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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  • tpurves - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    14" monitor and only 768 vertical pixels? what the hell is up with that?

    my WXGA 12" laptop has 800 vertical pixels and would still be usable with even slightly higher DPI if it was possible.

    What is the point of carrying around the extra pounds and inches of a 14" screen if you have fewer useful pixels if you are not doing at least better than wxga.

    I already think wxga at 13" (like on macbooks) is a waste of space.

    A 14" should be at least 1440x900 (or the HD aspect-ratio equivalent) or what's the point of hauling that much computer and screen around?
  • iamezza - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - link

    One business I installed a new PC at a while back complained they couldn't read the new 19" screen. Once I showed them how to change the resolution they changed the res to 800x600.
  • iamezza - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - link

    One business I installed a new PC at a while back complained they couldn't read the new 19" screen. Once I showed them how to change the resolution they changed the res to 800x600.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    Ah, youth... ;-)

    Do you know how many 40+ people I've had COMPLAIN to me when I set a laptop to the native resolution? There are competing views on LCD resolutions. Older users with less than perfect eyesight prefer larger pixels, in which case the 1366x768 14" LCD is a good compromise. Younger enthusiasts often prefer crazy pixel pitch like 1600x900 in a 14" LCD.

    Heck, I did some work for a dentist building PCs and gave the receptionists 22" 1680x1050 displays. Guess what they run them at: 1280x800! Ugh.... Anything higher than that and they complain that it's too hard to read.

    For reference:
    1366x768 14" is .227 pixel pitch
    1280x1024 14" is .217 pitch
    1440x900 at 14" is .209
    1600x900 at 14" is .194

    Personally, I'm good to about .200 pixel pitch, but older folks will often want more like a .250 pitch. On desktops, 1920x1200 on a 27" LCD is fine (.300), on a 24" it's "okay" (.270), and native resolution on 30" requires me to use magnification or set a higher DPI in windows (.252).

    Of course, I'd also be happier with 16:10 aspect ratio displays on laptops instead of 16:9 (or possibly even 4:3, though that's debatable). First, though, give me a contrast ratio that doesn't suck.
  • fabarati - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    1440x900 is quite nice on a 14" screen. I'd even like a higher resolution.

    But the displays used on old Asus 14" laptops (I've had a A8Js and i presently use a F8Sa) leave a lot to be desired. Though you should know that, as you tested the A8Js a few years back.

    On the other hand, you do get used to it. It's only when you see better displays (like my brothers SR Macbook pro or our old FSC Amilo 1437g - not to speak of the very nice S-IPS displays at my summer job) that you feel dissapointed.
  • pkkevin - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    I second that, I remember my dad always adjusting his native 1360*768 13.3 inch laptop to a resolution of 800X600... it is all distorted and blurry to me, but he like it that way just so he can see clearly.

    Great review by the way, Great informations.

  • darwinosx - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    What a hunk of plastic junk. The current laptop i7 is a joke as is the cheap plasticky Asus. Editors choice? You have got to be kidding me.
  • The0ne - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    I really have to say that most of you speaking about quality have little to no clue what you're actually referring to or talking about. I've worked in various engineering discipline to know that most of the "opinions" of this subject matter is in fact a personal one.

    At least do some research and/or go out and TOUCH the materials before making such comments. There's Walmart and Best Buy almost everywhere so it shouldn't be too difficult.

    Yes, I realize that ingrained perceptions are very difficult to overcome but man, so people are just dense.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    Which of course is posted by a Mac fanboy. Thanks, darwinOSX for being so open to other options.

    Would I prefer a nicer aluminum body? Sure I would! But that would also increase costs substantially. I would rather have a better LCD first, then a better construction. At that point we're looking at $1000, just like the aluminum MacBook, but it would still have substantially faster graphics and better battery life when you want it. Anyway, that's why the UL80Vt is a Silver and not a Gold.

    As it stands, I have looked at dozens of laptops during the past year and these are both far better than competing models (i.e. similar pricing). We've praised MacBooks plenty, and they still have a place for anyone buying a laptop. If you don't want to run OS X, though, Apple has little to offer. "DUAL BOOT! And get 30% less battery life under Windows because we don't think anyone should even consider something other than OS X!" Thanks but no thanks.
  • darwinosx - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    I'll take the MacBook in a heartbeat over this. I've seen the aluminum MacBook at $1049 at MacConnection and the plastic Macbook at $849. No contest over this cheapo Asus.

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