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Monday, 11 January 2010

ASUS UL80JT review

12 hour battery life in a high-end laptop? Asus says yes
12 hour battery life in a high-end laptop? Asus says yes

An ASUS laptop quietly on display at CES packed two GPUs, a high-end NVIDIA GeForce 310, and a humble Intel GMA... and intelligently switched, second-by-second, between them. The UL80JT can also re-clock its Intel Core i7 CPU on a second-by-second basis. The result of all this micromanagement: miraculous 12-hour battery life in a high-end laptop, available later this year for just over $1,000.

Laptop design is at least partially a tradeoff between components and battery life; laptops jammed with high-end components last an hour or two, while power-sipping netbooks can last all day. ASUS is trying to close the gap by allowing its laptops to decide how much power is needed and spend their power budgets more intelligently.

Apple's solution for dual GPUs on the Macbook Pro requires the user to change settings under "Energy Saver," which is counterintuitive and requires the user to log out in order to switch. It wouldn't surprise us if owners never use this feature. 

ASUS's solution is different because it's user-transparent; even a novice user will get the fullest possible benefit because the laptop itself is deciding when to switch.

The same principle applies to the dynamic CPU clocking. ASUS includes a desktop widget to track CPU clock speed. While using the UL80JT, I could see it moving up and down with what I did; up with program openings and CPU-intensive processes, and way down at idle. Between the GPU switching, dynamic clocking, and ASUS's other power management features, the UL80JT manages to consume less than half as much power as the unibody Macbook while browsing.

When it needs to, though, the UL80JT can call on all the resources of a dual-core i7 and NVIDIA's latest GPU, holding its own with similarly-specced laptops achieving a fraction of its battery life in casual use. For ASUS, the optimizations involved in battery life planning have really paid off, liberating the user from the choice between performance and battery life in the laptop purchasing decision.