Asus UL30A & Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13 CULV Notebooks

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Asus UL30A vs. Lenovo Thinkpad Edge 13

March 9, 2010 by Lawrence Lee

Product Asus UL30A Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13
Manufacturer ASUSTeK Lenovo
Street Price US$700~$730 US$799~$899

Intel's CULV (Consumer Ultra-Low Voltage) processors are low power chips that help bridge the performance and battery life gap between netbooks and mainstream laptops. Take the Core 2 Duo SU7300 as an example. While it runs at only 1.3GHz (standard notebooks typically have CPUs clocked at 2GHz+), the SU7300 has a thermal design power of only 10W. The mainstream T6000 series, now common in most lower-priced notebooks, is much harder on battery life as it is rated for 35W. A machine running a SU7300 doesn't need as big a battery, and its lower power draw allows the cooling system and surrounding chassis to be smaller. The only tradeoff is processing power, though even at 1.3GHz, it is much faster than any Atom-based solution, fast enough not to bog during the tasks that most notebook users perform routinely.

We previously reviewed the SU7300 powered Asus UL80Vt which could switch between a discrete Nvidia video card and the integrated Intel graphics, and we were greatly impressed by its slender profile and ridiculously longbattery life. However, with a 14" screen and a weight of 4.4lb, it's a heavyweight by today's portability standards. This time around we have a pair of SU7300 laptops from Asus and Lenovo with 13.3" screens. This is a size we consider to be in the sweet spot, a good balance between high mobility and usable screen/keyboard size. Both are about one inch thick and weigh in at approximately four pounds. They have the same functionality and features as most larger notebooks, except they lack an optical drive, which is becoming decreasingly important in the digital age.

The Asus UL30A.

The Asus UL30A is a sleek looking silver machine. Physically, it resembles the UL80Vt, but smaller, and only the keys, screen and bezel are black. It also has a solid brush aluminum cover behind the screen rather than plastic, so it's sturdier and less likely to get scratched and/or smudged. For those who would prefer discrete/switchable graphics, Asus also offers themore expensive UL30Vt.

The Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13.

The ThinkPad line from IBM/Lenovo is well known for their utilitarian appearance and rigid construction. The Edge 13 is bit of a departure, as both the top cover and screen are glossy, the corners are rounded, and the color scheme is a fetching blend of black with silver trim — it actually looks attractive! Once the screen is popped open, ThinkPad fans are greeted with a firm, but non-rubberized matte finish palm rest, a big comfortable keyboard, and the familiar plain-looking trackpad and signature red pointing stick.

Model Asus UL30A* Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 13
13.3", 1366x768, glossy LED-backlit
Intel® Core™ 2 Duo SU7300 Processor
(1.30GHz, 800MHz FSB, 3MB L2 cache, 10W)
Intel GS45 Express
Intel GMA 4500MHD
4GB DDR3 PC3-8500
320GB 5400RPM
Optical Drive
Networking 10/100 ethernet, 802.11n Gigabit ethernet, 802.11n, WiMAX, WWAN + GPS
No Bluetooth Version 2.1 + EDR
0.3 megapixel (640x480)
Card Reader
ELAN multi-gesture touchpad Multi-gesture touchpad with TrackPoint
8-cell 5600 mAh 84Wh 6-cell 5600 mAh 63Wh
Physical Dimensions (measured)
32.1 x 23.0 x 1.9~2.4 cm (W x D x H)
1.80kg (4.0lb)
32.1 x 22.7 x 1.9~2.6 cm (W x D x H)
1.78kg (3.9lb)
Operating System
Windows 7 Home Premium 64* Windows 7 Professional 64
Retail Price ~$699 ~$899
*Our sample was a UL30A-A1 with Vista Home Premium; this model has now been replaced with the UL30A-A2, the exact same machine but with Windows 7. The UL30A was tested with Windows 7 to remove the operating system as a testing variable.

As you can see the two laptops have very similar specifications, but the ThinkPad configuration we received is top-of-the-line, placing emphasis on connectivity with built-in gigabit ethernet (the Asus surprisingly only has 10/100 ethernet), WiMAX, 3G with GPS, and Bluetooth, driving up the price to $900, $200 higher than the UL30A. Lenovo sells a more comparable configuration to the UL30A for $800 that includes gigabit ethernet, 802.11n, and Bluetooth only. AMD variants of the Edge, powered by Neo X2 processors, start at $580, but they are slower and less energy efficient compared to Intel's CULV chips.

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