The fine folks at ASUS have had a string of pretty worthy ultraportables to their name. When we reviewed the U30Jc back in May, we found it to have just the right mixture of performance, battery life, and portability, and on top of all that, it just plain looked good. It was good enough to earn our Bronze Editors' Choice award, and we even looked at what adding an SSD could do for performance; at the same time, it had two nagging flaws. The first was the same gripe we seem to always have with consumer notebooks: a mediocre screen. The other? A dedicated GPU that was a middling jump forward at best from the U30Jc's predecessor: going from the NVIDIA GeForce G 210M to the GeForce G 310M is a minor improvement at best, and in practice, indistinguishable apart from the Optimus functionality the 310M brings to the table.
Two months ago, we reviewed the ASUS U33Jc, a slimmer version of the U30Jc with a bamboo veneer. The bamboo wasn't the only upgrade, however, as it also sported newer features like a USB 3.0 port and Intel Wireless Display connectivity for sending a 720p image to your HDTV (though you'll need to purchase the $100 HDTV device separately). While Vivek was quite attracted by the design, spending an extra $150 over the cost of the U30Jc for a few minor updates is a bit harder to recommend, and it still had the same middling LCD panel.
Today we have on hand the slimmer, lighter sibling of the U30Jc, the appropriately and excitingly named U35Jc. No bamboo veneer this time, but then no WiDi or USB 3.0 either. Here's how our review configuration shakes out:
|ASUS U35Jc Specifications|
|Processor|| Intel Core i3-370M |
(2x2.4GHz + HTT, 32nm, 3MB L3, 35W)
|Memory||2x2GB DDR3-1066 (Max 2x4GB)|
|Graphics|| NVIDIA GeForce G 310M 1GB DDR3 Optimus Technology |
(16 Shaders, 606 MHz core clock, 1468 MHz shader clock, 1334 MHz effective memory clock)
Intel HD Graphics IGP
|Display|| 13.3" LED Glossy 16:9 768p (1366x768) |
AU Optronics B133XW01-V0
|Hard Drive(s)||500GB 5400 RPM Seagate Momentus 5400.6 Hard Disk|
|Networking|| Atheros AR8131 Gigabit Ethernet |
Atheros AR9285 Wireless 802.11n (150Mb capable)
|Audio|| Realtek ALC269 HD Audio |
Stereo speakers, headphone and microphone jacks
|Battery||8-Cell, 15V, 5600mAh, 84Wh battery|
|Front Side||5-in-1 Flash reader|
|Left Side|| Exhaust vent |
|Right Side|| Card reader |
Headphone and microphone jacks
2x USB 2.0
|Operating System||Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit|
|Dimensions||12.9" x 9.28" x 0.98" (WxDxH)|
|Extras|| 0.3MP Webcam |
Flash reader (MMC, SD/Mini SD, MS/Duo/Pro/Pro Duo, xD)
Aluminum lid and inside surface
|Warranty||2-year standard warranty|
|Pricing||Available online starting at $799|
As far as specifications go, the ASUS U35Jc seems incremental at best compared to the U30Jc. While the U30Jc we reviewed featured an Intel Core i3-350M processor with a 2.26 GHz clock speed at its heart (Core i3 processors have no turbo speed), the U35Jc gives us a minor bump to the i3-370M running at 2.4 GHz. We still have the same Intel HM55 chipset and 4GB of DDR3, but the hard disk has gotten a bump in capacity from 320GB to 500GB; it's still running at the same slow 5400 RPM, a disappointment when 7200 RPM drives have gotten so much cheaper. Power consumption differences between 5400 RPM and 7200 RPM drives can be fairly negligible at this point, so there's really no excuse for not going with the faster hardware.
The U35Jc also features the same NVIDIA GeForce G 310M graphics hardware (with Optimus) the U30Jc had, but here there's actually been a downgrade. While core and shader clocks are identical to its predecessor, the 1GB (really? 1GB of video memory on a 64-bit bus?) of DDR3 has actually had its clocks cut down to an effective 1334 MHz, unfortunately just 3 MHz shy of leetness and 300 MHz shy of usefulness. As a result, you'll see gaming performance is generally worse on the U35Jc, no mean feat when the 310M was pretty poor to begin with.
All of the other components remain virtually unchanged apart from one major change: the U35Jc has had its optical drive removed, and as a result the unit is physically smaller and nearly a pound lighter. Some people might be upset at the loss of the drive, so if you think you might be one of them, the U30Jc is still around. For the rest of us, though, the trade-off is probably a worthy one. And then there's the U33Jc, still going strong at $969. If you figure on $50 for WiDi, $50 for USB 3.0, and $50 for bamboo, this is a wash, and the components are essentially identical to the U35Jc (outside of the GPU RAM size and clock). If you're looking for a lower price, this might be the laptop to get.