With an edge-to-edge glossy screen, dual-core chip and supermodel looks, the ultrathin Asus UX30-QX011C laptop is something of a tribute act to the Apple MacBook Air.

And the Asus UX30-QX011C's upmarket appearance is matched by punchy performance, 4GB RAM helping it to a WorldBench 6 score of 72. Not bad for a PC this portable, and certainly fast enough to handle everyday tasks: even with Windows Vista on board. Battery life is pretty healthy too, the UX30 having sufficient stamina to last for almost five-and-a-half hours in our real-world Mobile Mark test.

The Asus UX30-QX011C feels lighter than its 1.5kg, possibly because it is so thin. It's certainly an attention grabber: even within the tech-fatigued confines of our office, the Asus elicited oohs and aahs wherever it lay.

That reflective 13.3in screen is a problem, however. It's no worse than many other glossies, albeit the colour is a tad muted, but even a subject as beautiful as your reviewer gets tired of looking at his own reflection when trying to type. (The Asus UX30-QX011C has a webcam for this, anyway.)

There's another screen issue: on a couple of occasions when we were using the Asus UX30-QX011C, a blob appeared on the centre of the screen, similar to the 'leaking' effect that happens when a backlit LCD is cracked. We assume this was caused by light pressure being applied to the back of the lid. It's possible this is a flaw that affects only our sample, but it does suggest the UX30 is a little fragile: not good in an ultraportable workhorse.

Input devices are a personal choice, and other users may not have a problem with the Asus UX30-QX011C's smaller-than-usual keys. We found them a little tricky to use.

We simply couldn't get on with the Asus UX30-QX011C's trackpad, which is large, with heavy raised dimples. This more tactile surface is supposed to make it easier to track without looking, but in our tests it meant the trackpad became tacky within minutes. It may be that our digits are particularly greasy - although this isn't something we've noticed before. It certainly made our surfing less accurate.

The Asus UX30-QX011C is blessed with decent connectivity. As well as Bluetooth, 802.11n wireless and a front-facing SD card slot, it has three USB, mini DisplayPort, HDMI, ethernet and a headphone jack. The hardware ports are hidden behind plastic doors. Whether this will be a smart way of retaining the laptop's stylish lines, or a hindrance sufficiently flimsy to add to the Asus' capacity to break, is a matter of opinion. We found the flaps irritating.

The Asus UX30-QX011C also enjoys Asus Express Gate. This proprietary technology comprises the Linux environment 'Splashtop' integrated on to the PC's motherboard. Asus claims this takes only 8 seconds to let you boot into online applications such as web-browsing with Firefox, email and Skype. Our tests bear this out and, while the bare-bones Splashtop is not an environment you'll want to spend time in, it's serviceable for the tasks required.

NEXT: our expert verdict >>

Asus UX30-QX011C: Specs

  • 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400
  • 3MB L2 cache
  • 13.3in (1366 x 768) gloss LCD
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Intel GS45 Express chipset
  • 4GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • 500GB 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 18.0mm chiclet keyboard
  • 98 x 50mm trackpad
  • Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics
  • mini DisplayPort, HDMI
  • 3x USB 2.0
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • SD card reader
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • integrated webcam
  • lithium­polymer (3-cell) 3250mAh
  • 322 x 222 x 19.6mm
  • 1.45kg
  • 1.4GHz Intel Core 2 Duo SU9400
  • 3MB L2 cache
  • 13.3in (1366 x 768) gloss LCD
  • Microsoft Windows Vista Home Premium
  • Intel GS45 Express chipset
  • 4GB DDR2-800 RAM
  • 500GB 5400rpm SATA HDD
  • 18.0mm chiclet keyboard
  • 98 x 50mm trackpad
  • Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics
  • mini DisplayPort, HDMI
  • 3x USB 2.0
  • 3.5mm headphone jack
  • SD card reader
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • integrated webcam
  • lithium­polymer (3-cell) 3250mAh
  • 322 x 222 x 19.6mm
  • 1.45kg

OUR VERDICT

Good looking, lightweight and a decent performer, the Asus UX30-QX011C wins points for its solid spec at a sub-£1,000 price. We can't understand why it runs Vista, however, and there are enough gripes with the hardware to tempts us to look elsewhere.

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