Thin, light, and loaded
Asus' bold new bamboo aesthetic will be available on 13", 14", and 15" systems in the U33, U43, and U53 families. I'm sure you can guess which is which. Those three lines should nicely cover the meat of the mobile market, as nearly 70% of TR readers expect their next notebook to fall within that range.
As someone whose notebook complements a primary desktop rather than replaces it, I tend to prefer my portables as thin and light as possible without sacrificing usability. The U33Jc may not be the thinnest or the lightest 13.3" system around, but it's certainly easy to carry. Here's how it looks posed with my 11.6" Acer Aspire 1810TZ.
The 13.3" U33Jc is bigger than the 11.6" Acer. Shocking, I know. With dimensions of 13.1" x 9.5" x 0.8-1.2" and a weight of just a hair under four pounds, Asus hasn't starved the U33Jc into supermodel territory. The system has more of an athletic build: it's a little thick, but solid and trim.
Oh, and muscular, too. Under its bamboo shell, the U33Jc-A1 model ripples with a Core i3-370M CPU that has two cores and can execute four threads at once thanks to Hyper-Threading. Although it lacks Turbo Boost functionality, the 370M is designed to run at 2.4GHz when under load. At idle, the CPU multiplier drops from 18X to 10X, cutting the core clock speed nearly in half. This isn't a fancy ultra-low-voltage model, so the CPU's TDP is a fairly pedestrian 35W. (Low- and ultra-low-voltage Core 2010 mobile CPUs have 25W and 18W TDP ratings, respectively.)
|Processor||Intel Core i3-370M 2.4GHz|
|Memory||4GB DDR3-1066 (2 DIMMs)|
|Graphics||Nvidia GeForce GT 310M with 1GB GDDR3|
|Display||13.3" TFT with WXGA (1366x768) resolution and LED backlight|
|Storage||Seagate Momentus 5400.6 500GB 2.5" 5,400 RPM hard drive|
|Audio||Stereo HD audio via Realtek codec|
|Ports||2 USB 2.0
1 USB 3.0
1 RJ45 10/100/1000 Ethernet via Atheros AR8131
1 analog headphone output
1 analog microphone input
|Expansion slots||1 MMC/SDHC|
|Communications||802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi via Intel WiFi Link 1000
Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
|Input devices||Chiclet keyboard
Synaptics capacitive touchpad
|Dimensions||13.12" x 9.52" x 0.8-1.2" (333 x 242 x 20-30 mm)|
|Weight||3.96 lbs (1.8 kg)|
|Battery||8-cell Li-Ion 5600 mAh, 84 Wh|
As is becoming tradition for Asus notebooks, the U33Jc doesn't restrict its CPU to stock speeds. The system ships with Power4Gear software that offers a range of performance and power-saving modes. A high-performance mode adds 10MHz to the base clock, pushing it to 143MHz and the CPU to 2.57GHz. Somewhat surprisingly, a battery-saving mode retains the 143MHz base clock and instead curbs power consumption by capping the multiplier at 10X. An additional Super Hybrid Engine switch can be flipped to knock the base clock down to 100MHz. We'll explore these power states in a little more detail in a moment.
Nvidia's Optimus technology brings additional power savings to the U33Jc by completely shutting down the notebook's discrete graphics processor when its pixel-pushing prowess isn't required. If you're just idling at the Windows desktop or performing tasks that don't demand much in the way of GPU horsepower, the U33Jc relies on the Intel HD Graphics component built into the Core i3 CPU. Thanks to easily-updated profiles, Optimus knows which applications can take advantage of extra graphics grunt and even when you're playing back a Flash video that might benefit from decode acceleration. The discrete GPU will rise to the occasion automatically, and the transition between the two is flicker-free and completely seamless.
Although Optimus is very slick indeed, the GeForce 310M inside the U33Jc is considerably less impressive. The 310M is based on the same GT218 graphics chip used in Nvidia's next-gen Ion GPU, so it's a pretty low-end solution. This DirectX 10.1-class graphics processor has a 605MHz core clock speed and 16 shader units that tick along at 1.5GHz. In the U33Jc, the GPU is paired with an obnoxiously excessive 1GB of memory clocked at an effective 1.33GHz. As you'd expect, the GPU also has a PureVideo HD decode engine capable of accelerating the playback of all three major HD video formats used in Blu-ray movies. This dedicated decode hardware can also handle the heavy lifting associated with streaming video playback if you're running Flash 10.1.
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