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All-Day Computing with Ultra Low Voltage Notebooks

By Jim Fisher

Even with the knowledge of technology's constant advancement, it is sometimes surprising to realize just how things have changed in only a few years. It wasn't long ago that running a notebook computer on battery for three hours was an impressive feat. Netbook computers burst onto the scene, with low-powered processors and tiny screens, and helped to push that envelope further. However, there were no all-day notebooks with a standard-size screen, powerful CPU, and other bells and whistles available on the market.

This changed when Intel's Consumer Ultra Low Voltage (CULV) platform was announced. Intel processors built to this specification deliver the dual-core processing power you've come to expect from the Core 2 Duo line, while greatly reducing power consumption. Today, the CULV processors consume as little as 10W of energy – less than a third of a standard Core 2 Duo chip. This not only leads to longer battery life, but also to lessened heat output, and slimmer, lighter computer designs.

The enhanced power management features in Windows 7 help to further extend battery life, as well as to create a more pleasant computing experience than that of Windows Vista. Today's CULV notebooks are available in a variety of screen sizes, and many omit an optical drive in order to save space and weight. We're going to highlight the features of three models in this round-up – two 13.3" models and one 14". If you're interested in learning more about these energy-sipping, all-day computing companions, please read on…


Housed in a sleek and stunning casing with a silver brushed-metal lid, the ASUS UL30A-A2 is a marvel of modern computer engineering. The system, which can operate for up to 10 hours between battery charges, weighs a scant 3.3 pounds. It features a comfortable keyboard and multi-gesture touchpad, giving you the ability to control the computer with comfort and grace. The computer measures less than an inch thin when closed, allowing you to transport it with ease.

The computer's 13.3" display features LED backlighting technology, which uses much less power than older CCFL-backlit displays. The LED backlight also improves video quality, thanks to an extremely even brightness across the entire screen, without the need for extended warm-up times. It features a 16:9 aspect ratio and a native resolution of 1366 x 768, matching that of 720p video for a true high-definition computing experience. Of course, audio is just as important for multimedia applications as video. The notebook's Altec-Lansing speakers produce SRS Premium Sound, which is 30% more powerful than standard notebook speakers. The speakers fire at an upward angle, allowing audio to be bounced upwards for enhanced clarity.

The system ships with the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium installed. An Intel Core 2 Duo SU7300 CULV processor powers the system, which is loaded with 4GB of memory and 500GB of storage. Graphics are provided by the integrated Intel X4500MHD chip, which delivers impressive 3D visuals while consuming much less power than comparable dedicated 3D cards.

In order to make its slim form factor and light weight possible, the system omits an optical drive. Have no fear, other connectivity options are not left behind. The computer includes 802.11n Wi-Fi, a 5-in-1 memory card reader, wired Ethernet, three USB 2.0 ports, a webcam, and HDMI video output. The standard Kensington security slot is present, allowing you to secure the system via a locking cable to help deter theft.

Users who would like a notebook that is geared more for business use may want to consider the UL30A-A3B. The system ships with the 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Professional installed. Downgrade media for Windows XP is included, allowing you to roll back to the tried and true operating system if you wish. The system ships with 3GB of RAM, a 250GB hard drive, and features a black color scheme, but is otherwise identical to the UL30A-A2.

Toshiba Satellite T135-S1305RD and T135-S1305WH

Toshiba's foray into the CULV field, the Satellite T135-S1305, is available in Nova Red (left) and Nova White (right) color schemes. Identical under the hood, either of these boldly designed notebooks will turn at least a head or two. The Nova Red version features a deep red lid and palm rest, with black keyboard and matching black bezel surrounding the LCD display. The Nova White motif is much more monochrome. A white lid, palm rest, keyboard, and bezel give the system a clean, modern look. Both versions feature Toshiba's Fusion pattern throughout the design.

The computer, which is less than an inch and a half thin when closed, features a 13.3" widescreen display with a 16:9 aspect ratio, LED backlight, and native 720p resolution. The system weighs in at 3.9 pounds, and the computer's battery will give you an outstanding 9 hours of use per charge. In order to realize its small size and light weight, the system omits an optical drive.

The system is powered by the 1.3GHz Intel Pentium Processor SU4100. This CULV chip features dual processing cores, giving you the same benefits of high-powered dual-core notebook chips without the extra energy use. It is loaded with 3GB of RAM and 320GB of storage. Graphics are provided by the integrated Intel GMA 4500M GPU, which is capable of providing 3D performance without using anywhere near the power of a dedicated graphics card. In addition to the standard webcam and memory card reader, the system features high-speed 802.11n Wi-Fi and integrated Bluetooth 2.1+EDR for wireless peripheral connectivity.

The 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium is the installed operating system. This version of Windows features Media Center, a hub for playing videos, music, and displaying photos. You'll be able to connect the notebook to an HDTV via the integrated HDMI port, making the inclusion of Media Center all the more useful.

Acer Aspire Timeline AS4810TZ-4508

Weighing in at 4.4 pounds and featuring a 14.1" screen, the Aspire Timeline AS4810TZ-4508 is the largest and heaviest notebook in our round-up. Still, without the comparison of the other two machines, one would never think to apply either adjective to this svelte system. Part of the extra weight is due to the inclusion of a SuperMulti DVD burner, capable of reading and writing all types of DVD and CD media.

Capable of operating for up to 8 hours on a full charge, the system shares many specifications with its CULV cousins – a 1.3GHz Pentium SU4100 CPU, an ample 320GB hard drive, Intel GMA 4500MHD graphics, a 1366 x 768 display with LED backlight, a webcam, and 802.11n Wi-Fi. It does have the full complement of 4GB of RAM, making things run a bit more smoothly when multitasking.

The computer features a dedicated PowerSmart button which can be used to toggle between high-performance and energy-saving modes. In order to achieve the 8 hour battery life, the PowerSmart function must be enabled. It stays cool when in use thanks to Intel laminar wall jet technology, which uses jets to cool and redirect air along the bottom of the computer, keeping the areas which your hands come in contact with cool to the touch. The computer's touchpad is multi-gesture aware, allowing you to perform pinch, swipe, and other multi-touch gestures in order to control the system. The 64-bit edition of Windows 7 Home Premium is the installed operating system.

Others Available Too…

We hope you've enjoyed this primer on CULV technology and the notebooks that have been born from it. There are, of course, other computers out there using this technology. If you like the look and feel of Acer's 14" version, consider their 13.3" Timeline AS3810, or 11.6" AS180TZ. ASUS also offers a 12" UL20A-A1, a 14" UL80Vt with an overclocking function, and a 15.6" UL50Vt. And, like all things computer, there will always be new models just over the horizon.

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