Introducing the ASUS U35Jc

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)
Chipset Intel HM55
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
Optical Drive None
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
USB 2.0
Right Side Card reader
Headphone and microphone jacks
2x USB 2.0
Ethernet jack
AC adaptor
Back Side Nothing
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 12.9" x 9.28" x 0.98" (WxDxH)
Weight 3.74 lbs
Extras 0.3MP Webcam
86-key keyboard
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.

The Daintier U35Jc
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  • justaviking - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    You stole my thunder. excuse for NOT going with the faster hardware...

    Even though I'm not in the market for a laptop, I still enjoy the articles. As with all AnandTech articles, I enjoy the blend of factual/analytical reporting blended with opinions any "why" commentary.

    It's so easy to claim that you do or do not like something. But WHY? When that is included, we can decide if we agree or not, or if the comment even applies to us.

    ONE EXTRA NOTE TO DUSTIN: Beware of too much light sarcasm and tongue-in-cheek commentary. Some people may get confused, especially if it is overdone. I like the style, just be careful to not get carried away.

    Thanks again, and keep up the good work.
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    I do try to keep it in check. I'm actually still pleasantly surprised how much they let me get away with here. ;)

    If you want to see how bad it can actually get, you should look up the stuff I do/have done for NotebookReview. I've been getting away with murder there for years.
  • Kegetys - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    > The battery on our review unit is operating at a reduced capacity, substantial enough to account for a small portion of the difference

    How many full discharge-recharge cycles did you put the battery through? I think all li-ion batteries require at least a few such cycles to reach the max capacity, as the battery of my UL30VT did. But as the capacity starts to drop off after some use maybe it is better to not test with the max capacity as it won't retain that for a very long time...
  • synaesthetic - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    Dear nvidia,

    Please kill the GT218 core dead.

    No love for you,

    I would be perfectly okay with this being 50% thicker if I could get a GT 335M or Mobility Radeon 5650 inside it.


    Dear Asus,

    Stop using crappy 1366x768 screens.

    No love for you,
  • MrSpadge - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    "no reason not to go with 7.2k rpm HDDs"

    I disagree: there's noise. I went from a Toshiba 160 GB to a Scorpio Black 320 GB, both 7.2k rpm and both considered very silent in reviews. However, mounted in a Thinkpad (some rubber around the drive) both drives are clearly louder than my desktop with ~7 fans and 24/7 load of ~300W. In silent environments the noise can disturb my concentration.

    - Screens: hurray for kicking them for the crappy TN panel again. At least give us an IPS option, Asus!

    - GPU: personally I don't want to pay for a fast GPU in a laptop as I woudn't really use it anyway. So I'm definitely not with you here if you continously ask for better models. The G310M at least gives one a solid driver, if the Intel fails.

    - GPU-Memory: 1 GB at 64 Bit is ridiculous! I wouldn't want to pay for that either. Mine's got 16 shaders as well combined with 128 MB and frankly it's always been enough for me.

    - Keyboard: and while we're at it.. give us a Thinkpad keyboard ;)
  • Dustin Sklavos - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    My experience with 7200rpm notebook drives has been a bit better. The Momentus 7200.4 in my Studio 17 is dead silent, but I'm one of the freaks that misses hearing the drive anyhow.

    As for the GPU, if you're not interested in the 310M, that's fine. The way I see it, there are either users like you that don't really care about the laptop's GPU, so just sticking with Intel's HD IGP would be fine...or there are users that do care about the laptop having a decent GPU, in which case the 310M is dismal. I just don't see anywhere on this spectrum where the 310M justifies its existence, and mercifully with the upgraded IGPs in Sandy Bridge, Ontario, and Llano, this isn't going to be a problem anymore.
  • Alex Smith - Thursday, September 30, 2010 - link

    I'm a newbie here, is there a place to request reviews of other laptops?

    For example, my boss is looking at getting a Sony VAIO Z Series Laptop and it would be nice to know how it compared to the others you have reviewed here.

  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    The comments are the best place to go, but the problem is that we can only review what the companies send us. Some companies, like ASUS, MSI, Dell, or Acer, are very forthcoming. ASUS in particular is downright hungry for a piece of the pie and they've really been working at it.

    Sony, though...the only places you're going to find reviews of their kit are the MAJOR consumer-grade publications. My "alma mater" (so to speak) doesn't even get Sony hardware.

    You can always request reviews in the comments and we do our best to see if we can't secure review hardware. From there, the best thing you can do is just read the reviews and recommend them to friends. The more read we get, the more pull we'll have to get the review hardware you guys want to see.
  • Evil_Sheep - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    I feel like the review was a bit overly critical. I know there are a lot of things that could be improved on the U35Jc but, let's put it in perspective, if you want a "Windows MBP" this is as close as you're going to get, and the U30/33/35 family is actually better in some respects (primarily: value for money.)

    The fact is, there is no other notebook right now in the Windows solar system that is touching the U30-series trinity of Value, Performance, and Battery Life. Personally I think those are the three most important specs to hit on a computer, particularly in the 13" category. No one else is even close, and I feel like Asus is the only OEM who "gets it" right now (and a part of the reason why so many are defecting to Apple.)

    Here's another reason why the glass is half-full, not half-empty: two years ago, before the advent of the budget-ULV CPU, you were looking at $2000 for a computer with half the performance (and no GPU) and worse battery life than what we are getting now (just think if your best option in the 13" category was the Dell Adamo...)

    Finally, I don't think it's fair to look at the U30Jc and say, oh look, it's been six months and they haven't improved anything. The U35Jc is not intended as the successor to the U30, it is a *variant.* It's like we are already expecting a brand new model but, come on, it's been just six (actually, five from shipping) months! Asus doesn't have infinity engineering resources and it's a bit much to expect brand new iterations every six months...the U35 is just supposed to be a minor tweak.

    The U35 (/U30-series) is not perfect but it's by far the best 13" we (windows folk) got right now; I think for that it deserved at least a bronze award...

    All that said I think Anandtech has among the most honest laptop reviews on the net right now, but sometimes they can go overboard with the negativity. I know that the intention is for the manufacturers to make better products, but sometimes you just need to sit back for a moment and realize, whoa, everything's amazing and nobody's happy
  • Dustin Sklavos - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    We need to be critical when we think companies can do better. It's true an ultraportable in this price range was unheard of just a couple of years ago, but that doesn't mean we should just accept what we have either. I like the U35Jc, but I like the U30Jc better because it performs better and for some inexplicable reason produces superior battery life.

    We even tried giving ASUS' "Super Hybrid Engine" a shot but it didn't add more than maybe forty minutes of useful running time. That's not bad, but it's small beans when you're dealing with portables that are already hitting over six hours, and it still wasn't enough to make up the difference between it and the U30Jc.

    We actually gave the U30Jc a Bronze Award, and I would still recommend that notebook over this one.

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