ASUS U30Jc: Thin and Light Meets Arrandale

ASUS has been making great strides in the laptop designs over the past couple of years. It used to be that an ASUS laptop meant good performance with generally poor battery life at a reasonable price, but that all started to change with the launch of the original Eee PC. With the Eee PC, ASUS managed to usher in a whole new genre of laptop, the netbook, and with the dawn of the netbook expectations for what a laptop could deliver changed. No longer was it good enough to provide decent performance with little regard for price or battery life; today's laptops need to offer a lot more in order to entice potential customers away for $300 netbooks. To that end, ASUS has reworked the design and features of their U-series and put together a well-rounded package that includes good CPU performance, Optimus graphics, and an aesthetic that makes us think someone is listening to our complaints about glossy plastic laptops.

The Core i3-350M CPU will make for an interesting comparison point against the HP ProBook 5310m, which uses a Core 2 Duo SP9300 (in our review model). That means the two CPUs share the same clock speed, though there are obviously other differences. Optimus 310M graphics will certainly help in the GPU department when you need extra graphics performance, although with the new Intel HD Graphics we would argue that 310M might be a bit too low on the performance scale. We'll see what the 310M can do when we get to gaming benchmarks, but it should come as no surprise that 325M and 335M equipped laptops leave it in the dust. The LCD also remains glossy, along with the LCD bezel, which is unfortunate for a laptop that could very well spend most of the day outside and untethered. Here's a quick look at the full laptop specifications.

ASUS U30Jc-A1 Specifications
Processor Intel Core i3-350M
(32nm, 2x2.26GHz + Hyper-Threading, 3MB L3, 35W)
Chipset Intel HM55
Memory 2x2GB DDR3-1066
Max 2x4GB DDR3-1066
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 310M Optimus
Intel HD Graphics
Display 13.3" LED Backlit Color-Shine WXGA (1366x768)
(AU Optronics AUOB133XW01-V0)
Hard Drive 320GB 5400RPM 8MB cache
(Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B HTS545032B9A300)
Optical Drive 8x DVDRW Super Multi
(Matshita DVD-RAM UJ890AS)
Networking Atheros AR8131 Gigabit Ethernet
Atheros AR9285 802.11bgn
Audio HD Audio (2 speakers with combo headphone/mic jack)
Battery 8-cell 5600mAh, 84Wh
Front Side Flash Reader (SD, MMC, MS/Pro)
Speaker grilles
Left Side Headphone and Microphone jacks
2 x USB 2.0
HDMI
VGA
Cooling Exhaust
Kensington Lock
Right Side DVDRW
1 x USB 2.0
Gigabit Ethernet
AC Power Connection
Back Side None
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
Dimensions 13.12" x 9.52" x 0.80-1.20" (WxDxH)
Weight 4.80 lbs (with 8-cell battery)
Extras 0.3MP Webcam
86-Key Keyboard
Multitouch Touchpad
SD/MMC/MS Pro Flash reader
Warranty 2-year global warranty
1-year battery warranty
30-day LCD Zero Bright Dot guarantee
Pricing Online starting at ~$900

All of the above features are standard fare for this price range, with a few omissions that may or may not matter depending on your needs. ASUS lists Bluetooth support as "optional" on their site, but at present there are no plans for a Bluetooth equipped model in the North America market; the same goes for a 6-cell 63Wh battery version. eSATA and FireWire are also missing, and there's no USB 3.0 either. If you like using a variety of external devices with the above interfaces, you're out of luck, and there's no ExpressCard slot to alleviate the pain. Dustin tends to place a higher weight on such connectivity options, while personally the omissions are only a minor concern.

The Arrandale CPU is of the i3 variety, which means slightly lower clock speeds and no Turbo Boost (as opposed to the i5 processors). Like all current Arrandale processors, there's a limit of 8GB RAM, which the U30Jc fully supports if you want to spend the money to upgrade. Unlike the previous generation UL30Vt, the U30Jc adds an optical drive and weighs about one pound more, but performance (outside of gaming) will be quite a bit higher.

