- Excellent battery life
- Solid build and good design
- Great keyboard
- Display has poor viewing angles
- Small AC adapter gets hot
The ASUS UL30 series is a thin and lightweight 13.3″ notebook powered by the Intel Core 2 Duo ULV processor. Aiming to compete against the Acer Timeline series, this model boasts an impressive 12 hours of runtime, for true all-day computing. Offering a brushed aluminum lid and sturdy construction, it is designed to look great, but keep looking good day after day. In this review we put the 12-hour battery life claim up to the test, and find out just how well this notebook performs.
ASUS UL30A-A1 Specifications:
- Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 (1.3GHz, 3MB L2 cache, 800MHz FSB)
- Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium (w/ SP1)
- 13.3-inch glossy LED-backlit 16:9 display (1366×768)
- Intel Graphics Media Accelerator 4500MHD
- 4GB DDR3 800MHz RAM (2GB x 2)
- 500GB Seagate 5400.6 HDD
- Atheros AR9285G/N WiFi, 10/100 Ethernet
- 8-Cell 15V 5600mAh 84WHr Battery, 19V 2.1A 40W AC Adapter
- Limited 2-year Global Warranty
- Dimensions 12.9″ x 9.28″ x 0.6″-0.98″ (W x D x H)
- Weight: 3lbs 14.8oz
- Price as configured: $799
Build and Design
The ASUS UL30A-A1 at first glance looks very sleek, with a low profile designed to make it look as thin as possible. The color scheme shifts between silver and black, with the exterior being brushed aluminum and the interior being glossy painted plastic. The keyboard is a Chiclet-style model, with matte black keys and silver lettering. I think the design looks excellent, working for both the average consumer and business professional alike. The finish is also designed to look great over time, with the aluminum cladding resisting smudges and scratches.
One aspect of a notebooks design that is sometimes overlooked on models with extended battery life is the battery itself. ASUS managed to fit a flush mount 84Wh battery into the back of the chassis. It sits flush with the rear of the notebook and sticks down a fraction of an inch from the bottom. For the average consumer this means form-fitting slip cases are easy to fit into and a notebook with a more polished look to it.
Build quality is above average, with the overall construction feeling pretty solid. The bottom of the notebook has one soft spot, where a panel has some mild flex, but besides that there is very little flex anywhere on this notebook. The aluminum screen cover does a good job of protecting the screen from impacts, showing little or no color distortion as you press firmly on the back of the screen. Inside, the palmrest and keyboard have excellent support, having no flex at all. Even though the front profile is very thin, ASUS still manages to provide a well-built internal structure for a solid typing platform. Another surprising quality is the very strong screen hinges, which have no wiggle and actually show a good deal of resistance.
Users looking to upgrade some of the components will like that there are still two access panels on the bottom. Because of space or strength concerns, the panels are only sized for RAM and HD access, but it is better than no panels at all.
Screen and Speakers
The screen offered on the UL30-series is a 13.3″ LED-backlit 16:9 WXGA panel. The display rates slightly above average, with good color saturation and contrast thanks to the glossy surface. Black level s are good with no apparent backlight bleed at high brightness levels. The area that doesn’t really shine with this panel are the viewing angles. Vertical viewing angles show a good amount of distortion with as little as 10-15 degrees movement forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles are better, but still show signs of mild color inversion past 45 degrees. Backlight brightness levels were very good, even at the 70% level we like to use for battery tests. I usually had the screen set at 70% in the office and 40-50% at home with less overhead lighting.
Most thin and lightweight notebooks sacrifice speaker location for other more important aspects of the design. The ASUS UL30-series offers lap-firing speakers, which sound tinny at best, muffled at worst. When you have the notebook sitting up on a stand or on a flat desk surface they sound average compared to other notebooks of this size, but once you put it on your lap or a soft surface they are completely muffled. Headphones would be highly recommended for this notebook.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The ASUS UL30-series offers a large Chiclet-style keyboard that is very comfortable to type on. The palmrest seems to be sized perfectly even for my large hands with a soft edge on the front that prevents any pressure to your wrist. The keys are very responsive with a nice springy action on each press. The individual keys appear to be almost flat, but a straight edge over the surface shows a very small cup to the center of each key. The texture is a rough matte finish, and doesn’t attract finger prints or smudges.
The touchpad is an ELAN model, built into the palmrest, offering limited multitouch capabilities. The included drivers support two-finger scrolling for horizontal and vertical movement, but nothing else. I actually found it to be almost too responsive, scrolling both vertically and horizontally at the same time as you moved down a page. Disabling the horizontal scroll seemed to improve things in that regard. The touchpad worked quite well, having no discernable lag and equal speeds on both axis’s of movement. The dimpled surface felt smooth and once it had some oils from my hand built up on it, allowed fingers to glide across it very well. The touchpad button is seesaw style, with a fixed center pivot point. Each side took a moderate strength push to trigger, with a small click given off when pressed.
Ports and Features
Port selection was good with three USB ports, HDMI and VGA out, LAN, and audio in/out. One feature missing that was a Kensington lock slot, but in its place was a lanyard-style attachment point. The notebook also sports a spring-loaded flush-mount SD-card slot, handy for expanding storage without needing to remove the card when putting the notebook in a carrying case.