Hands-on with the ASUS UL50
The UL50 is the second CULV processor-powered laptop we’ve looked at recently — we saw the UX30 a few weeks ago. This is a slightly different proposition in that it’s a laptop with a 16.6in screen — hardly an ultraportable, in other words. Even so, at around 1in thick and weighing 2.1kg, it still qualifies as a ‘thin and light’ CULV laptops.
ASUS supplied us with a pre-production model to take a look at and while this isn’t final spec or build, it’s close enough to get a good idea of what the final version will be like. Read on to find out what we though — and to watch our hands-on video.
15in laptops are seldom the most compact and the ASUS UL50 is certain large. It’s relative thinness makes it far less imposing than other models and it’s light enough to carry from room to room with ease — though we’re not sure we’d want to carry it around in a bag all day.
We like the brushed aluminium lid and while the rest of the UL50 is plastic, it still looks pretty stylish, albeit in a low-key way. The 15.6in screen has a 16:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 1366 x 768 — a little low for this size perhaps, but enough to watch 720p HD video, if that’s what you need. The screen is glossy, LED-backlit, and both clear and bright.
A big screen means a big keyboard and the UL50’s is full-size with a separate numeric keypad. It was a little bendy on this pre-production model, but ASUS says this will be fixed by the time the laptop goes on sale. We hope it takes a look at the trackpad, too — its super-shiny finish just isn’t slippy enough if your fingers aren’t bone dry. The problem isn’t unique to the ASUS UL50 — it afflicts any laptop with a trackpad that’s hidden inside the wrist rest and we much prefer the old matte-finish trackpads. Not as stylish, maybe, but at least they worked all the time.
This pre-production UL50 was supplied with an Intel SU3500 processor, but the final version will have the SU7300. The SU3500 is a Core 2 Solo CULV chip that runs at 1.4GHz, while the SU3500 is a Core 2 Duo that runs at 1.3GHz, so it should be a slightly better performer.
ASUS reckons that the UL50 is good for around 10 hours on battery power, but we suspect this means using a bigger battery than the small 2200mAh cell we were supplied with. We didn’t bother battery testing this pre-production model, since it isn’t the final spec.
The ASUS UL50 will have a smaller sibling the shape of the UL30. This has essentially the same specification, but a smaller 13.1in screen and no internal optical drive.
Intel’s CULV processors promise cheaper ultraportables, so it’s a little odd to find one inside a laptop as large as the ASUS UL50. It’s certainly thinner and lighter as a result, but it’s still pretty large and not something you’d want to take out on the road. If it’s going to be desk-bound for much of the day, then that long battery life isn’t worth much, particularly when it comes at the expense of processor performance. We’ll have a better idea of what the UL50 is about once we know the price (we’re still waiting for confirmation from ASUS), so until then, we’re on the fence with this one.