Look out, MacBook Air? Asustek shows off new thin, light UL laptop family

Asustek's UL series (see image, below) may have features the MacBook Air lacks, but the Air beats them on CPU power

Asustek took the wraps off a new family of thin, light laptop PCs designed for long battery life on Monday, the UnLimited family, or UL notebook PCs.

The laptops update an earlier line of U-series devices designed around CULV (consumer ultra-low voltage) microprocessors from Intel. Both series were designed with Apple's MacBook Air in mind, thin and light for portability. Some laptops in the Asustek UL family have features the MacBook Air lacks, such as lower prices, larger screens and DVD drives, but the MacBook Air beats the entire UL series on processing power.

Every laptop in the new UL series from Asustek is less than 1 inch (25.4 millimeters) thick. They each have a brushed aluminum chassis and components designed to squeeze the maximum battery life out of the system.

"We hope to make this the new standard in notebook computers, thin and light with long battery life," said Jerry Shen, CEO of Asustek, at a news conference in Taipei.

Asustek also may have made some breakthroughs in battery performance. The company claims the laptops offer up to 12 hours of power, depending on the configuration and usage. Third party assessments of the devices were not immediately available. Some of the UL series laptops can hold 8-cell batteries, which will give far longer battery life, but also add considerable weight to a laptop.

All of Asus's UL series laptops come with the latest 1.3GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 processors and Intel GS45 chipsets inside as well as 0.3-megapixel Web cams and Microsoft Windows Vista Premium OSs. They are upgradeable to Windows 7, according to information from Asustek.

Of the devices shown on Monday, the UL50Vg laptop boasts the largest screen at 15.6 inches, and price, at NT$35,900 (US$1,105). The laptop also includes Nvidia GeForce G 210M graphics, a 500GB hard disk drive (HDD) and a DVD Super Multi drive, and can hold up to 4GB of 800MHz DDR2 (double data rate, second generation) DRAM. The price is a suggested retail price from Asustek and does not say how much DRAM is included in that price.

The suggested retail prices are for Taiwan. A company representative declined to name prices for other markets because tariffs and other factors mean prices vary.

The UL80VT with a 14-inch screen, Nvidia GeForce G 210M graphics, a 500GB hard disk drive, DVD Super Multi drive and up to 4GB of 1066MHz DDR3 (double data rate, third generation) DRAM carries a suggested retail price of NT$34,900 (US$1,074). Again, the company did not say how much DRAM was included in that price.

The UL30A, with a 13.3-inch screen, a 500GB HDD and up to 4GB of 1066MHz DDR3 was priced at NT$33,900 (US$1,043).

The only sub-US$1000 laptop in the series was the UL20A, which has a 12.1-inch screen, 320GB HDD, up to 4GB of 800MHz DDR2, and a suggested retail price of NT$31,900 (US$980).

The devices will be in stores starting Sep. 22.

Asustek UL20A
Asustek's new UL20A will likely cost under $1000.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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