ASUS U33Jc—A Look at Bamboo

 

So let’s get into this bamboo stuff. ASUS is pointing to two main benefits with the usage of bamboo: it’s more environmentally friendly than the traditional ABS plastic while maintaining structural rigidity, and it offers a distinctive look and feel. Let’s start with the first claim.

When we start to dig a little bit deeper into the process ASUS uses to make the bamboo notebooks, we run into some sticking points, starting with the fact that there isn’t actually that much wood. The bamboo “panels” themselves are extremely thin, ranging between 0.18 and 0.45 millimeters in thickness. That’s 0.007-0.018 inches, which is closer to a wood veneer than any kind of wood panel. Veneers tend to be less than 3mm or 1/8”, so the bamboo used on the U-series Bamboo Collection notebooks is definitely in that category. Behind the wood is a geotextile backing, with an adhesive in between to bond the two. The backing is mounted in an injection-molded ABS frame.

ASUS claims that the bamboo process can reduce plastic usage by 20%, and on the U33 chassis, 15% of plastic content is saved. This is all fine and well, but with all the chemicals involved in the protective polyurethane overcoat along with the treating and staining of the wood trim, I can’t vouch for the overall environmental friendliness of the process. With that said, the 15% reduction in plastic content is pretty impressive given how little wood there actually is.

Another interesting claim by ASUS is that the bamboo used has similar tensile strength properties to steel. Assuming that they’re talking about elastic deformation, this makes sense, but it completely ignores two things. One is that as a wood, bamboo doesn’t have much in the way of plastic deformation—wood is a brittle material, so once you hit the point of ultimate tensile strength, it just breaks. The other is that, at less than 20 thousandths of an inch, you could use a material with the tensile properties of water and still not have any kind of effect on the structural qualities of the notebook. Seriously, it doesn’t matter that bamboo is as strong as steel if you’re using panels as thick as three sheets of paper.

Chalk that one up to the marketing team, but at least there’s a nice reduction in the use of plastic. But other than that, this is basically just a regular notebook with a wooden veneer to make it look and feel nice.

Gallery: Asus U33Jc

That’s where the bamboo really makes its presence felt, quite literally. The wood is just so organic and natural feeling compared to the cold solidity of an aluminum chassis or the generic feel of a plastic chassis. It’s like getting into a Lexus—everything is so warm and soft and inviting, and very high quality. Compared to a regular laptop, that’s the difference; it just exudes a more luxurious vibe. This is a stark contrast to the Adamo, which was all about the style and industrial design. Every surface was metal or glass; there wasn’t a line out of place anywhere on the notebook. The U33Jc isn’t so much about cutting edge ID so much as it is about giving the user a more personal and textured experience. For example, no two U33’s will be alike due to the fact that different pieces of bamboo will have different textures and will mature as the laptop ages. Nuances like that make the U33Jc feel like a special type of mobile computer.

Asus U33Jc - Introduction Asus U33Jc - In and Around
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  • JarredWalton - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    I'd guess Apple probably spends about $50 more on their LCD... $100 tops. RGB LED backlit panels are prohibitively expensive, but for standard LED backlighting at a fixed size of 13.3", you're looking at probably $100 for a base panel and $150 for a quality panel. The problem is, most marketing departments are focused on all of the other stuff: you can loudly proclaim better battery life, a faster processor, USB 3.0, etc. but when was the last time you saw a consumer notebook on sale with a sticker that says, "High contrast, high color LCD with an 800:1 contrast ratio!" The closest I've ever come to seeing that is with RBG LED backlighting... which adds ~$150 to $200. Reply
  • Souka - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Too bad on the LCD.

    I suspect if they had a "+" model which had a better LCD for $100 more they'd sell.

    Oh well... my wife's IBM Thinkpad T30 (Pentium 4M cpu) will have to last a bit longer! :)
    Reply
  • AnnonymousCoward - Tuesday, August 03, 2010 - link

    I agree, Jarred, that it's probably marketing to blame. I hate TN and would always pay for IPS given the choice. Also, 16:9 sucks, as does 768 vertical pixels on a C2D machine. Reply
  • VivekGowri - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    While that's true, remember back to before Core 2010 released. The MBP13 was as fast as any of the regular Core 2 Duo notebooks and still had the same screen. So while the current MBP is basically Apple getting away with highway robbery (again), it's not like they can only put in a good display because they're fleecing customers. It's always had a good display. Fair point with the 20% more expensive, but see if you can find me a $1200 13" notebook with a decent display. PC makers just figure to save money with the LCDs in all but the highest end notebooks, which is really disappointing.

    (The base MacBook is a whole different story - Apple's as guilty as anyone for mediocre quality screens there.)
    Reply
  • erple2 - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    How's the display on the Envy 14 with the 1600x900 display? That's about 1100 for the "Radiance Display"... Reply
  • PlasmaBomb - Saturday, July 31, 2010 - link

    It's supposed to be pretty good, and when the E14 first launched it had the radiance display at $999. Reply
  • crydee - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    But I needed a laptop sooner than that. Disappointing this is it after such a long wait. Even on the JTs Reply
  • zoxo - Thursday, July 29, 2010 - link

    Arguably the most important part of a notebook is the display, since afterall it is the part you stare at, yet manufacturers consistently try to shove these horrible displays down our throats.

    Stupid glare-type surface, horrible contrast, bad colour representation, terrible black levels, narrow viewing angles. I really don't understand why people buy those things, and some even seem to like them...

    Atleast manufacturers now seem to realise that the mirror-like surfaces on the palm rest, keyboard, and bezel are not necessarily good things, and try to move towards matte/textured surfaces.
    Reply
  • AstroGuardian - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    Why would you say that? When being a PRO only thing you care while using the laptop is visible characters and performance. Why would it be crucial for the display to be high quality? Display is a display. On that kind of computer it's enough for the display to be clear and illuminated. But i agree with the fact that 1366x762 is a lousy resolution Reply
  • zoxo - Friday, July 30, 2010 - link

    When I work on a computer, and look at the screen, I want to see what's on the screen, not my reflection/the window or whatever is behind me. I want to actually be able to distinguish red from orange, black from gray. I think a screen is extremely important when you want to look at it for more than 10 minutes at a time. Reply

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