I was lucky enough to be able to buy this on a trip to California (I otherwise live in Australia) in May/June. I say lucky enough because in late May I was able to buy it from Amazon for $872 -- at a time when it seemed to be in very short supply and they were about the only people to have it. There seemed to be considerable demand for it after its earlier announcement in March and its availability in the US marketplace seemed to be continually delayed. Even better was the fact that the standard retail price now appears to now $999 so it was an even better deal. Apart from the fact that it will apparently not be released in Australia (they are going with the PL30 I think instead) but if I did buy it here on special order now it is $1499 AUD (std extra cost margin in Oz).
So why did I decide to buy the U30? I would have to say the main reason was the Intel i3 CPU under the hood - this was mainly because I intended to install Dragon Naturally Speaking voice recognition software on it (I am now dictating this review with it). That type of software really needs a strong CPU and RAM to be able to run it to its full strengths. A weedy mobile processor as in most net books was not going to cut the mustard so to speak. The fact that it had dual video processors/Optimus was a sign of new technology which I did not object to, although I practically have no particular great use of it as I am not a gamer etc. It was overall certainly the best package for the asking price of around $900US and there was nothing in its price range at all at around the time it finally became available. Okay there are now Vaio and Fujitsu laptops which have the same processor family and are likely lighter in terms of weight -- but they are also typically more expensive (think Sony) and also somewhat underweight in RAM (think Fujitsu which normally only have 2 GB which you would have to upgrade straight away at probably some extra reasonable cost). The ASUS weighs virtually exactly 2kg metric and the Sony and Fujitsu machines can be around the 1.6-1.7 KG mark which would have been nice as the Asus is that extra bit heavier (you will note that I discounted MacBook's from the equation largely because of the extra price factor and certainly because of the missing CPU factor so no comment from Apple fanbois please). The fact is also that the 13.3 inch form factor was required by me so that it would fit into the 14 inch laptop slot on my Lowepro camera/computer backpack. The unfortunate fact is that for the moment this form factor is less common and is therefore some 25% more expensive than the standard 15 inch laptop with the same specs.
So what of the laptop itself?
LOOKS - very glamorous and the slightly lavender tinted stainless steel lid looks very professional and completely does not show finger marks -- unlike the black plastic bezel around the screen which is somewhat of a finger magnet if you touch it and the screen also seems to attract dust -- but at least they give you a micro-fibre cloth to keep it clean.
CONSTRUCTION - seems very solid and there does not really appear to be any flex in its construction -- if you pick it up with one hand it does not feel like it will break in two for example. The chiclet keyboard I consider absolutely superb from my point of view and think it is one of the best keyboards I have ever used whether on a desktop or a laptop (hopefully Dragon means that I will not have to type too much however!) . Opinions seem to be somewhat divided on it but it works superbly for me and it appears to have just the right amount of touch and feel. The mouse/scratchpad seems rather slow in speed as default -- I am sure this can be adjusted in settings but as I mostly use an external mouse at home this does not bother me. Some people consider the undivided nature of the left/right mouse controls to not suit them - it is just one long strip. However as I use right mouse commands a reasonable amount I know which side of it is left and right without a visual clue being required : - ).
SPEED and VIDEO - this was generally not a considerable factor for me in purchase other than the fact that the separate Optimus video card sounded a good idea/innovation from a technology point of view. As I do not play games on it this is neither here nor there for me. I cannot really compare the screen quality to anything else but it appears more than adequate to me and it may be the 16:9 wide screen 13.3 inch format that you need to consider whether you will be comfortable with. The CPU is i3 so at least I have bragging rights even if I do not otherwise really use the grunt (other than for Dragon) - my only comparison is my E6400 desktop and that is enough, despite its "age" for my everyday tasks - incl. Dragon.
BATTERY LIFE - ASUS certainly seemed to have nailed this generally in laptops. Honestly with a full strength CPU like this you are not going to get 10 hours or even the claimed 9 - this is not a net book but a fairly powerful machine. I think you will have absolutely no problem with getting 6-- 6.5 hours from a full charge if you are simply net browsing and doing documents etc. like I do If you are a gamer etc this will be substantially reduced to 3-4 hours or so if you hammer the video.
Overall I consider this certainly the best compromise of price, performance, size and capability out there - certainly as at May 2010 when I bought it, but as with all technology who knows what is around the corner? I certainly would expect to be still using this laptop in three years or so time as I think it's basic features will be more than adequate for what I need to do with it