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ASUS U30JC-A1 with NVIDIA Optimus Review Article Contents

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The U30JC is the latest 13-inch notebook from ASUS offering the new NVIDIA Optimus switchable graphics. Offering the best of both worlds, Optimus allows seamless switching between the Intel GMA HD integrated graphics and the NVIDIA GeForce 310M dedicated graphics. For the average user this translates into great gaming performance and excellent battery life when your priorities are writing term papers or taking notes in class. Check out our in-depth review to see how the notebook performed in our tests.
ASUS U30JC-A1 Specifications:

  • Intel Core i3-350M 2.26GHz processor (3MB cache)
  • Windows 7 Home Premium 64-bit
  • 13.3-inch glossy LED-backlit 16:9 display (1366 x 768)
  • Intel GMA HD integrated with NVIDIA Optimus (GeForce 310M w/ 512MB DDR3)
  • 4GB DDR3 800MHz RAM (2GB x 2)
  • 320GB Hitachi Travelstar 5K500.B hard drive
  • Intel Wi-Fi Link 1000BGN Wi-Fi, Atheros AR8131 Gigabit LAN
  • 8-cell 15V 5600mAh 84WHr Battery, 19V 65W AC Adapter
  • Limited Two-year Global Warranty
  • Dimensions: 13.12" x 9.52" x 0.8"-1.2" (W x D x H)
  • Weight: 4.81 pounds
  • Price as configured: $899

Build and Design
Compared to the UL30A-A1 we reviewed in September 2009, the U30JC looks similar but seems to have gained a little weight. The profile has changed from thin and sleek to rather average with the inclusion of an optical drive. The increased chassis size might also be related to the dedicated graphics card but that wouldn't have affected the notebook size as much. The color scheme is darker gunmetal-grey instead of bright silver, a slight change from the UL30A. Inside the palmrest shares the same brushed metal finish as the lid and the keyboard surround painted plastic. Just like the UL30A, the screen bezel is glossy black. The keyboard is a Chiclet-style model, with matte black keys and silver lettering. I think the design looks excellent, and appeals to both average consumers and business professionals. The finish is also designed to look great over time, with the aluminum cladding resisting smudges and scratches.



One aspect of a notebook's design that is sometimes overlooked on models with extended battery life is the battery itself. ASUS managed to fit a flush mount 84Wh battery into the back of the chassis. It sits flush with the rear of the notebook and doesn't stick out from the bottom on the bigger U30-series. For many consumers, this means form-fitting slip cases will be easier to fit into and the notebook has a more polished look.
Build quality is above average, and the overall construction feels pretty solid. The bottom of the notebook has one soft spot, where a panel has some mild flex, but besides that there is very little flex anywhere on the notebook. The aluminum screen cover does a good job of protecting the screen from impacts, showing little or no color distortion as you press firmly on the back of the screen. Inside, the palmrest and keyboard have excellent support, having no flex at all. Another surprising quality is the very strong screen hinges, which have no wiggle and actually show a good deal of resistance.
Users looking to upgrade some components will like that there are still two access panels on the bottom. Likely because of space or strength concerns, the panels are only sized for RAM and HD access, but it is better to have them than not.

Screen and Speakers
The screen offered on the U30JC is a 13.3-inch LED-backlit 16:9 WXGA panel. The display rates slightly above average, with good color saturation and contrast thanks to a glossy surface. Black levels are good with no apparent backlight bleed at high brightness levels. However, the viewing angles don't shine with this panel. Vertical viewing angles show a lot of distortion with as little as 10-15 degrees movement forward or back. Horizontal viewing angles are better, but still show signs of mild color inversion past 45 degrees. Backlight brightness levels were very good, even at the 70% level we like to use for battery tests. At 100% brightness, we recorded a value of 208cd/m2 with our light meter. Comfortable viewing levels in the office were 70-75% and 50-60% at home.


Most thin and lightweight notebooks sacrifice speaker location for other more important aspects of the design. The ASUS U30-series offers lap-firing speakers, which sound tinny at best, muffled at worst. When you have the notebook sitting on a stand or a flat desk surface they sound average compared to other notebooks of this size, but once you put it on your lap or a soft surface they are completely muffled. Headphones are highly recommended for this notebook.


Keyboard and Touchpad
The ASUS U30-series offers a large Chiclet-style keyboard that is very comfortable to type on. The palmrest seems to be perfectly-sized even for my large hands with a soft edge on the front that prevents pressure to your wrist. The keys are very responsive with a nice springy action on each press. The individual keys appear to be almost flat, but a straight edge over the surface shows a very small cup to the center of each key. The texture is a rough matte finish, and doesn't attract finger prints or smudges.


The touchpad is an ELAN model, built into the palmrest, offering limited multitouch capabilities. The included drivers support two-finger scrolling for horizontal and vertical movement, but nothing else. I actually found it almost too responsive, scrolling both vertically and horizontally at the same time as you moved down a page. Disabling the horizontal scroll seemed to improve things in that regard. The touchpad worked quite well, having no discernable lag and equal speeds on both axis's of movement. The dimpled surface felt smooth and once it had some oils from my hand built up on it, allowed fingers to glide across it very well. The touchpad button is seesaw style, with a fixed center pivot point. Each side took a moderate strength push to trigger, with a small click given off when pressed.
Ports and Features

Port selection was good with three USB ports, HDMI and VGA out, LAN, and audio in/out. The notebook also sports a spring-loaded flush-mount SD-card slot, handy for expanding storage without needing to remove the card when putting the notebook in a carrying case. For users who still need an optical drive for burning media or loading software, the U30JC offers a DVD-burner.(http://www.notebookreview.com/)

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