ASUS U33Jc - In and Around

 

Given ASUS’ boasts about the strength of bamboo, I was really dying to see the build quality of the U33. And I can report that overall, it’s pretty good. The interior is rock solid, between the bamboo assembly for the palm rests and touchpad and the brushed aluminum for the keyboard tray and speaker grille. There's no flex to speak of anywhere, with the chiclet keyboard also being flex free. The display assembly on the other hand… that I’m a bit less happy with. The lid exhibits some flex under pressure, and the display shows a bit of ripple effect, but overall it’s not too bad.

Aesthetically, what you think of the U33 depends on how you feel about the bamboo. Obviously, the dark-stained bamboo veneer is the main feature, but the chrome edges and the light brown brushed aluminum on the interior are nice touches which complement it. Usually, chrome is an absolute no on laptops (remember the awful HP notebooks with chrome trim?), but on the U33 the brightwork nicely offsets the dark wood. Overall, the look is pretty upscale, with a nice mix of the matte textured bamboo and the brighter and glossier metals. With that said, if you’re a fan of metal bodied laptops, you’ll probably be much happier with the aluminum casing used in the U30Jc and U35Jc.

The keyboard is definitely a plus point. I’d actually go so far as to rate this as one of the best keyboards in a consumer level machine. Obviously, it can’t touch the enterprise-class ThinkPads and Latitudes of the world, but it’s a very good keyboard. No flex to speak of, good spacing between keys, good layout, and a bit more key travel than most other thin and lights. The extra travel is what separates it from other good chiclet keyboards like on the MacBook and Sony’s 13”ers and gives it a more pleasant typing experience. It won’t wow you, but having a decent keyboard with no major flaws is actually pretty nice for a midrange consumer machine. It’s surprising to see how many major manufacturers manage to screw up the keyboard (Acer, Toshiba, I’m looking at you) and I’m glad to report that Asus hasn’t.

The touchpad is an interesting one. It’s part of the same bamboo panel that makes up the palmrest. The touchpad circuitry itself is made by Elan Microelectronics and accounts for the extra thickness added by the bamboo panel and has some multitouch gestures not yet implemented by Synaptics. I was pretty impressed that they managed to get the touchpad to work smoothly even with the thicker wood and plastic covering the sensor. It’s interesting to have a bamboo texture underneath, but other than that, the touchpad just works. The mouse buttons are also covered by wood to keep the aesthetic uniform.

The ports are actually pretty good, even better than the U30Jc. We’re talking 2 USB 2.0, one USB 3.0, HDMI, VGA, headphone out, line in, a memory card reader, and Intel’s Wireless Display. I’m a bigger fan of WiDi than some people, since seamlessly streaming your laptop’s display to your HDTV is a pretty sweet innovation - it’s a wireless HTPC! I wrote about it at length in my Mobile Buyer’s Guide last week, so you can read more about it there. The USB 3.0 port is another premium touch that is exclusive to the U33Jc amongst Asus’ plethora of thin and light notebooks, and while I don’t see it being particularly useful for everyone, it should be a godsend for people that have USB 3.0 external hard disks. Beyond that, the port selection is about par for the thin and light class.

The speakers are located at the top of the keyboard, which is a nice change from all the other portables that have the speakers under the front edge. Output and sound quality are decent for a small notebook, but for any kind of serious listening you will want to connect to a good speaker system or headphones of some kind. The webcam is nice in that it has a physical shutter to open and close, so you are ensured of privacy. I didn’t get a whole lot of time to test the webcam and mic functionality for videoconferencing, but I saw nothing to suggest that they wouldn’t be perfectly adequate for Skype.

Asus U33Jc - A Look at Bamboo Asus U33Jc - Application Performance
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  • chrnochime - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    If you want to do graphic design/photo editing any desktop paired with a good display does a better job than pretty much any laptop on the market anyway. Reply
  • darckhart - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    is it the usual nec providing the usb3 support? Reply
  • geok1ng - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    "the only differences other than the bamboo and WiDi are the addition of Bluetooth, the lone USB 3.0 port, and a higher resolution 2.0MP webcam"

    For $150 these differences are a fair trade IMO. The USB 3.0, no matter how "slow"is a welcome feature for futureproofness. and Stile ans status are priceless.
    Reply
  • chris1317 - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    I am really disapointed about the display too. I love the look, need USB3, need a small(ish) laptop.

    I am also a photographer. Colour accuracy is important to me. 16x10 would also be nice but I dont think that's going to happen :)

    Maybe next year ASUS
    Reply
  • AstroGuardian - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    Yea... or maybe never... It seems like Asus s a follower and not a developer of good technology. At least they have been acting like that... Reply
  • erple2 - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    Sadly, more or less everyone is a follower. The low resolution 720p crummy displays seem to be the norm in the computer industry, or at least for the laptops that Anandtech reviews. Maybe that's a problem endemic to ACER and ASUS's though.

    I don't know. Maybe some people just don't get it. The display is one of the most important things about any laptop. oh well...
    Reply
  • goinginstyle - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    Why would you suggest a unit that has not been reviewed yet as a better option? Looking at the specs on Amazon there is probably at least a $75 component difference and the other $75 is for the Bamboo. That $75 seems like an acceptable amount to have a unit that is certainly unique and looks damn good at least to me. Who knows, the U35 might be a bust. I would probably still go with the U30Jc since I need an optical drive or wait for the 14" version of the Bamboo that has both the optical drive and a core i5. Reply
  • lemonadesoda - Sunday, August 1, 2010 - link

    I would like to see a thorough review comparing laptop screens (only). IMO, most laptop users don't worry about an extra 5% performance on the CPU... (except perhaps a few people who use their laptop as a gaming rig). However, 95% of laptop users would jump at longer battery performance AND A BETTER SCREEN; whether higher contrast, matte, higher resolution, faster response time, wider gamut, more accurate colour calibration.

    I would like to see an industry laptop screen roundup here on anandtech. Perhaps that will have a small impact on the industry. And the review pages will become a reference point for many other websites/forums.
    Reply
  • Alexo - Sunday, August 1, 2010 - link

    Vivek: why would reviewing the U35Jc be a priority when the results are expected to be within a margin of error from the U30Jc and the U33Jc? Wow about reviewing the UL30Jt instead (or in addition)? Or even better, the PL30Jt that is available with a matte display? Reply
  • Joepublic2 - Tuesday, August 3, 2010 - link

    Tensile strength of "steel". Mild steel I'll give them that; most tool steels and structural aluminum alloys like the 2000 or 7000 series no fucking way. I'm more worried about the compressive and fatigue strength of a material when it's being used a structural component for a laptop that I've plunked down roughly a grand for.

    Seriously, a "green" laptop is one of the dumber ideas I've ever heard of. More than a ton of petroleum is used in this laptop's production and assembly regardless of what its outer shell is made of.

    Computers will never be "green"; they require tons of energy and ghastly chemicals to produce their ICs and tons of oil in the form of energy and structural precursors to fabricate their PCBs and other electrical components.
    Reply

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