ASUS UL50: Better than MacBook Pro?

Mobile Computer: Jonathan Tsang, Vice Chairman of ASUS, stated back in June:

Our goal is to provide products that are better than Apple’s.

What should I make of that. It certainly is an ambitious statement. Can ASUS reach its goal? I think so. You see, ASUS is focusing on products; Apple is focusing on the entire experience. Can any company beat Apple at providing a better total experience?

Plastic?

ASUS spends very little on marketing and instead the majority of its budget goes into engineering products. And that’s a good thing because the company will need every resource available to get products that are better than Apple’s.

The UL50 from ASUS is one of those attempts and Mobile Computer got to spend time with a pre-production unit and seems to have liked the brushed aluminum lid, a solid LCD and the full-sized keyboard with the numeric keypad.

I personally like my keyboard to be right in the middle and offset keyboard would be a negative in my book. The rest of the body is plastic–this right here fails to be better than the last-generation MacBook Pro that was all aluminum. There’s more.

Lacking Pixels

The UL50 sports an Intel CULV CPU and a glossy 15.6-inch LED backlit LCD with a low-end 1366×768 resolution. The 15.4-inch MacBook Pro boasts a 1440×900 resolution, so the UL50 loses out in the resolution category. The UL50 has a trackpad that is integrated with the chassis but isn’t slippery enough if your fingers aren’t completely dry. Other features include a chassis that is just 1-inch thick and a weight that is quite light at 2.1kg or 4.62lb. The UL50 beats the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro in the weight category by 0.39kg or 0.858lb. But the MacBook Pro is slightly thinner at just 0.95-inch.

Weak Computing Power

ASUS will power the UL50 with Intel’s SU7300, which is a Core 2 Duo running at 1.3GHz. The MacBook Pro kicks the UL50 down hard with the base model running a 2.53GHz Core 2 Duo. Of course the Mac only runs for 7 hours max; the UL goes on for 3 more hours, most likely with a bigger battery than the 2200mAh that was supplied to Mobile Computer.

Better?

So here are the tentative results (since the UL50 is a pre-production model):

  • Chassis: Apple wins with an all aluminum and unibody chassis compared to just an aluminum lid with plastics all over on the UL50. Apple 1: ASUS 0
  • Resolution: Apple wins with a 1440 x 900 resolution despite being slightly smaller than the UL50, which only has a paltry 1366 x 768. I also prefer a 16:10 LCD that gives me more rows. I do watch HD content but I do a lot more work on my notebooks. Apple 2: ASUS 0
  • Weight: ASUS beats out Apple with a lighter package. Apple 2: ASUS 1
  • Computing Power: Apple whips ASUS with a processor that should be about twice as fast. Apple 3: ASUS 1
  • Battery: ASUS lasts 3 hours longer, but you might have to get a bigger battery adding to the weight and thickness. No definitive winner here.

A tentative win for Apple with 3 wins against just 1 for ASUS. There’s also the question of price. Undoubtedly the ASUS UL50 will be much cheaper than the 15.4-inch MacBook Pro. Even with a recent price cut for the MacBook Pro the starting price is still a significant US$1699.

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