"Pure finesse, pure performance", is how Asus describes the UL30A. Light and with stylish lines, Asus have balanced decent battery life with pretty good performance thanks to a low energy consumption dual core processor.
Handling, design and build: brushed aluminium = good, glossy black plastic everywhere = bad
As with the larger UL80 and UX50V, Asus has chosen to lay an entirely glossy black plastic interior throughout the UL30A. Sure, it’s nice to look at but after a few minutes of normal use the machine soon becomes covered in fingerprints (which were clean!). It’s impossible to keep the machine clean, which is a shame as otherwise it does look sleek! The lid is however, in a strange contrast to the rest of the machine, in nice looking brushed aluminium.
The keys are spaced on the keyboard. At 15 x 15 mm they’re set out in the usual way and give a firm, quiet typing experience. The typing area is comfortable and keying satisfactory.
The touchpad is well-proportioned and blends into the plastic of the shell. You can make it out thanks to small hollows (see photo below) which stop your fingers from sticking to it. The glide is nice and precision fine. We have however seen wider touchpads on some competition machines (the MacBooks). The main advantage of this type of touchpad lies in its look and aesthetic.
The webcam is pretty poor. Fluidity leaves something to be desired and lacks sharpness and overexposed areas get burnt. Thankfully the colours are ok.
The fan is relatively discrete during office doc work and internet usage. It gets noisier when processing heavier tasks (photo, video or gaming), without getting overly noisy.
Connectivity is placed on three sides of the machine. There are VGA and HDMI video outs on the left along with a USB 2.0 port. On the right there are 2 other USB 2.0 ports as well as a memory card reader an RJ45 and microphone and headphones sockets.
Under the laptop, two panels give access to the RAM and the hard drive.
|Fan, VGA, HDMI, USB 2.0
||Asus logo on the brushed aluminium hood
|Touchpad click bar
||Memory card reader, headphones, microphone, USB 2.0, RJ45, power supply
Processing power: the ULV processor gives sufficient performance for office doc work
Windows 7 index: 3,4. Details: CPU 4.1 - Memory 4.8 - Graphics 3.9 – Gaming graphics 3.4 – Main hard drive 5.9.
The dual-core ultra low energy consumpiton (ULV) processor in the Asus UL30A is an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300. It scores 51 on our index, or 50% down on our reference machine (100 on the index), the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400).
This is plenty for general use as long as you’re not planning demanding tasks such as encoding or editing video.
The machine starts up in 53 seconds (end of loading desktop), and the main applications are loaded within 20 more seconds (without antivirus). It switches off in 10 seconds. We should say that it also has what’s known as the "Express Gate" system which allows you to access Internet software (browser) or music and video with a start-up time of just 8 seconds.
Playback of HD 1080p video (Blu-Ray equivalent) can be handled by the processor alone, or with the integrated Intel graphics solution. It’s preferable to use the IGP as it frees up the processor for other tasks. CPU occupation then falls from 75% to 10%.
Gaming in 3D: older titles or 2D gaming, nothing else
Don’t expect to do any current 3D gaming, the Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics chip is very limited. Only certain older 3D games or 2D will still be playable in native resolution. You’ll have to sacrifice too much on the graphics side for them to be worth playing.
Audio: brand isn’t everything
In spite of the fact that Altec Lansing speakers are installed, the audio is very average with a predominance of treble. Thankfully the headphones out is very clean.
Battery life and portability: not far from the best netbooks
A very low energy consumption processor, an integrated graphics solution and a large 5600 mAh (8 cell) battery give this machine an extended battery life. Battery life was 6 hours 38 minutes when playing films (brightness at 100 cd/m², Wi-Fi disactivated and headphones plugged in)! A score that many netbooks don’t yet manage and which makes it one of the best in its category.
Very slight at a thickness of under 25 mm and weight of 1.7 Kg with its battery. For a screen of this size this is more than reasonable.
Note that many UK stockists are listing the UL30A-QX131V and not the QX090V, the model we tested.
- Record battery life: 6H38 for video playback!
- Dual core CPU
- HD video decoding possible
- Glossy poor quality screen
- Poor speakers
- Too much glossy plastic
- A few details on the finish need reviewing
Slim, light and with great battery life, this Asus UL30A is a convincing ultra-portable. Performances are sufficient for handling office docs. Forget gaming and limit activity that puts too many demands on the processor. We would have liked a better screen and plastic that picks up marks less easily.