Asus UL20FT-A1, Great Value For A 12-inch Mini Laptop
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Today we have a look at a very attractive 12-inch mini laptop launched by Asus back in 2010. It is the model UL20FT-A1 which comes with a classy and sturdy brushed metal casing that some of you may consider as being a bit unassuming. It has a curb weight of 3.4 pounds and it does not attract any fingerprints or smudges unlike many other mini laptops, ultrabooks and laptops nowadays that have a glossy finish. Open the laptop and you will notice that it has been fitted with a plastic deck that has a silver finish and a rather subtle cube pattern which we consider that it adds elegancy to the mini laptop, a pattern which continues over to the ridged touchpad.
On the left spine of the Asus UL20FT-A1 you will have access to the system’s USB 2.0 port, HDMI port, along with the usual headphone and microphone jacks. On the right side Asus has fitted two additional USB 2.0 ports, a five-in-one memory card reader, Ethernet port and VGA out as well. Sitting above the keyboard on the right is the power button, while on the left is a button which will fire up the Express Gate instant-on operating system when the mini laptop is turned off. This button can also be used for switching between the available power profiles when the laptop is working.
When it comes down to keyboards, Asus is not one of those manufacturers known to make good ones like Lenovo for example, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise to you that the one on this UL20FT-A1 is not exceptional. However, we do have to appreciate that it shows minimal signs of flex while the keys are providing a nice and tactile feedback. You will most likely not like that the right Shift keys has been shrunken.
As for the touchpad sitting below, many who have used it said that it simply way too stiff plus it also is on the small side. Since there isn’t a lot of real estate available (2.5 x 1.5 inches), performing multitouch gestures can be a difficult thing to do, a lot harder than on the touchpad of the 1215N which measures 3.3 x 1.9 inches.
The Asus UL20FT-A1 comes with a 12.1-inch screen that has a maximum resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels (720p). Although this screen is wearing a glossy coating, the good news is that you won’t notice too much glare, a common problem among laptops nowadays. Although the screen could have been a little bit brighter, it’s still suitable for watching high definition content.
Asus has fitted this mini laptop with Altec Lansing speakers that benefit from the SRS technology. You can easily optimize the audio settings for games, movies and music by using the control panel. We should mention that these speakers are mounted on the front and they manage to get quite loud, but if you turn the volume all the way up you will probably notice some distortions.
At the time of its launch this mini laptop or better said ultraportable carried a retail price tag of $629 which made it about $100 more expensive in comparison to other models that have the same screen size. The reason why this Asus UL20FT-A1 was more expensive is due to the inclusion of a considerably more powerful Intel Core i3-330UM low-voltage processor clocked at 1.20 GHz. This CPU is paired with 2GB of DDR3 memory and allows the system to score almost 4,000 in PCMark Vantage, which is considerably more than what 11- and 12-inch laptops of those days were capable of.
The aforementioned 1215N cost only $499 but it has a way less powerful dual core Intel Atom processor running at 1.80 GHz, managing to score just a little over 1,900 in the same test. Another model available at that time was the Toshiba T215D, priced at approximately $450 which came with an AMD Athlon II processor running at 1.70 GHz, enough to score almost 2,000 points in PCMark Vantage.
As far as the graphics power is concerned, the Asus UL20FT-A1 comes with an integrated Intel HD chip which as you can imagine wasn’t developed for heavy gaming. It is capable of running World of Warcraft at a resolution of 1,024 x 768 pixels at just 23 FPS, while at native resolution it barely hits 10 FPS which makes it unplayable. If you test this system in 3DMark06 you will only get a score of 1,256.
On the 320GB SATA HDD spinning at 5,400 rpm you are going to find a bunch of Asus programs, such as LifeFrame which is useful for recording and sharing videos. Also on board is the Power4Gear Hybrid for fiddling with the power settings, along with another piece of software called SmartLogon which is designed for using facial recognition with the help of the 0.3 megapixel webcam that this ultraportable comes with. Aside from these programs you will also find a trial version of Microsoft Office 2010, as well as Kindle for PC, Syncables Desktop and Trend Micro Internet Security (trial version).
This hard drive is not very fast since the Asus UL20FT-A1 needs almost one and a half minute to boot Windows 7, which is a lot more than the average in this segment. As you would expect, the transfer speeds are far from being stellar so you might want to consider upgrading to either a 7,200 rpm hard drive or to a considerably faster (and more expensive) solid state drive but keep in mind that SSDs only come in small capacities. The good news is that the prices for solid state drives have plummeted in the last few months and if this trend continues in the years to come, SSDs will get a lot cheaper and hopefully will be available in higher capacities.
As far as the performance of the battery is concerned, the six-cell unit that Asus has fitted this model can survive for approximately four and a half hours in the LAPTOP Battery Test which as most of you know consists of doing web surfing over a wireless network. This isn’t a great figure since the average in this segment is of about 60 minutes more.