Tuesday, April 27, 2010

ASUS UL30A-X5 Thin and Light 13.3-Inch Black Laptop (12 Hours of Battery Life)

Favorable Reviews:

Just received my Asus UL30A-X5 yesterday. After much review, and a try-out with an Acer 1410, I decided that I wanted a full-sized chiclet/island keyboard and the larger screen. I'm already quite pleased with my decision. At the <$700 price point, this is an excellent notebook.

- Keyboard. A pleasure to type on.
- Touchpad. It drags at first, but once you get some finger oil on it, and change the pointer speed, it's one of the best that I've used. Very smooth two finger scroller. Support for customized two and three finger click.
- Screen. Bright and easy to read at 30 degree angles.
- Battery life. Yes, it will do over 10 hours.
- Weight/size. 1 inch thin and very light.
- Body. Love the brushed black metal look on the case.
- Asus facial recognition login. Didn't think that I would care, but it's nice to have the computer log in, without touch, when I'm sitting in front of it.
- Asus FastBoot (not the BIOS fast boot). This lets you configure which programs load during startup and which load after. Speeds up the boot quite a bit.
- Decent speakers. Not ear-destroying, but suitable for the size. Much better than most netbooks.

- Placement of touchpad. It still registers my palm as I'm typing even at the extreme setting. Downloaded the new touchpad driver, but that didn't fix. Still looking for a solution. This is by far the most frustrating problem. UPDATE: The TouchFreeze utility seems to almost fix the issue.
- Case still shows fingerprints.
- Web cam is low res and has difficulty in low light (haven't tried different drivers yet). 

Critical Reviews: 
Update 11/14: I've decided that I'm going to return this laptop. The glossy display is too reflective. It's not really that noticeable if you are looking at a web page with a white background with the brightness turned all the way up, but in almost every case it's just too glossy for my tastes. Also, as mentioned blow, this display fails horribly for sharing the screen for something such as watching a movie. If they swapped out the display and trackpad, this would be the perfect budget laptop.


I was torn between this product and the Acer Aspire Timeline. I ultimately decided to go with this product because of the battery life claim. Obviously the battery life claim on ANY laptop is quoted using settings that will not be reflective of the typical user.

One of my biggest concerns with this laptop was the processor. I was not sure if it would be able to handle my daily computing activities. This machine is by no means a powerhouse, but it is more than capable. As long as you do not need to do anything such as gaming or multimedia editing, you should be fine with this laptop. This machine is capable of playing HD videos with a little extra left over for background tasks.

- While you do receive recovery DVDs, if you need to take advantage of them you will need to get an external DVD drive. I have heard some reports that some external DVD drives do not receive enough power through one USB port and require either a powered USB hub or plugging the drive into two USB ports. (This is why USB cables for portable HDD and portable disc drives have two heads.) I am pleased to say that the Samsung USB 2.0 8x DVD Writer External Optical Drive for Mac and PC SE-S084C/RSBN (Gloss Black) works perfectly with just one USB plug.
- The power brick can get hot. One review claimed it got as hot as 130 F. I have not personally experienced temperatures this extreme.

Usage: Microsoft Office, Web Browsing, Media Player

- Great balance between speed and battery life.
- The keyboard is fantastic.
- Very lightweight and portable.
- The laptop does not get so warm that it is uncomfortable in your lap.
- The laptop has a very sleek look.
- Excellent value for the price. Even on top of the specs, they throw in one year of accidental damage protection. That's an incredible value.
- The fans are very quiet even when they are on.
- Comes with little bloatware.
- Ability to play HD movies with no tweaking whatsoever (using VLC). Keep in mind that Adobe Flash will soon be releasing an update that will push HD decoding off to the GPU. If the new 1080p at YouTube is choppy for you now, just wait for the new version to come out.

- The screen is very glossy and reflective.
- I've really discovered that the viewing angles aren't all that great if you want more than one person to look at your screen at one time for something such as watching a movie together.
- The track-pad is less than ideal. The track-pad tends to move the cursor position while you are typing. The gestures are nice, but I found that the scrolling doesn't register. The trackpad utility is greatly lacking in features.
- The hard disk squeaks. It's not terribly loud, but you will notice if you have no other background noise.
- The chassis is indeed a fingerprint magnet. Again, this seems to be an issue with every make and every model laptop these days.
- No back-lit keyboard. This is not necessarily a bad thing since a back-lit keyboard would drain on the battery. 


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