Why is gaming performance an exception? Because the GeForce 310M is really no different from the 210M. It has a 625MHz core clock and 1530MHz shader clock with 790MHz (1580MHz effective) memory. In contrast, the GeForce 210M (in the UL80Vt) has a 606MHz core clock, 1468MHz shader clock, and the same 790MHz RAM clock. Technically the 310M would be up to 4% faster, but that's hardly worth worrying about. We would have loved to see a GT325M or GT335M in the U30Jc, as that's the only area preventing this from being an Alienware M11x killer. And speaking of the M11x, we should also note that Dell has new beta drivers out, version 179.12, which addresses (for the time being) our concern with outdated GPU drivers. The long-term driver support prospect is still far better for Optimus laptops, but in general the M11x remains the superior small gaming laptop.

Taken as a complete package, the U30Jc has a lot of good features. The LCD quality is still mediocre (i.e. low contrast like 99% of consumer laptops), but with a large 8-cell battery you can expect up to nine hours of battery life (about eight hours of Internet surfing). We understand there's a CULV version of the U30Jc coming, the UL30Jc, but the CPU will be far slower (even with Turbo Boost), and we've heard that it will only increase battery life by around one hour at best. We would rate the current U30Jc as being equal to or superior to the old UL series of laptops in every important metric (outside of battery life where the old CULV design could last up to 14 hours). Build quality is better, the aluminum surfaces are a great upgrade, and the Arrandale CPU makes this a fast system when you need it. If you don't need a beefier GPU and you're okay with the size (about one pound heavier than most ultraportables), the U30Jc is an excellent laptop.

ASUS U30Jc Design and Build
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  • zac206 - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - link

    This laptop seems interesting. I would wonder how the MSI X360 would do against it, as it seems to have similar specs. Reply
  • GullLars - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - link

    A good review here, seems like a decent laptop for some uses.
    I would love to see how it does if you swap the HDD for a SSD.

    Jarred, If you still have the U30Jc in house an Intel SSD (or SandForce), would you consider swapping the drive and repeating the test suite? It would be much appreciated.
    Doing so would likely increase productivity noticably, and increase typical battrey life through the "hurry up and go idle" principle.
    A $100-200 SSD like x25-V/M would likely double (or more?) the PCmark Vantage total score, putting it firmly in the lead ahead of the Lenovo T410, with a good lead, possibly even in first place with double the score of second place.
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - link

    Does it need to be an Intel SSD? Because I have a Vertex I can slap in there if that's okay.... Reply
  • GullLars - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - link

    Sure, go ahead and put in the vertex. Remember to set AHCI mode.
    It will give a bit lower scores, but should still give a decent points boost.
    Looking forward to it.

    Will you post it as an extension/edit to the article, or maybe a new short one?
    Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - link

    I'll post it as a separate follow-up I think, as it's going to take a few days to rerun some of these tests. Reply
  • Kegetys - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - link

    Too bad they didn't improve the screen at all, I have an UL30VT and the machine is fantastic except the poor quality display ruins it. Very bad viewing angles, poor contrast and entirely useless outdoors. The machine could also fit a 16:10 screen fine (huge bezels on top and bottom) and the added vertical space would be welcomed for desktop use. You wont enjoy movies with the screen anyway so 16:9 has very little use in my opinion. Reply
  • teohhanhui - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - link

    The glossy screen is a major deal breaker for me :(

    Looking at Dell Vostro 3300/3400 instead.
    Reply
  • Modeverything - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - link

    I was just curious as to why a few of the laptops change between benchmarks? Doesn't this make some of the testing inconsistent? Reply
  • JarredWalton - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - link

    I'm guessing you're referring to the previously missing Studio XPS 16 and Acer 5740G results on the application and 3DMark pages. Sorry about that. I added them in as they somehow got left off my spreadsheet. Mea culpa. If there are any others missing, let me know. Reply
  • blyndy - Wednesday, May 19, 2010 - link

    What about the Dell Vostro 3300?

    (http://www.dell.com/content/topics/topic.aspx/us/s...

    Same size, same RAM/GPU, better cpu (i5-520M), 500 GB HDD, bluetooth. No HDMI (it's available on the 14", 15" and 17" models) and ships with only a 4-cell battert (an 8-cell is available), but it picks up eSATA and express-card, fingerprint reader and double mouse trackpad buttons (and it looks ten times better!) for $933.

    I think that its miles ahead for the money, and the 17" model has the option for a GT 330M (although the 17" display show an unnerving amount of flex in this video at 44 secs: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2HW0yMzbG8)

    These Dells 3x00's are 8/10, they would be a 9/10 if the screens where matte, and the 17" would be a 10/10 if it offered a GTS 350M with GDDR5 :)

    It would be great if Anandtech could do a review of one of them.
    Reply

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