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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  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    I'm curious to see how it works as well. I'm thinking CULV + 9400M would have accomplished much the same thing, but perhaps not. Stay tuned....
  • yacoub - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    Here's hoping it comes with a quality display! ;)
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, December 16, 2009 - link

    One word: NOPE!

    Okay, more than one word: When you boot up a laptop for the first time and the black background of the Windows loading screen looks more like dark gray, you know the contrast ratio is crap. Bleh.
  • Ditiris - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    I finally switched my HTPC over to Windows 7 and noticed that it had a mind of its own with regard to power settings.

    power settings, change plan settings, change advanced power settings, expand Sleep and Allow wake timers, Disable any that are there

    That fixed all my issues, even though I didn't have any sleep/wake timers, but disabling the ability seems to be important.

    I haven't had any issues with my Vista machines (FWIW I'm using High Performance and I specifically went into the Advanced screen and disabled all sleep options).
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    The wake events are already disabled, unfortunately. Some laptops exhibit the problem less than others (driver related perhaps), but my best guess is that somewhere there's a rogue line of code that gets invoked on occasion. I've actually fooled around hacking the registry on my personal laptop in order to keep the problem from reoccurring, but that was neither fun nor recommended for the faint of heart!
  • mczak - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    Again I have to wonder what the point of the OC CULV chip is. There's a ~10W difference (at full cpu load) between OC and non-OC, which means it is almost certainly also overvolted, but more importantly, that difference is larger than the TDP difference between CULV parts and (slightly faster) LV parts.
    Looks to me like using a LV part instead of OC CULV would be both a bit faster plus actually offer slightly more battery life (unless, of course, you use stock setting of the CULV).
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    It's pretty much giving users the ability to run with long battery life and when desired get better performance. If it were an on-the-fly setting, it would be a lot better. Anyway, even overclocked the SU7300 in the UL80Vt idles at what appears to be 2W, where something like the P8600 appears to idle at close to twice that (4-5W). It would be interesting to see some of the LV CPUs in a similar system, certainly... SL9600 anyone? Or maybe ASUS should grab an SL9380 and enable the same Turbo33 functionality. 1.8GHz stock and 2.4GHz overclocked. That would be the equivalent of P8600 (with 6MB cache) but hopefully allow lower power at idle.
  • kagey - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    BTW - Nice reviews!

    I may have missed this so slap me if I did but It would be helpful including some sort of standard about these two in the evaluation of a laptop. I feel these two points are just as important as performance and battery life.
    Both are subjective but should be able to be measured while web surfing, gaming, and full load.

    Noise factor of the fans. I hate it when you start doing something on the laptop and all of sudden the fans kick in and sound like a jet taking off. It would be nice if you could come up with some standards in the way of noise.

    Heat - the palm rest when typing, touchpad / mouse area, underneath i.e. (keeping your legs nice and warm - yeah I know not the most optimal position for a laptop), and exhaust areas.

    Thanks for listening.
  • JarredWalton - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    I didn't mention either, but I did think about them during the review process. For the record, the UL80Vt is very quiet and cool running. When the fans kick up to higher speeds, it still remains a lot quieter than most laptops... maybe around 37-40 dB max, and it doesn't happen unless you put a heavy load (100% CPU or running games) on the system.

    The G51J gets louder, but it's not as bad as the W870CU. For most tasks it will stay under ~35dB, but gaming will bump it up to around 39-41dB. Heat was not an issue on the G51J in my experience; the palm rest gets warm, perhaps up to 90F, and the bottom is the same except for the top-right corner (directly under the CPU/GPU "circle") which gets over 100F for sure.
  • Wesleyrpg - Tuesday, December 15, 2009 - link

    hey guys, love the asus g51j, had one for a few days myself!

    only problem is the mic on my one makes me sound like im in a subway (tried all the settings i could think of!).....have you guys had a chance to test your mic on livemessenger/ventrilo???

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