Until recently, affordable consumer laptops were a compromise: either you got a small laptop (i.e. with a screen of 13in or less) with good battery life, or a big one (15.6in and up) with merely decent battery life at best. There wasn't much choice if you wanted both a large screen and excellent battery life, but Asus looks to be joining Acer's Aspire Timeline 5810T in offering just that. In fact, it betters Acer's stated eight-hour battery life by a considerable margin, claiming up to an incredible 12 hours! That's especially impressive considering the UL50Vg's large 15.6in screen size, so let's see if Asus' latest can live up to the hype.
With the laptop closed, first impressions are certainly positive. At its thickest point it measures 26.4mm - a little over an inch - and like the aforementioned Timeline range, its lid is brushed aluminium. This not only looks great in both the black and silver versions, but also lends a welcome measure of extra durability, though there's just a hint more flex in the lid's centre than we'd ideally like. The angled back edge is also a nice touch.
Opening the UL50Vg up, however, is like a bucket of cold water in the face. Though the bitty hinge is not exactly pretty, the main offender here is that the entire inside is constructed using glossy black plastic, and yes, that includes the palm-rest and touchpad. So it might look good initially, but unless you wipe it down every single time after use, fingerprints, dust and grease marks will soon generously adorn the interior (though the grime won't be as obvious on the silver models in the UL series).
We simply can't emphasise enough what a bad idea glossy working areas are on a laptop. Moreover, it comes as a nasty and unexpectedly cheap looking surprise after seeing the metal lid. Chromed power and touchpad buttons don't help much either, since they’re just as partial to fingerprints as the rest of the inside.
At least the isolation-style keyboard is matt black, which contrasts nicely with its surround. However, performance-wise it's a bit of a mixed bag. On the plus side, keys are well-spaced and large enough to be comfortable, with a smooth, pleasant surface, while layout is pretty much spot-on and includes a full number-pad.
However, a minor complaint is that you're obliged to use keyboard shortcuts for everything as there are no dedicated function buttons or touch-controls. Far more serious, though, are the keyboard's feedback issues. The actual keys themselves offer good response and a nice degree of travel, but noticeable flex combines with a distracting rattle (especially towards the left edge of the keyboard) to detract from the experience.
Moving down to the multi-touch touchpad, it's large and responsive. Its heavily textured surface does provide a good feel and differentiates it from its surroundings, but at the same time is literally wearing on your fingertips. The chromed rocker switch below it is also on the stiff side.