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Asus UL30A - Keyboard, Touchpad & Audio-Visual
Like so many laptops at the moment, the Asus UL30A adopts the isolation-style keyboard and to good effect, too. Its layout is very good, with all the keys being exactly where you'd expect. Asus has even included Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys down the right side of the keyboard, though we'd have preferred it if the cursor keys - whose secondary functions are playback control - were slightly withdrawn.
What makes the UL30A particularly good to type on, though, are the key actions. They strike a nice balance between depth and crispness of response, while having the added benefit of being unusually quiet - a nice bonus if you often work in libraries or lecture halls. Even a small amount of flex in the centre of the keyboard can't detract from an excellent experience.
Like a lot of the Asus laptops and netbooks, the UL30A's glossy finish is interrupted by a dimpled surface that outlines the touchpad. This proves a surprisingly nice surface to interact with, and though the buttons - which form one rocker switch - initially feel a tad stiff, in actual fact they offer decent feedback. There's support for two-finger scrolling, but no other multi-touch goodness that we could tell.
For such a reasonably priced laptop the UL30A has a decent display. It has all the usual modern traits: a glossy, reflective finish; 1,366 x 768 native resolution; and some slightly awkward horizontal viewing angles. However, in all the important ways, such as colours, contrast and brightness, it doesn't disappoint.
Even the speakers are better than average, though that isn't saying a great deal really. They still lack the sort of mid-range punch necessary for truly pleasing audio, but the speakers - which have Altec Lansing and SRS branding, if that's worth anything at all - reach good volumes and with some clarity. They're definitely better than the speakers on many competing laptops.
One concern we do have about the UL30A is its build quality. We wouldn’t classify it as bad per se, but our model did have at least one creaking panel to the left of the touchpad. It could just be that our particular sample has seen one too many courier vans in its time, but the plastics - particularly around the keyboard - aren't of the highest quality.