The attractively-designed UL80Vt from Asus is pitched as a model with high performance and good battery life. Yet it doesn't sacrifice compactness - girth and weight have been kept under control.
Handling design and build: when aluminum meets glossy plastic
The Asus designers must take us all for magpies - anything that glitters! We found the same faults on this model as on the Asus UX50V - namely an all-glossy interior surface! You spend your time wiping off the ugly fingerprints that get everywhere. It may look pretty but it's just not practical or pleasant to use. The lid, on the other hand, has a very handsome brushed-aluminum finish, which contrasts rather oddly with the rest of this all-plastic notebook.
The keys on the keyboard are well spaced. They measure 15 x 15 mm and offer firm, quiet typing. None of them have been cut down, which makes it comfortable enough.
The touchpad is a decent size and blends in with the plastic of the shell. It's set off with little pits in its surface (see the photo below) that keep your fingers from sticking to it. But we've seen much nicer ones to use. Precision is only just adequate and the glide factor could be better. Its main advantage is aesthetic.
The webcam is average. The colours tend towards yellow and overexposed areas burn out. Fluidity is ok.
The machine's fan is fairly quiet while running office applications and browsing the internet. Fan noise increases during demanding tasks (photography, video, games), though it never ramps up into "turbine mode".
The various connectors are arranged along the edges of the computer. On the right, the DVD burner is accompanied by an 8-in-1 memory-card reader, a USB port and an RJ45 network connector. On the left edge are the power connector, a VGA and an HDMI port, two USB ports, a microphone jack, and a headphone jack that also works as a S/PDIF connector.
Under the computer, two panels provide access to the RAM and hard drive.
|Power connector, VGA, HDMI, 2 USB 2.0, mic, headphone
||Asus logo on the brushed-aluminum lid
|Touchpad and click bar
||DVD burner, memory-card reader, USB, RJ45
Processing power: The low power consumption doesn't detract from performance
Windows 7 Index: 4.9. Details: CPU 4.9 - RAM 5.4 - Graphics 4.9 - Game Graphics 5.9 - Main hard drive 5.6.
Fitted with an Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 ultra-low-power CPU, the Asus UL80Vt scored a CPU index of 69 and an overall 87. Our reference machine (100 on the index), is the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400). Performance is sufficient for a multi-use notebook, provided you're not in a hurry when you're performing demanding processing tasks such as video encoding and editing.
The notebook starts up in 53 seconds (time to desktop) and finishes loading the main applications 17 seconds later, with no antivirus installed. Shutdown takes 13 seconds. Note that there's also a system called "Express Gate" that provides access to internet browsing and music and video player applications. This mini-system is ready to go in only eight seconds.
HD 1080p (Blu-ray equivalent) video can be played with the processor alone, or using the dedicated NVIDIA graphics card. The latter solution is preferable, since it relieves the processor of the decoding load and frees it for other tasks. CPU usage drops from 70% to 5%, and power consumption drops by 9 Watts (from 29 Watts using the processor alone).
3D gaming: good for certain not-too-demanding games
The NVIDIA GeForce G 210M graphics card is a previous gen entry-level model. Though much better than a built-in graphics solution, don't expect to play the latest games with it. Crysis for example, is unplayable at native resolution, even with settings at minimum. But you will be able to have fun with games like Race Driver GRID, or those that use the Source engine: Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead are quite playable with settings at medium to high.
Audio: brand isn't everything
The built-in speakers may be made by Altec Lansing, but the sound is barely average, with an emphasis on the treble. The solution is to use the headphone jack, which is very clean and will let you hook up a real speaker kit thanks to its optical output.
Portability, battery life: among the best
Though it has a dedicated graphics card and a dual-core CPU, the Asus UL80Vt managed to hold up for nearly 5 hours (4 hours, 55 minutes) playing continuous video (display set to 100 cd/m², headphones plugged in and Wi-Fi disabled). That's only 25 minutes less than the Acer Aspire Timeline 5810T, though that model has significantly lower performance. The good battery life is due to the use of a 5600 mAh eight-cell battery.
At less than 1.1 inches thick and weighing in at only 2 Kg, this little one has been keeping to its diet.