ASUS has been making laptops for quite some time; our first review of ASUS laptops was circa 2002, and I got my first hands-on experience three years ago. While there have been many interesting laptops from the company over the years, few have managed to truly set themselves apart from the crowd. (Okay, sure, there's the whole Eee PC netbook market they essentially created, but that's not a traditional laptop.) That changes today with our review of the UL80Vt.

At its heart, the UL80Vt is a thin and light notebook that's capable of delivering stellar battery life while at the same time providing sufficient performance to handle virtually any task - yes, including gaming. It comes with a Core 2 Duo SU7300 Ultra Low Voltage processor - a CULV processor if you prefer. CULV CPUs have gotten a bad rap over the years for a couple of reasons. First, they underperform relative to regular Core 2 processors, outside of battery life metrics. That wouldn't be end of the world, but the bigger problem has always been cost. We looked at the ASUS U2E a little over a year ago, and while it wasn't a bad system it was extremely difficult to recommend at over $2000 ($2600 with an SSD). In contrast, the UL80Vt beats the U2E in every single metric we can come up with, other than size/weight, and it costs less than half as much. Oh what a difference a year makes.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have the ASUS G51 series - we're specifically reviewing the G51J today, but the G51Vx will also get coverage. It's a lot closer to what we've seen from ASUS in the past: a reasonable design, plenty of performance, but the mobility aspect is definitely lacking. What it lacks in battery life it more than makes up in performance and pricing, however, so if you're interested in grabbing a well-balanced laptop that can handle any current game (though not necessarily at maximum details) and provide plenty of CPU power for other computationally intensive tasks, the G51J might be the perfect gift to find under your Christmas tree this year.

If you're looking for other options, we recommend reading our Holiday 2009 Buyers' Guide where we put both of these ASUS notebooks in context relative to the rest of the market. The short summary is that we are hard-pressed to find anything in the midrange laptop category that we prefer to the UL80Vt. The G51J has more competition, but it sets a high bar that can be difficult to compete with.

ASUS UL80Vt: Nearly Perfect
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  • bennyg - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - link

    I think you're not getting the whole picture

    Run it for an hour and then see the max temps then

    When mine arrives I intend to downclock below the 9800MGTX speeds ... for longievity.
  • clarkn0va - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    You may want to blur that picture of the bottom of the second laptop.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    Ummm... oops! Thanks.
  • Zero110 - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - link

    YOU'RE TOO LATE!!! Just kidding.
  • KikassAssassin - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    I'm one of those people who has complained on the internet about the viewing angles, and I think your assessment is spot-on, because I came from an older laptop that had a higher-quality, but much dimmer, display. I do like that the UL80Vt's display is so much brighter than my previous laptop's, but the fact that such low-quality displays are commonplace nowadays is really sad. Companies will do anything to cut costs, I guess, but it's unfortunate that it's being done with such an important component. I guess most consumers don't care that much about the display quality, though, or else they wouldn't be able to get away with it. It would be nice if laptop manufacturers would at least offer the option of upgrading to a high-quality display. I would seriously have been willing to spend $1000 on a UL80Vt with a display on par with, say, the Macbook Pro or Dell Studio XPS (throw in a matte finish, an all-aluminum chassis, and a backlit keyboard, and you'd have the perfect laptop).

    Also, I notice in this article you said the graphics switch time takes about five seconds. I guess your fifteen second time to switch to the nvidia GPU went away when you reinstalled the old drivers? I'm still curious what might've been causing that.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    I think it may have been either drivers or something else; at one point I broke the GPUs with updated Intel and NVIDIA reference drivers. (They altered the support list to explicitly exclude hybrid GPUs after that, I guess.) Anyway, it's working fine now. If you're running a 3D app when you try to switch, it will blank for a bit and then you'll get an exclamation point on the NVIDIA icon, which is maybe what happened before... worst I've seen that I can confirm worked was around 10 seconds.

    Agree on the LCD, finish, etc. I've got a Photodon cover for a 17" laptop that I'm going to test out in a little bit and see how that compares to running a native matte LCD.
  • zorxd - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    What's the point of having a dedicated GPU in this laptop? It's too slow for gaming anyways. It's a thin and light laptop. Better to save 150-200$ to get a desktop computer to play games. The X4500MHD IGP will play 1080p movies just fine anyways. What else do you need? It's like people who want a dedicated GPU on an atom laptop or on their mac. Most of them will never make use of it.
  • DominionSeraph - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - link

    WTH? It's the discrete graphics that make the UL80Vt interesting. Without it, there's no reason for it to have anything more than an Atom.

    Too slow for gaming? Jarred mentions playing Batman and Fallout 3 for several hours each. Sounds to me as though he was deriving entertainment value. Bet it plays WoW just fine, too.

    With laptops, there's always tradeoffs between price, performance, portability, and battery life. The UL80Vt seems to hit a sweet spot.

    And, honestly, for non-portable gaming, save yourself $600 and get a console.
  • zorxd - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    the UL30A is much more interesting
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    Someone asked me to run DXVA Checker on the G210M to see what it says. Here are the results for the interested:

    NVIDIA GeForce G210M
    ModeMPEG2_IDCT: DXVA2, NV12, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080
    ModeMPEG2_VLD: DXVA2, NV12, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080
    ModeMPEG2_A: DXVA1, NV12, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080
    ModeMPEG2_C: DXVA1, NV12, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080
    ModeVC1_VLD: DXVA2, NV12, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080
    ModeVC1_IDCT: DXVA1/2, NV12, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080
    ModeWMV9_IDCT: DXVA1/2, NV12, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080
    ModeH264_VLD_FGT: DXVA2, NV12, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080
    ModeH264_VLD_NoFGT: DXVA2, NV12, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080
    9947EC6F-689B-11DC-A320-0019DBBC4184: DXVA2, NV12, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080
    B194EB52-19A0-41F0-B754-CC244AC1CB20: DXVA2, X8R8G8B8, 720x480 / 1280x720 / 1920x1080

    For the record, DXVA Checker fails to get any useful information when using the GMA 4500MHD.

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