Asus UL30A & Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 CULV Notebooks

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The Asus UL30A and Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 both have a glossy LED-backlit screen, a Core 2 Duo processor running at 1.3GHz, integrated Intel graphics with HDMI out, 4GB of RAM, a 320GB 5400 RPM hard drive, and 802.11n. The physical dimensions too are almost identical with only slight variations in thickness and weight. Yet despite all the similarities on the inside and out, these two laptops have distinct, almost polar personalities.

The UL30A has broader appeal. The keyboard, trackpad, and webcam are subpar compared to the Edge 13, but its speakers and screen are heads and shoulders above the Lenovo; it's a far superior choice for movies, music, etc. Its energy efficiency and large battery allow it to last an entire business day without recharging. It also runs cooler than the Edge 13 and is much quieter on load thanks to a lower CPU operating voltage. The biggest drawback is the keyboard with its shallow, weak keys and high degree of flex.

Our Edge 13 sample was a top-of-the line model with Bluetooth, WiMAX, 3G, and GPS support, but even without these features, you can easily tell that it's a business-oriented laptop at heart. It has a decent webcam, comfortable trackpad and a superb keyboard. Everything that stands out about the Edge 13 is about getting stuff done efficiently. The updated aesthetics makes it the first ThinkPad that doesn't look completely Spartan, but thanks to its high build quality, it stays true to the ThinkPad's workhorse reputation. The one area we feel should be improved is the LCD which looks pale, almost sickly compared to most other notebooks. We also wouldn't mind a little extra battery life as it would compliment the extra mobile wireless connectivity.

The UL30A can be found for $700, while the reviewed Edge 13 configuration retails for $900. Lenovo offers a more comparable Edge 13 with Bluetooth and gigabit ethernet only (no WiMAX or 3G) for about $800. The UL30A may give you a better media experience and longer untethered run time, but if you need more of a business workhorse with great keyboard, strong construction and Windows 7 Pro, the Edge 13 may be worth the extra money, even with the inferior screen and battery life.

Our thanks to ASUSTeK and Lenovo for UL30A and ThinkPad Edge 13 samples.

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