ASUS has never been one to shy away from design innovations (bamboo notebook anyone?) so the new form factor of their U series notebooks shouldn't surprise anyone especially if they've seen the Eee PC Seashell series. This is mainly due to the shift towards a more design-centric focus for its products, preaching a balance between form and function.
The new ASUS 13.3-inch UX30 is a prime example of this balance, with its attractive overall design yet lightweight and functional.
With its aluminum lid and silver finish, the UX30 is a looker from start to finish. While we loved the aluminum finish of the lid, it doesn't actually extend to the rest of notebook which is mainly plastic. The colors in general do match up properly, so you'll only notice the difference when you're holding the notebook in your hands.
That said, the notebook felt pretty good in our hands and we thought it felt much lighter than its 1.39kg weight.
Moving on to the interior, we were greeted by our dreaded nemesis: a glossy reflective screen. Luckily, the chiclet keyboard and ample palm rest did their best to soothe this angsty reviewer's heart. The keyboard was decent to type on but we could feel the flex as our fingers tapped away at the keys.
As for the trackpad, while it does have an interesting texture, the tracking and response leaves much to be desired. There was a 'dead zone' strip at the bottom of the trackpad just above the buttons where our fingers apparently could not be detected. We initially thought that was a bug but ASUS confirmed that it was a design element. If so, it doesn't seem to make much sense to us.
Our review unit was unfortunately an early build that differs from the retail specifications with an Intel SU2700 Solo processor instead of an Intel SU9400 dual-core processor. This does mean that benchmark comparisons aren't really viable, though we are guessing that a similar performance to the Acer Aspire Timeline will be obtained from the actual retail product.
Other than the processor, the unit also has a smaller HDD and RAM at 250GB and 2GB respectively compared to the 500GB HDD and 4GB RAM of the retail model.
Battery life too isn't really a selling point for the notebook and the UX30 takes its cue from its Seashell cousin with a non-removable battery. Battery life is average at just 2 hours and 5 minutes. This isn't the sort of battery performance we were expecting from an ultralight, Intel ULV-based machine, more so when the proper UX30 comes with slightly buffed up specifications. A check on ASUS' website reveals a 3-cell battery for the retail unit.
With two hours of juice on the UX30, you probably have to carry the charger around - fortunately quite light and handy - for when the notebook runs dry.
The consumer ULV notebook platform is still in the early stages and ASUS has created an interesting entrant in the form of the UX30. Clearly, the UX30 goes right after the fashion folks with its good looks and light weight.
What the UX30 is not however is a notebook for stamina junkies who need a long lasting notebook, as the UX30 doesn't seem to be designed for that. Keep that in mind when you decide on whether to get this notebook and you'll probably end up quite pleased with your new shiny purchase.