The penchant for network operators to offer notebooks with integrated mobile broadband on a contract does not seem to be abating. O2 currently has several options on offer including the Asus UL30A notebook which is available for £39.99 on a £30 a month 24 month contract. The contract entitles you to 3GB of network data and 750MB of Wi-Fi data a month. The contract details are here.
Over the course of the 24 months that the contract lasts you will pay £759.99 in total. Looking up the Asus UL30A online as I wrote this I found it for as little as £530 (online exclusive from PC World, whose in store price was listed as £579.97). Other prices hovered around the £560 to £580 mark.
So depending on how you look at it you are either being charged over the odds for a notebook or getting a cheap notebook with a mobile broadband contract. Neither matters a jot if the notebook in question is not up to snuff.
The Asus UL30A’s 13.3-inch, 1,366 x 768 pixel screen and relative small size and weight make it a good travel companion, though the absence of an optical drive and the screen’s reflective coating will irritate some. The shiny plastic which forms much of the insides of the chassis is a nightmare to work with because it attracts greasy fingermarks. The matte finish of the lid is more welcome.
Windows 7 Home Premium is not ideal for business users. A 320GB hard drive, Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 processor, 3GB of RAM and 8-cell battery delivering up to 8 hours of life are more welcome propositions. Wi-Fi with 802.11 b/g/n support and Bluetooth are also useful and the 0.3 megapixel webcam could prove handy.
The isolation style keyboard was comfortable to use, and the touchpad has some multi-touch support.
Ports and connectors are a recognisable bunch. There are three USB 2.0 connectors, a VGA-out port, HDMI port, Ethernet port, microphone and headphone sockets and cardreader slot. The SIM slot is on the right edge of the casing where it is easily accessible should you need to swap it out for use in another device.
On balance the Asus UL30A is a nice little machine. Not up to a full business user workload, it could still have a place in the office. If you are in need of mobile broadband and are looking for a serviceable second notebook, something to travel light with but not something to do very serious business computing on, it could be a winner.
If you do decide you like it, buy a cloth to wipe those finger marks off the wrist rest, though!