When I first saw the Asus UL20FT, it immediately got my attention with its black, brushed-metal body and solid construction giving it an elegant look. Being an upgrade to the Asus UL20 series, it now comes with a Core i3 CPU. See our full review after the jump.
The UL20FT is the newest 12.1″ notebook in Asus’ ultraportable category. It’s the more streamlined and better designed cousin of the Eee PC 12xx series. We reviewed the Asus UL20 before and I’d encourage you to read over it for some perspective.
This unit has a certain heft to it which makes sense since the lid cover is made up of aluminum instead of just hard polymer. The matte finish on the inside spreads from the palm rest all the way around. The body looks thin since it somewhat tapers at the edges but not the thinnest we’ve seen in this category (IMO, still under 1-inch thick though).
The full-sized keyboard features chiclet-type keys that are well-spaced and comfortable to use. The trackpad area is a bit small (contiguous with the palm-rest and the only demarcation are small pimple-holes that provides some friction to the touch). The clicker buttons are not separated between the left and the right button.
Just like the old UL20 model, the clickers are very hard and cumbersome to use, bordering on being really useless. After about a month of regular use, it makes that creaking sound when I press it down.
The display screen is glossy and produces a nice crisp and bright display at 1366×768 pixel resolution. As usual, the shiny surface attracts a lot of smudges and finger prints as well a glare when used outdoors or against bright light sources.
Powered by an ultra-mobile Core i3 330UM processor (with no Turbo Boost feature), it only runs at a low 1.2GHz dual-core but breezes thru all the load. I’ve gone ahead and upgraded the HDD to 500GB and the RAM to 4GB but the original specs of the notebook is as follows:
12.1â€³ display @ 1366Ã—768
Intel Core i3 330UM ULV @ 1.2GHz
4GB DDR3 RAM (up from 2GB stock)
500GB HDD (up from 320GB stock)
Intel Graphics Media Accelerator HD
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
3 x USB 2.0 ports
Windows 7 Home Premium
Improvements over the old UL series is the inclusion of an HDMI port and a much better and louder built-in speakers.
Windows Experience Index gives it a nice sub-score of 5.4 for the Core i3 processor while the Intel HD Graphics got a 4.7 on gaming sub-score.
For an ultraportable and a 1.2GHz Core i3 processor, the system performs nicely and runs smoothly. No problem with HD videos and even with streaming 1080p YouTube HD. Was even able to install and play Starcraft 2 albeit with the settings all on low (the graphics was certainly the bottleneck).
The battery is only rated at 4400mAh (just like the old UL series) and thus could not give us more than average battery life. I was able push it to just a little over 4 hours at power-saving mode but on regular use, it’s somewhere around 3 hours or so. IMO, this is the biggest drawback of the unit. Would have been great if Asus placed in at least a 5600mAh battery. That would have given us 5 to 6 hours on a single charge.
The Asus UL20FT is a promising notebook in the ultraportable category. The Core i3 processor, design and solid build quality are its best points but the shortcomings (battery life and trackpad) somewhat spoils the excitement. The unti is not officially released in the Philippines but if it ever will, I suspect the price range would be somewhere between Php30k and Php35k (just saw the equivalent Acer TimelineX with similar specs selling for Php32k in stores).