- Fingerprint resistant brushed aluminum lid
- NVIDIA Optimus automatic graphic switching
- Solid battery life
- Thick and heavy for a 13-inch laptop
- Terrible viewing angles
- Preloaded with crapware
Look and feel
We don't want to spoil too much of the rest of the review, but you know those sacrifices we were taking about? The biggest one comes with the size of this machine. The 1.2-inch thick laptop is heftier than most of its class, and though it does have a DVD drive, both the 13-inch Sony Z Series and Apple MacBook Pro are substantially thinner at .95-inches tall. The extra girth does provide space for three USB, VGA, HDMI, Ethernet ports and a mic and headphone jack. Maybe with the recent flood of thin and light ULV laptops we just expect this sort of system to weigh less than four pounds, but no matter how you look at it, the 4.8-pound U30Jc is on the heavy side and more comfortably held with two hands when open.
Keyboard, touchpad and screen
We have to admit we miss the grid of raised dots that usually adorn ASUS touchpads, but the brushed aluminum coating on the U30Jc is smooth and similar in feel to that on MacBook Pros. Remarkably the pad was incredibly responsive to multitouch gestures – two finger scrolling wasn't jumpy at all like most others. We do wish that ASUS would take a knife and cut the single mouse bar in half to just give us separated right and left buttons, but it's still usable.
When, oh when, ASUS will you start using some decent LCDs? The 1366 x 768-resolution, 13.3-inch screen is incredibly glossy and kicks back reflections at most angles. And speaking of those angles, the horizontal and vertical viewing angles are, well, just crappy – tilting the screen back just to about 110-degrees washes out colors and viewing from the sides is also harrowing experience. The Altec Lansing speakers that live on the front lip of the system aren't overly tinny, but they aren't as loud as we expected. They're still good enough for personal listening.
Performance, graphics and battery life
|ASUS U30Jc (2.26 Core i3, NVIDIA CT 310M)||4841||1739/3686||4:10|
|Sony VAIO Z (2.53GHz Core i5, NVIDIA GT 330M)||9949
|Toshiba Satellite E205 (2.2GHz Core i5, GMA HD)||5187
|Gateway NV5933u (2.13GHz Core i3, GMA HD)||4784
While the Core i3 CPU and its integrated GMA HD can handle 720p HD video and light gaming, it's the U30Jc's NVIDIA GeForce 310M GPU with 512MB of VRAM that gives the system some decent graphics muscle. Thanks to NVIDIA's new Optimus technology the GPU automatically kicked in when we fired up Batman: Arkham Asylum, and within minutes we were throwing punches at 30 fps. Similarly after we downloaded Flash 10.1 Beta 3, the 310M card automatically turned on when we watched a 1080p trailer on YouTube without any pauses or breaks. While most of the graphics switching is completely automatic, NVIDIA's control panel does allow for manually turning on and off the GPU.
Not having to flick a switch or manually adjust the system's graphics makes Optimus awesome, but it also majorly pays off in battery life. The GPU stayed off when we ran our standard definition video rundown test, and in turn the U30Jc's 84Wh eight-cell battery lasted for 4 hours and 10 minutes with brightness set to 65 percent. That's not quite as long as ASUS' predicted 9.5 hours, but that's about double the time of recent i3 laptops we've reviewed. With the GPU on it ran a loop of HD videos for 3 hours. Both of those numbers are, of course, on the extreme end of the battery spectrum – when we used the laptop to write this review, listen to music and intermittently watch some YouTube clips we stayed cord-free for about 5 hours and 30 minutes. The Sony Z Series lasted just around the same time and ASUS' ULV UL50Vf for over six hours, but we're still quite content with that runtime from a Core i3 laptop.
We were less than thrilled when we booted the U30Jc for the first time to find its desktop covered with preloaded ASUS programs and crapware – there's an eBay shortcut and Boingo installer to name a few. But we're not above saying some of those preloaded ASUS utilities are actually pretty useful – the FastBoot app, for instance, lets you decide what programs launch at startup and lets you delay the launch of others.