yes, i do have to recognize I haven’t been impressed by a laptop as much as i am by this one for a long time. That’s why I just placed the UL30A on top of my potential netbook replacements lists, as I’m looking for something better on all the angles than the standard everyday netbook.
What do you guys think about it? Is this UL30A as good as I’m telling you or did it just manage to full me somehow? Really looking for your comments on that.