ASUS U41JF: Arrandale's Not Dead Yetby Jarred Walton on March 28, 2011 7:35 PM EST
Impressions of the ASUS U41JF
There are several easy points of comparison for the U41JF: on the one hand we have the U3x series that we’ve already reviewed extensively; on the other, there’s the larger UL8x and N8x that we’ve also covered. Looking at the U30JC, the U41JF is just a slightly larger option with a significantly faster GPU. Even better, the pricing of the U41JF is competitive; the U30JC-B1 is now on clearance and can save you $140, but you get a slightly slower CPU, the old G 310M GPU, and a 320GB 5400RPM hard drive as part of the package. The UL80JT is pretty much pointless now, unless you’re willing to sacrifice quite a bit of CPU performance for only slightly better battery life (in some situations); besides, we’re not keen on the black glossy plastic used with the UL80JT. Finally, there’s the also outdated N82JV, which will shave off $80 and DX11 support, plus 36Wh of battery capacity. No, no, no… we don’t want any of those now! They were all reasonable a few months ago, but the U41JF supersedes all of them. Here’s why.
First, we like the silver aesthetic a lot more than the glossy black or funky dark brown. Okay, so only the top cover is actually aluminum (the palm rest is a faux brushed aluminum plastic), but fingerprints aren’t much of a concern either way. Somewhat surprisingly, the U41JF is also slightly lighter than both the U30JC and the N82JV. If you still like the idea of a smaller and lighter laptop and you’re willing to give up some performance, the next best alternative is going to be the new ASUS U31JG. The silver model starts at $800, so it’s only $20 less than the U41JF, and you lose some graphics performance and the DVDR in the switch. Still, you shave off about a pound of weight. If you don't mind another black laptop, you can go for the $700 version (with a 320GB 5400RPM hard drive).
The other reason the U41JF wins out over the older models comes down to component choices. G 310M isn’t even as fast as the new Sandy Bridge HD 3000 IGP, so that kills off all of the old U-series in our book. You can get better performance at a reasonable price with the i5-2410M in something like the Dell Inspiron 14R. The U41JF stays relevant by combining a large battery with a reasonably fast CPU and a decent midrange GPU, for only a small bump in price compared to the other options.
For the rest, the keyboard and touchpad are the same as what we’ve tested in many other ASUS laptops. There’s a bit of flex in the keyboard, and we wish ASUS would ditch the chrome rocker button on the touchpad, but otherwise they work well enough. For a 14” (or 13.3”) screen chassis, I’m personally quite happy with the layout ASUS uses, providing quick and easy access to all the keyboard shortcuts (i.e. Home/End/PgUp/PgDn) that I use on a regular basis.
Screen quality is still a sticking point, sadly, and the Altec Lansing speakers don’t sound any better than other midrange laptops I’ve used. There’s still glossy black plastic on the screen bezel (ugh!) and around the keyboard, which are certainly items that we’d like to see changed. I also wish the over/underclocking could happen without a sleep/resume cycle every time the bus speed changes, but it’s probably difficult to keep the RAM timings and everything else happy without it. (For reference, the RAM runs at DDR3-1224 CL9 when overclocked, versus DDR3-1066 CL7 at stock and DDR3-800 CL7 underclocked.)
Ultimately, though, I keep coming back to the price, features, and overall build quality. Not only is the U41JF about the cheapest price you can find for a 14”-screen (or smaller) laptop with GT 425M, but it also comes with the largest battery of the bunch, and ASUS’ Power4Gear utility is one of the best options for tweaking power profiles to eke out every last minute of mobility. As far as CPU performance goes, unless you’re moving up to quad-core Sandy Bridge, the 15% overclock goes a long way towards keeping Arrandale relevant. So let’s hit the benchmarks before we wrap things up.