The UL50vs is a decent 15.6in screen notebook with slight CPU overclocking capabilities, a nice aesthetic finish, and good graphical display capabilities that the majority of people will find acceptable. However, there are flaws, such as the keyboard being off centre and the resolution of the screen not being anywhere near its potential.
Large screen; good Nvidia GPU; a bit of CPU overclocking.
Grainy display; low resolution screen; keyboard off centre; high price.
Intel Core2 Duo processor SU7300 1.3GHz, Windows 7 Ultimate, Intel GS45 Express chipset +ICH9M, DDR3 1066MHz SDRAM 4GB SDRAM, 15.6in HD LED backlight display, Nvidia GeForce G 210M, 160GB SSD, DVD Super Multi Drive, SD, MMC, MS, MS-Pro, XD, 0.3-megapixel webcam, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Ethernet, Altec Lansing speakers, SRS Premium Sound, four-cell battery, optional eight-cell battery.
The UL50vs falls under the superior mobility series in Asustek's range of 15in notebooks.
The casing of the notebook is fairly attractive if you happen to like black, with its brushed black aluminium lid and black plastic shell, keyboard and palm rest. For a larger screened laptop its size and weight has been kept down. The UL50 is 386mm wide, 259mm deep and 264mm thick, and weighs 2.1kg. It's no Macbook Air, but it's closer in screen size and overall dimensions to a Macbook Pro, which is 364mm wide, 249mm deep and 241mm thick and weighs 2.49kg.
The UL50 has an Intel Core Duo 2 SU7300 1.3Ghz processor, which isn't all that fast although it is a low power chip. Asus has added technology it calls Turbo 33, and we'll just call it overclocking. Apparently it's possible to overclock this chip to get a little more out of it, and Asus claims a 33 per cent overall performance gain but we didn't see that level of improvement.
The UL50 has power settings that are separate from Windows 7, known as Power4Gear, and that's where overclocking can be set to add three per cent CPU speed. In the BIOS we were manually able to set the UL50vs to the maximum five per cent overclock, and that was stable enough to use.
The Asus UL50 uses the GS45 chipset, with graphical abilities based around the accompanying Intel Graphics Media Accelerator GPU X4500. This GPU isn't particularly well known for its amazing ability, but Asus has added the discrete Nvidia GeForce G210M GPU, with 512MB of GDDR3 Video RAM to the mix. This is switchable back and forth from Intel to Nvidia graphics, much like the settings on the MSI X600, which is based around the rival ATI Mobility Radeon HD 4300. As expected, HD media struggled under the basic settings, but worked well with the Nvidia G210M when it was engaged.
The screen on the UL50 is a good size, which is not always expected on laptops this light and thin. The 15.6in display, however, is let down by its lower than expected resolution of 1,366 x 768, since it seems rather grainy on appearance, especially with a white background. Where the screen does excel is in its 16:9 format, which is one of the key selling points of the UL50. Widescreen video playback comes across very well indeed with this display ratio, almost as good as an actual HD ready TV screen. But one can't expect to get a lot of text on the display, from either web sites or a Word document, as a maximum we found viewable was around the 500 word mark. Not the most ideal form factor or resolution for a laptop, but if you are buying the device as a frequent media watcher then it works well enough in that role.