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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  • 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 01, 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 01, 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 03, 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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