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Pre-installed Software (Draw)
Both laptops shipped with an equivalent amount of utilities from the manufacturer,
mostly of dubious value. The UL30A had more consumer software pre-installed
like Adobe Air, Cyberlink LabelPrint and Cyber2Go, Google Toolbar, Norton Internet
Security and Skype. The ThinkPad was more business-oriented in this area, with
lots of pre-loaded updates for Visual C++, SQL Server, and Office, and extra
utilities related to its WiMAX, WWAN and GPS capabilities including activation
programs for AT&T and Verizon's respective mobile internet services.
Build Quality (Winner: Lenovo)
The build quality of both machines is better than you would expect for the
$700~$900 range. The UL30A has a nice aluminum cover, but overall we would say
the ThinkPad is more sturdy. The palm rest on the right side of the keyboard
on the Asus is noticeably weak, as is the keyboard in general. In addition,the
battery isn't quite secure; we found if you shake the UL30A slightly from back
to front, you can hear the battery rattle. The Edge 13 feels more solid all
the way around, the best we've seen in a sub-$1000 laptop. The construction
is not quite as durable as previous incarnations of the ThinkPad line though.
It looks like a few corners were cut to get the price down.
Screen (Winner: Asus)
The Edge 13's screen is slightly less reflective than the UL30A, and its viewing
angles are a bit better as well. However, it is fairly dark so the brightness
level has to be set quite high even for indoor use. It also has worse contrast,
producing gray looking blacks, and colors in general look a bit hazy and washed
out. The UL30A screen is the opposite, very bright with rich blacks and colors
that pop, perhaps a little over-saturated, but more pleasing to the eye. It's
perfect for watching movies, etc.
Webcam (Winner: Lenovo)
Both laptops are equipped with low resolution 0.3 megapixel webcams, but the
Lenovo's has a distinct advantages. Compared to most integrated webcams, it
picks up light very well and is significantly less grainy and blurry, particularly
in low light. The webcam on the UL30A is more typical, that is to say, lousy.
It seems like Asus didn't put any thought into this particular feature, just
throwing one on there because it's standard.
Speakers (Winner: Asus)
The UL30A's speakers are much bigger and sound substantially better. The sound
they produce is a little muffled, but otherwise well-balanced. The ThinkPad
sounds terribly tinny, making high notes break up and degrade into loud static.
The Edge 13 may have the worst speakers we've ever heard on a laptop.
Trackpad (Winner: Lenovo)
The Edge 13 offers the trackpoint option and its touchpad is smoother and more
comfortable. The separated buttons are also easier to press. The UL30A's dimpled
touchpad offers a little bit too much resistance, and the single button is a
little lower than we'd like, resulting in difficulty when trying to engage if
with the side of the thumb.
Keyboard (Winner: Lenovo)
The UL30A keyboard is slightly bigger, but the keys are smaller because they
have placed the Delete, Home/End, PgUp/Dn in the last column on the right, and
have spaced the keys further apart. On the ThinkPad, the Delete and Home/End
keys are on the small top row next to the function keys, and the PgUp/Dn keys
are on either side of the Up directional key, all of which are very small. This
isn't ideal if you use these keys frequently.
If you ignore the layout, the ThinkPad has the clear edge as it more closely
approximates a desktop keyboard. The keys are bigger, less shallow, and spring
up with more force, giving far superior tactile feedback. The whole keyboard
feels stronger and has almost no flex. Keyboard flex on the UL30A is significant;
when you press down on it, particularly on the left side or the bottom row (except
the space bar) all the keys in the area sink in.
In addition, the Lenovo allows you to swap the Fn and Ctrl keys on the left
side in the BIOS depending on which layout you're more used to. If you rarely
use the function keys, you can also make the top row act as direct shortcuts
for adjusting brightness, volume, etc. by default without having to use the
Fn key. Oh, and did we mention the Lenovo keyboard is spill-proof?
Comparable System sound files:
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