Friday, September 18, 2009

If only I had the money... 13" ultra-portable looks great

ASUS has just put out a new "ultra-portable", that is, something between a netbook and a full laptop, that looks great. If only I had $800 to spare, I'd really be tempted. (Right now, that $800 goes to the house payment...)

Basically, what it comes down to for non-techies, is that it is priced closer to a netbook, and has battery life closer to a netbook (and better than many). But it is as fast as many current-generation laptops. As one example, it can handle 720p HD video, which most netbooks can't handle.

Specifically, netbooks generally have an Atom processor and 1GB of memory. But this has a version of the Core 2 Duo instead, with 4GB of DDR3 (newer and faster) memory.

As a bonus, this comes with Vista Premium, while netbooks only have seven-year-old XP or Linux, a non-Windows operating system that you have to totally relearn, because they can't handle Vista, which this handles quite well. And this comes with a free upgrade to Windows 7 when that comes out next month, which will increase its performance significantly.

More details, for those so minded:

HotHardware just reviewed this unit, and tested it against units that cost a lot more; the Dell Studio XPS 13 was the only one that beat it in all performance tests, but that costs 50% more (almost $1200 for a 500GB drive and LED-lit screen vs the ASUS for $799 that incudes both standard) and has less than half the battery life (2:23 vs 4:53). It's advertised by ASUS to have 12 hours battery life, but that's probably sitting idle; the testing was done with a bright display and WiFi on (includes Wireless N on-board, and Bluetooth). It's also lighter - 3.7lb vs 4.9lb). And much cooler, thermally-speaking - a regular Core 2 Duo may be faster than the ultra-low voltage version this uses, but it's also a lot hotter. That means it's harder on the legs if it's really used as a laptop.

And, nice to my preference, this one has a wider screen - 1366x768 vs 1280x800); it trades 32 pixels in height for 85 pixels of width. The reviewer didn't like the glossy screen, but I do. It may be a "fingerprint magnet", but a piece of microfiber cloth will clean that up easily enough. Glossy means deeper blacks, though it also means you may get more glare. It's a matter of preference. It's not the 1920x1200 I had on a 15.4" Dell I used to have, but it's better than most. And it also costs half the $1400 that the Dell cost ...and this one is also much faster, has four times the memory, and a larger hard drive... If only I had $800 to spare...

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