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Asus UL20A review

Verdict

Compact size, mammoth battery life and decent performance for the low price

Review Date: 3 May 2010

Reviewed By: Sasha Muller

Price when reviewed: £400 (£470 inc VAT)

Overall Rating
5 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
5 stars out of 6

Performance
4 stars out of 6

PCPRO Recommended

Netbooks have had their time in the limelight, but with the likes of Asus's UL20A on the market, their days look to be numbered. Combining stamina and ultraportable dimensions with more power than any netbook can muster, Asus' latest should tempt cash-strapped buyers to spend that bit more.

Despite costing just £400 exc VAT, the UL20A is a classy little number. The brushed-aluminium lid adds a dash of style, with the silver finish spreading inside and contrasting nicely with the black Scrabble-tile keyboard and glossy black screen bezel.

Asus UL20A

Build quality hasn't suffered: the UL20A feels solid and flex-free, and the rigid, slimline lid does a good job of protecting the 12.1in TFT from harm. It's comfortable too. The keyboard is excellent, with a firm, unyielding base and crisp key action. The layout works, with the Home cluster of keys rearranged and tucked out of the way on the right-hand side. In fact, the only minor moan comes courtesy of the single, rocker-style button beneath the trackpad; it might look good, but we much prefer individual buttons.

Those looking for a laptop they can carry around day-in day-out will find more than enough to love. At just 1.53kg, the Asus is light enough to sling in a bag for a regular commute and, thanks to the 12.1in display, it's appreciably smaller than the herd of 13.3in CULV laptops dominating this category.

Once you start using the UL20A, its appeal really comes to the fore. The Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 hops along at a modest 1.3GHz, but the two cores are enough to keep Windows 7 feeling snappy enough for most tasks. A benchmark score of 0.67 underlines its capabilities - it isn't lightning-quick by laptop measures, but it's twice as powerful as your average netbook.

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User comments

Time we updated our Specs categories?

"802.11 draft-n support"

Let's hope they've gone beyond this...

By JohnGray7581 on 3 May 2010

Why now?

This netbook has been out for a while. Reviews on Amazon.com come back to November 2009. So, why is the review coming now when it is not possible to find it anywhere???

By Didjee on 4 May 2010

Those are US reviews...

The laptop only arrived in the UK fairly recently, hence the delay.

The exclusive retailer is PC World as far as I can tell, so if you're UK-based, head on over to:

http://www.pcworld.co.uk/gbuk/asus-ul20a-2x089v-04
287971-pdt.html

By SashaMuller on 4 May 2010

C'mon

So they've made a Silver Copy of a Dell D420 or the HP NC2400. THis form factor has been around for donkey's years.

And then you can get better performance from a Dell D410 running XP to be had on Ebay for about £99.00

By Gindylow on 6 May 2010

Re: why now?

Hi sasha,

I wasn't aware of this. Thanks for the information.

By Didjee on 6 May 2010

@ Gindylow

Running XP? You really must be joking. I wouldn't go back to XP if you paid me. :)

The D410 was a great laptop, sure, but it's fallen behind today's budget pack.

Just the 1,024 x 768 pixel screen is enough to rule it out for many people. And that's before you even consider the non-existent warranty, the inferior battery life, the inferior graphics chipset....

If you're on a shoestring budget, then I'd understand it. But otherwise, I think it'd be a very poor choice.

By SashaMuller on 6 May 2010

Are my wishes that obscure ??

"Some might crave Bluetooth, HDMI, or wish the 10/100 Ethernet socket had made way for Gigabit, but the three USB ports, SD/MMC, Memory Stick card reader and VGA output will prove ample for most."

No, if I am going to buy something new then bluetooth, HDMI and gigabit are exactly what I require.

&

"Netbooks have had their time in the limelight, but with the likes of Asus's UL20A on the market, their days look to be numbered."

Again no. One of the best uses of Netbooks, is for those who travel a lot say for example by plane or taxi. Where not only weight (which so many reviewers have a fixation on) but also size are key. In my opinion even 12.1" is approaching too big, bulky and unwieldy (SIZE matters) for this purpose.

By moocifer on 6 May 2010

@moocifer

No, your wishes aren't obscure at all. You're simply one of those people who need Bluetooth, HDMI and Gigabit Ethernet. In which case the UL20A just isn't for you. :)

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on the netbook comment, though. The UL20A really isn't that much bigger than a 1005P, and certainly not enough to bother anyone unduly.

Spend a long-haul transatlantic flight in the company of a 1,024 x 600 pixel screen and a netbook keyboard, then try doing the same with the UL20A. It's like upgrading from economy to business class.

By SashaMuller on 6 May 2010

@SashaMuller

"Running XP? You really must be joking. I wouldn't go back to XP if you paid me."

No joke. I have tried and dislike Vista and 7. My business partners feel the same, and I have to say so do my customers.

In fact I am yet to meet anyone who actually wants to keep Vista or 7 after trying them. This includes both casual users and pro users alike.

My real thrust was at the D420 being comparable, but I find that in a recession people are interested in saving money, hence the mention of a D410.

By Gindylow on 7 May 2010

I'm genuinely surprised to hear that...

I've changed all but one of my PCs to 7 - with my music production PC currently remaining staunchly XP-based - and going back to XP now feels horribly clunky.

I agree that Vista was horribly slow and aggravating, but I've had zero issues with 7. I guess part of the problem, and particularly so in the business environment, is that of 7's hardware requirements.

XP can be tweaked to run lightning fast on very low-spec machines. 7 not so much. Upgrading one home PC or laptop might not be too expensive, but when it comes to rolling out across tens or hundreds of machines, I'm sure the costs could swiftly become prohibitive.

By SashaMuller on 7 May 2010

Agreed

I fully agree with your observations about XP running like lightning, even on lower end / older hardware. That's one of the reasons I like it.

I could probably live with 7 if they let me have an XP Start menu back as an option and let me disable some of the security settings that stop programs being able to write files to the Desktop.

My biggest gripe with Vista and 7 though is that both of them take longer / and or greater number of steps for file management when working cross media in Photoshop and Illustrator, particularly across network drives, but even just from within local drives.

Is your Music production staying on XP due to Hardware support? Lots of niche manufacturers seem to have dropped "older" hardware for Vista and 7 in a bid to force us all to re-buy new hardware.

I had problems with some M-Audio hardware in this regard.

By Gindylow on 8 May 2010

@ Gindylow

You should try running MSDOS, it's SO much faster than XP. It's amazing! :P

By Grunthos on 17 May 2010

ExpressGate instant-on OS

ExpressGate?
You have to be kidding!

Have you tried ExpressGate and the other Asus Utilities?

I tried to get some of them working properly and found them bug riddled, clunky, usually failed at their task and have the look, feel an usability of a poorly written dos utility.

After much frustration with them I checked some forums... The verdict wherever they were discussed was, "Dump them."

By Kevin000 on 1 Jun 2010

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