The new ASUS UL50Vf is an update to the popular 15-inch UL50Vt and offers the all-new Nvidia Optimus switchable graphics. Why are we reviewing this modest update? Because Optimus is honestly the first switchable graphics solution that works like it should.
Our ASUS UL50Vf has the following specifications:
The ASUS UL50Vf features a design that is identical UL50Vt and similar to the 14-inch UL80Vt. This is a classic clamshell design with smooth lines and rounded edges. The drop point hinges give the notebook an almost aerodynamic look and the plastic construction keeps this 15-inch notebook reasonably light weight. A height of only 1.1 inches it is certainly a thin machine, and the inward chiseled sides make it look even thinner. The UL50Vf, like the rest of the UL series, has an all-plastic construction with the exception of the aluminum-backed lid. All visible plastic surfaces are glossy which means dust and fingerprints show up easily. If you like to keep your notebook looking new you'll need to keep a microfiber cloth handy for constant cleaning.
Unfortunately, those glossy plastics that give the UL50Vf a modern look and keep weight low also make the notebook chassis too weak and flexible. We were able to visibly twist the notebook (both open and closed) with modest pressure, meaning this notebook might be vulnerable to damage inside a backpack with heavy books. This high amount of flex indicates that the notebook's internal frame is not strong enough to overcome the weakness in the external plastics.
The bottom of the UL50Vf offers users the ability to quickly access the RAM and hard drive bay for easy upgrades at home. We like the fact that ASUS uses a single access panel so owners don't have to remove multiple covers from the bottom of the notebook if they want to upgrade the RAM and hard drive at the same time. However, the use of four screws seems like overkill and makes upgrades a little more time consuming than needed.
Screen and Speakers
The UL50Vf has a 15-inch display with LED backlighting, a 16:9 aspect ratio, and a 1366x768 resolution. Its glossy coating makes images look clearer at the expense of glare/reflections under bright sunlight or indoor lights. The display has plenty of brightness but the contrast is low, making pictures look slightly washed out if you set the brightness to maximum. Horizontal viewing angles are adequate enough for sharing movies with a friend on a plane, but vertical viewing angles are limited and you'll need to be tilt the screen just right to get an accurate picture. The biggest problem we have with this display is the unacceptably low resolution of 1366x768. A 15-inch notebook with a 16:9 screen ratio should have a minimum screen resolution of 1600x900 pixels. Most 11-inch notebooks now offer 1366x768 resolution so it's just plain sad to see such a low resolution on a 15-inch screen.
The stereo speakers on the UL50Vf offer little in terms of range or bass. Volume levels are not loud enough at the maximum setting and the sound is very tinny. The downward-firing speakers also mean that audio will sound muffled when using this notebook as a "laptop" since the sound is directed at your lap or crotch. The headphone jack is fortunately static-free and the best way to get audio out of the notebook.
The UL50Vf has a Chiclet/island style keyboard with a dedicated number pad for those who still use number pads for quick data entry. While the island-style keys have more space between them than a traditional keyboard layout this particular keyboard suffers from flex. The keyboard flexs under firm typing pressure on the right side above the optical drive. This is unfortunate because the area of flex is right where the dedicated number pad is located and you're likely to notice the flex while typing numbers. The keys are also noisier than we prefer ... producing a "click clack" sound while typing.
The ELAN touchpad is also below average with limited driver functionality and few setting options to improve cursor movement. Its glossy surface is difficult to track on and the single-piece button is somewhat noisy and difficult to press with shallow feedback. You will have to apply pressure at the far left and right edges of the touchpad button to get clicks to register.
Ports and Features
The UL50Vf has a reasonable number of ports just like the UL50Vt. You get three USB ports and HDMI out for connecting your laptop to your HDTV and a VGA port for connecting to a projector or external monitor. The notebook also has a Kensington lock slot and built-in Bluetooth. All picture descriptions are left to right.
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