Asus UL80Vt: A CULV Laptop with Hybrid Graphics

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Audio Recordings

Comparable System sound files:

  • Gateway EC1803h running on AC at 0.6m
    — fan off (18 dBA)
    — fan set to low (20 dBA)
    — idle (24 dBA)
    — during Xvid playback (26 dBA)
    — during x264 playback & full load (29 dBA)

FINAL THOUGHTS

On a typical laptop with discrete graphics, even if you only play games on AC power, battery life is usually subpar compared to a model with integrated video. The Asus UL80Vt, with its big battery and Hybrid Graphics, breaks this long-held construct, allowing budget gamers to enjoy decent 3D performance without cutting into battery life when they're unplugged and using their notebook for less stressful tasks. With the discrete GeForce G210M GPU enabled, the UL80Vt's run time is impressive in its own right, but switching to Intel's integrated GMA 4500MHD graphics results in astounding battery life, exceeding even that of the Eee 1005HA, an Atom powered netbook! It's not quite the 12 hours that Asus claims but then again, we weren't able to run our sample at stock speeds, so perhaps something closer to 10 hours is within the realm of possibility. The machine also runs fairly cool and quiet and is lighter and thinner than most 14" notebooks. Spec-wise, the only thing you sacrifice choosing the UL80Vt over a comparably priced mainstream laptop with discrete graphics is Bluetooth, and some processing power (which is made up in part through overclocking).

While we were impressed with everything under the hood, the rest of the UL80Vt could use some work. The amount of flex around the keyboard and palm rest (particularly on the right side) indicates mediocre build quality — the only portion of the laptop that really feels solid is the aluminum cover. The keyboard and trackpad are also substandard — they both look great, but when put to use they are lacking compared to laptops we've used in the past. The keys seem weak, not providing enough resistance and springing back meekly after being depressed. The touchpad surface while large is a little too gritty, and the one-piece button is sunken down when it should be raised for easier access. The webcam is lousy as are the speakers, but its rare to find a good set on any laptop. The screen is adequate — bright and crisp, but colors don't quite pop.

While the unit looks very sleek and professional and has an excellent combination of hardware inside, it's obvious they've cut a few corners and given little thought to some of the peripherals, namely the keyboard and trackpad. If you can overlook these weaknesses, the UL80Vt excels as a jack-of-all trades laptop, something of a rarity. For those who don't play games and have no need for the overclocking feature, the "A" series with only integrated graphics seems preferable as they are much cheaper, deliver enough performance for most users and can play high definition video efficiently.

You may also want to consider a smaller machine if portability is an issue — while the UL80Vt is slimmer than a typical 14" laptop, we would hesitate to casually throw it in a bag to take with us on vacation. Perhaps we've been spoiled by netbooks, but a smaller unit closer to 3lb like the 12" UL20A is preferable in this regard, as long as you can live without an optical drive.

Our thanks to Asus for the UL80Vt-A1 sample.

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