Asus is famous for kick-starting the netbook market with its EeePC branded machines, but also offers a broad variety of full-size laptops, including high-quality ultraportables. The Asus UL20A offers an enticing blend of portability, usability and performance.

We were impressed by the durability of the machine and it certainly feels like a laptop which will absorb some punishment on the road – unlike the Sony VAIO VPC X11Z1E/X. The solid chassis is built from tough plastics and features an attractive, yet understated, weave pattern on the palmrest.

The brushed aluminium lid is as tough as it is attractive, and this laptop looks a lot more expensive than it is.

Great battery

Adding to its roadworthy credentials, the laptop features a fantastic 557-minute battery life and weighs in at just 1.6kg. While it's not the lightest machine, it is by no means a cumbersome machine to carry around with you, thanks to its relatively small and light form factor.

The 12.1-inch panel of the UL20A is no exception. It is bright and crisp, and also boasts excellent colour reproduction with impressive contrast and deep blacks. Like the Acer S243HL, a shiny screen coating is in place, however, and the reflections may irritate.

The keyboard is a little sluggish, unfortunately, but the keys feature a textured finish which provides decent purchase. Overall we found the board to provide an acceptable typing experience – although it is not quite as intuitive to use as the Acer Aspire's.

Asus ul20a detail

Everyday performance is decent and you'll have no problem running office applications. We found 3D power to be adequate, meaning that basic photo editing is also possible.

A 320GB hard drive offers plenty of space for your files and folders, as well as any media libraries you might want to carry around with you.

Unlike the Acer and Toshiba Portégé R600-13Z, however, the Asus lacks an optical drive for using CDs and DVDs. It also fails to feature Bluetooth, which may be a consideration for those who need to regularly synchronise devices such as smartphones with their machine.

It does feature a quickstart button, however, that lets you access the internet without starting up the main operating system.

We like the Asus UL20A a lot. It is compact and boasts an excellent battery life, providing you with hours of power on-the-go while also looking very smart and delivering decent performance.

This laptop is exclusive to PC World and Dixons.

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