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Asus UL30A review: Asus UL30A

If you've got modest needs, the value presented by the UL30A is hard to ignore, especially in light of its amazing battery life. Recommended.

Craig Simms Special to CNET News
Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.
Craig Simms
4 min read

Design and features

Asus' UL30A follows in the footsteps of the U80V, with a piano black exterior, chiclet-styled keys and a minimalist but attractive design. One mark of difference though is the lid, in a subtle black brushed aluminium, bringing the standard up a small notch more.


Asus UL30A

The Good

Above average speakers. Excellent battery life. SU7300 processor should cover most needs. Multi-touch touchpad.

The Bad

No gigabit Ethernet. Some of the bundled software isn't as slick as it could be.

The Bottom Line

If you've got modest needs, the value presented by the UL30A is hard to ignore, especially in light of its amazing battery life. Recommended.

As a 13.3-inch laptop with a native resolution of 1366x768, the UL30A occupies the new sweet spot for laptops, taking over from the standard 15-inch — although its positioning is even tighter than this.

While companies have rushed to fill the gap between netbook and full powered laptop by expanding their thin and light portfolio, we think the UL30A has cracked it courtesy of its Core 2 Duo ULV processor and eight-cell battery. The Dell Inspiron 13z comes similarly specced, spookily so, but we prefer the build quality of the Asus. Its official price may be AU$1399, but a quick search online will find you much cheaper prices.

The dual-core Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor clocked at 1.3GHz was in our review sample, although an SU9400 at 1.4GHz is available. ULV chips typically mean less performance than a fully fledged Core 2 Duo or Core i5/i7 system, but come with the bonus of higher battery life and lower heat output. Paired with 4GB DDR3 RAM, 320GB HDD, 802.11n and Bluetooth, the UL30A is fully featured.

On the right are two USB ports, a 10/100Mb Ethernet port, headphone and microphone jacks, and an SD/MS/MMC card reader. The left is a little more sparse, with a USB port, HDMI and VGA ports. There's a hot air vent here as well, which means that left-handed external mouse users will likely end up with warmed digits when using their laptop.

On the rear is nothing but the battery, although considering the svelte nature of the UL30A this isn't a surprise, coming in at a maximum height of 24.6mm. While it starts at 1.5kg with the four-cell battery, we'd recommend putting up with the extra weight an eight-cell brings, as the bonus battery time is entirely worth it.

The UL30A features the same Elantech multi-touch touchpad as the U80V, which means horizontal and vertical scrolling can be achieved conveniently by swiping two fingers a la the MacBook Pro, right-clicking by tapping three fingers simultaneously and middle-clicking by tapping two (although this can be easily switched around if you desire). There are no pinch to zoom or rotate functions included in the software this time around.


Our review sample came with Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit installed, allowing it to access the full 4GB of RAM present in the machine.

Asus also includes a 61-day Trend Micro Internet Security trial (in which amusingly if you click on Help/Support, the top solution is "How do I remove a Trend Micro product from my computer?"), CyberLink's Blu-ray disc suite (despite the lack of optical drive), a collection of trial games from Oberon Media, and Microsoft's Office 2007 Home and Student trial — so far, nothing of real value.

Things improve with Asus' own tools. Power4Gear (a battery management application) works well, although we found it conflicted with Windows 7's own power management application — if settings were changed here, Power4Gear would reset them, leading to frustration.

A newer addition to the Asus stable is FastBoot, which allows the user to delay loading applications until after the PC has finished booting, resulting in a shorter wait time until your system becomes useful. Also included is SRS' Premium Sound application, which really does make quite a difference in the quality of sound output from the laptop; FancyStart, which allows you to customise your boot image and sound; and Splendid, which lets you adjust the colour profile of your monitor, a rarity on laptop screens. While we'd avoid the bundled presets, the custom settings found under the "My Profile" section are most welcome.

Another new addition to the software bundle, ControlDeck, tends to frustrate. Its aim is to expose all the laptop configuration tools and settings in one seamless interface, presenting them stacked up on a faux-3D plane that can be cycled through to each option. While the concept is sound, it's laggy and slow to load, making it significantly more frustrating to use than simply hitting a keyboard shortcut.


As a ULV laptop with integrated Intel graphics, performance expectations should be modest — its 3DMark06 score of 814 shows this isn't a gaming machine, while its PCMark05 score of 3056 means it should be perfectly fine for office use, web browsing and basic productivity tasks. The UL30A will beyond doubt give a significantly smoother internet experience than any netbook, the SU7300 being perfectly capable of playing back our test 720p YouTube video.

Battery life is where the UL30A really shone; with all power-saving functions turned off, brightness and volume set to maximum and an XviD file played back, the UL30A stayed on for five hours, 19 minutes and 7 seconds. That's netbook battery life right there, but with more power and capability, during quite a taxing test.

If you've got modest needs, the value presented by the UL30A is hard to ignore, especially in light of its amazing battery life. Recommended.