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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  • pirspilane - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    I have wanted to buy a U35 since reading your Laptop Buyer's Guide in July, but was waiting for a full review. Now I don't know what to get.

    I like the 35s light weight and am perfectly willing to forgo lugging around a rarely-used DVD drive. The omission of USB 3.0 is a bummer, but I noticed that your Bronze Award U30Jc has the same shortcoming.

    Any suggestions in the 13" thin & light category are appreciated. Is the performance hit the U35 suffers enough of a factor to still choose the heavier U30? I wonder how much this will be notice in everyday use.
  • Sanctusx2 - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    Just wanted to 2nd this. I was anxiously looking forward to the U35 after the earlier U30 reviews too and am left with the same disappointment. I definitely want to dump the DVD drive for the weight and size reductions, but losing so much performance and battery life is a bit rough. I'd be eager to hear anyone else's suggestions in the same category as well.
  • JarredWalton - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    On paper, the only real change between U30Jc and U35Jc is the removal of the DVDR, which helps cut the weight down nearly a pound. I still have no idea why the battery life dropped so much; lack of BIOS optimizations? Luck of the draw? Performance is pretty much a wash, though the slower 1GB of graphics memory is a drawback on the U35 as well.

    If you're not worried about gaming performance, I'd say you can still grab either laptop and be happy. But then, if you're not worried about gaming performance, I have seen little reason to get more than even Intel's HD Graphics. They handle HD video offload, including Flash 10.1, with no issues that I've encountered. I'm sure there are edge cases where Intel's IGP may not decode graphics as well as the G310M, but few people actually need those edge case formats.

    I wish the battery life was the same, because it would make the recommendation a lot easier: do you value lower size, or the presence of a DVDR more? And maybe there are "better" U35Jc laptops that make up the gap we experienced.

    For my money, right now I'd be more inclined to go with something like the Dell Latitude E6410. Get it with this same CPU, integrated graphics, 4GB RAM, and a 1440x900 anti-glare LCD (hooray for 16:10!). Add a backlit keyboard and you get a final price of around $1000. I've actually got one for testing, and the keyboard and build quality are right there with Lenovo ThinkPad. Or you can find a T410 for about the same $1000. But I'm more interested in build quality and a better (at least higher resolution) LCD than in G310M.
  • Gary Key - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    In regards to the battery life numbers posted we are working with AnandTech to figure out what happened in their testing.

    In all of our internal testing both the U35Jc and the actual U30Jc replacement (U45Jc) have generated better battery life numbers across the board than the U30Jc.

    Unfortunately we were not privy to their test results or problem report until the article went live so we are behind the curve on problem resolution.
  • MacGyver85 - Saturday, October 2, 2010 - link

    So if I understand correctly you represent someone from Asus ?

    If so: for the love of god please send up the message that LCD quality matters. I'm still not buying any laptop because of the bad quality of the screens. And I *really* want to buy an Asus laptop...but only if the screen quality trumps whatever else is out there.

    You've done an excellent job in regards of battery life recently so please extend that same attention to detail to the screen.

    I've heard the argument that better screen quality doesn't sell but that seems a sorry excuse at best. Just put any of the existing laptops next to the newer model wherever it is sold and people will *get it*. They'll see the difference and choose the better screen for sure.

    Do I sound desperate for a quality laptop LCD or what :)
  • hybrid2d4x4 - Tuesday, October 5, 2010 - link

    I'm with you MacGyver. I want to buy a laptop and have been keeping an eye on the Asus U/UL lineup for as long as it's existed. But after dealing with several glossy-screened Acers, I just can't justify spending any money on something that annoys me to no end in a naturally-lit room or even a basement with lights on behind me (I didn't even dare to try using one outside, though I need my laptop to be able to do so).

    Unlike most people, I have no problem with the 768p resolution, but gloss is unacceptable (and low-contrast, cheap-looking LCDs are a major letdown). I'm even considering a 1005P netbook to tide me over and I really don't want to settle for an atom (and I'm definitely not paying $2k for a high-end laptop just for a good screen). When will we get laptop options with decent screens? :(
  • pirspilane - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    Thanks JarredWalton,

    turns out, I'm not interested in gaming. I think a lot of people are looking for a laptop that focuses on: thin & light; non-gaming; no DVD; good battery life, keyboard & LCD.

    The Dell Latitude E6410 is very intriguing, except for the 3/4 lb. additional weight. Definitely will check it out.
  • zhill - Sunday, October 3, 2010 - link

    I've been looking at the U35F-X1, which is the U35JC minus the G310M. It's cheap (on Amazon $733), and should get slightly better battery life and certainly run cooler.

    Still same lousy LCD etc, but with that extra cash you can put in an SSD for better overall performance without a weight or battery life hit. Worth a look if performance-per-dollar is important rather than outright performance.
  • pirspilane - Monday, October 4, 2010 - link

    Thanks zhill. Hadn't heard about that one. Looks like you save $80-100 and get a battery life boost by ditching a not-so-great graphics card. Good trade-off.
  • Katspajamas - Friday, October 1, 2010 - link

    I'm suprised you didn't mention the HDD is a Momentus, the Seagate hybrid SSD/magnetic.....

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