Performance and Benchmarks
The UL50Vf continues the trend in ASUS notebooks to overclock the Consumer Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) Core 2 Duo processor from 1.3GHz to 1.73GHz, giving it a nice performance boost over the stock speed CULV processors. Combined with 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a nice 320GB hard drive, the UL50Vf is perfectly capable of handling everyday tasks like Microsoft Office or Photoshop and can even handle more intensive video editing applications and games thanks to the Nvidia graphics card.
The Nvidia GeForce G210M is a mainstream graphics card and, as such, it can’t play games like Crysis very well. We did test the system with Left 4 Dead and World In Conflict and the G210M handled both those games at native screen resolution and medium detail settings with perfectly playable frame rates (25+ frames per second). Although the ASUS UL50Vf clearly isn’t intended to be a gaming notebook, the 16 shader units and 64-bit memory interface of the Nvidia G210M should be enough for casual gaming.
The big headline with the UL50Vf is that it is the first notebook on the market to offer Nvidia Optimus … Nvidia’s newest switchable graphics solution. For average consumers, all you need to know is that Optimus is the first switchable graphics solution that works the way switchable graphics should. In short, you don’t do anything. Optimus automatically detects when a piece of software needs to run on the dedicated GPU and turns on the Nvidia dedicated graphics. When you aren’t running software that needs dedicated graphics the Nvidia GPU automatically shuts off and the Intel integrated graphics do all the work.
Bottom line, you get better performance when you need it and better battery life when you’re just browsing the web or running Microsoft Office. Older switchable graphics solutions from Nvidia and ATI rely on manual switching: You either have to reboot your notebook or you have to manually tell the notebook to switch between integrated graphics and dedicated graphics. As a result, most people with switchable graphics either leave their notebooks in IGP or GPU mode all the time and don’t bother to switch back and forth. Optimus is the first switchable graphics solution that does all the work for you so you don’t have to think about it.
If you are a “power user” and like to control when your system is using the graphics card you can right click any application and manually tell the notebook to use the Intel IGP or the Nvidia GPU. There is a minor delay of a second or two when launching an application while Optimus determines the correct graphics solution and either continues using the Intel IGP or switches to the Nvidia GPU, but it won’t be noticed by most users and may be corrected in an Nvidia driver update. Honestly, we’re so thrilled with Nvidia’s Optimus that we hope all notebooks with switchable graphics work like this before the end of the year.
With all that said, here are the synthetic performance benchmarks for those who want to see how the UL50Vf compares to other notebooks. All benchmarks were run with the processor overclocked to 1.73GHz.
Wprime processor comparison results (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark05 measures overall system performance (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark06 measures overall graphics performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
Heat and Noise
At idle the UL50Vf is essentially silent as the fan remains on low or completely off. Under full load the fan speeds up but volume levels remain muted; there is no fan whine to disrupt coworkers or fellow students. The fan exhaust is located on the left side of the notebook and does not expel a lot of heat unless under full load such as when gaming. The chassis manages heat well; the palmrests stay cool and the only “hot spots” are near the heat vent on the left side does the notebook.
The UL50Vf lasted an extremely impressive eight hours and 53 minutes while surfing the web in “Balanced” mode with 70% screen brightness. Road warriors should easily be able to get more than nine hours of battery life on a flight with Wi-Fi disabled and screen brightness turned down. The large eight-cell battery certainly provides plenty of juice for the CULV processor and switchable graphics.
The ASUS UL50Vf is an unremarkable 15-inch notebook with some remarkable technology inside. Nine hours of battery life and the best switchable graphics solution currently on the market make this notebook a very compelling laptop. Unfortunately, the flexible plastic construction, low-resolution display, and a price tag above $800 make this a less than exciting purchase.
Nvidia Optimus is a fantastic technology that we’re happy to see, but we’d really like to see this technology inside a more impressive laptop. If you’re looking for a 15-inch notebook that gives you great battery life but also delivers the performance you need for video editing and casual gaming then the ASUS UL50Vf with Nvidia Optimus is a good choice. Just be aware there are other notebooks with similar performance available for less money.
- Great switchable graphics
- Excellent battery life
- Reasonable performance
- Weak build quality
- Low-res screen
- A little expensive