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Asus U35JC-A1 review: Asus U35JC-A1

Asus U35JC-A1

Scott_Stein.jpg
Scott Stein
Scott_Stein.jpg
Scott Stein Editor at Large

I started with CNET reviewing laptops in 2009. Now I explore wearable tech, VR/AR, tablets, gaming and future/emerging trends in our changing world. Other obsessions include magic, immersive theater, puzzles, board games, cooking, improv and the New York Jets.

6 min read

Well over a year ago, we found a hidden gem in the Asus UL30A, a very thin 13-inch laptop that had a great combination of performance, battery life, and price. A virtual successor to that UL30A can be found in the Asus U35Jc-A1, a Core i3 laptop with entry-level Nvidia GeForce 310M dedicated graphics and Nvidia Optimus automatically switching graphics.

AsusTek U35JC-A1
8.1

Asus U35JC-A1

The Good

Great size, thin chassis, fast performance; Nvidia Optimus graphics; good battery life.

The Bad

Lacks an optical drive; graphics performance is OK but not great; poor viewing angles.

The Bottom Line

The Asus U35Jc-A1 is a thin, but solid, 13-inch laptop with no processor compromises and Nvidia Optimus graphics, covering all the basics--except an optical drive.

Unlike Optimus laptops, such as the underwhelming Asus UL80JT, the U35Jc-A1 is a winner both in terms of battery life and performance. A standard-voltage Core i3 processor offers few compromises, and the battery life is very good despite having dedicated graphics. Though it's not exactly cheap at $849, and it lacks an optical drive, this is a very, very nice little laptop, and a good MacBook alternative.

Price as reviewed $849
Processor 2.4 GHz Intel Core i3 370M
Memory 4GB, 1,066 MHz DDR3
Hard drive 500GB 5,400rpm
Chipset Intel HM55
Graphics Nvidia GeForce GT 310M + Intel GMA HD
Operating System Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
Dimensions (WD) 12.9 inches x 9.3 inches
Height 0.6-1.0 inches
Screen size (diagonal) 13.3 inches
System weight / Weight with AC adapter 4.0 / 4.8 pounds
Category Mainstream

Much like the UL30A, the U35Jc-A1 is slim, angular, and decked in lots of brushed metal; in many ways, it comes across as a throwback design, like a DeLorean in laptop form. The very thin upper lid is backed in brushed aluminum, the small centered Asus logo looking more EPCOT-era than ever. Inside, a light gray-silver, patterned, glossy plastic surrounds the keyboard deck, while glossy, black plastic surrounds the inset screen.

Asus' keyboards are almost universally of the raised Chiclet-style kind, but they're not all made equally. Some Asus laptops have exhibited serious keyboard flex; but that isn't the case with the U35Jc-A1. The very solid-feeling keys were great to type on, and aside from our gripe with the awkwardly placed arrow keys and a right-hand side of page up/down buttons that needlessly squish the Enter and Shift keys, it makes for an excellent experience. There's just enough palm-rest space beneath for good lap typing. Overall, it's nearly as good a keyboard as the MacBook Pro's.

A medium-size multitouch touchpad lies flush with the keyboard deck around it--in the same color to boot--but textured with a subtle matte grid that works better than expected. A thin button-bar beneath feels too slight, but the whole package gets the job done well and, most importantly, responsively. However, we'd put an asterisk next to "multitouch"; the Elan software driving the touchpad allows only for a limited set of gestures, such as two-finger scroll and multifinger tap, leaving out obvious ones like pinch-to-zoom.

Two buttons sit atop the keyboard: one to the far left, one to the right. They look identical, but the right one is the power button, whereas the left boots up the laptop in Asus' Express Gate quick-start OS. We're not a fan of quick-start environments, simply because their limited applications, quirky setup, and need to boot up Windows 7 for access to the rest of your PC's features make for an annoying experience. Do yourself a favor and just put your laptop to sleep instead. When Windows 7 is already booted, the left button switches between custom battery-saving modes.

The LED-backlit, glossy 13-inch 16:9 screen has a native resolution of 1,366x768 pixels, standard for this size. Viewing angles were tighter than we'd prefer, with color and contrast drifting into a washed-out look unless the screen was perfectly centered. For videos, Web browsing, and general everyday use, pictures and videos look fine as long as excessive tilting is avoided.

Front-firing Altec Lansing stereo speakers situated under the keyboard on the lower front edge of the U35Jc-A1 are loud enough for movies, Webchat or any other conceivable use, with notable crisp punch during gameplay. They're better than standard laptop speakers at this range, but lack musical depth and powerful bass.

Asus U35Jc-A1 Average for category [Mainstream]
Video VGA, HDMI-out VGA plus HDMI or DisplayPort
Audio Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks Stereo speakers, headphone/microphone jacks
Data 3 USB 2.0, SD card reader 4 USB 2.0, SD card reader, eSATA
Expansion None ExpressCard/54
Networking Ethernet, 802.11 b/g/n Wi-Fi Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, optional mobile broadband
Optical drive None DVD burner

Similar-sized slim laptops such as the Toshiba Portege R705 manage to fit a DVD drive, making us feel a little more slighted here, but that's still the exception in thin compact notebooks. The included 4GB of DDR3 RAM and 500GB hard drive are standard for the price range, and are ample for nearly any user's needs.

A full-voltage Core i3-370 offers speedy multitasking and good overall performance.. We've found Core i3 processors to be excellent affordable CPUs, and this thin Asus performs as well as any other Core i3 system we've seen. Videos stream fluidly at full screen, and we were able to get multiple tasks done with no indications of slowdown.

The Nvidia GeForce 310M GPU in this Asus is an entry-level dedicated graphics chip that we've seen in a number of laptops. In the U35Jc-A1, it's paired with Nvidia Optimus technology, which automatically switches between the Nvidia graphics and integrated Intel graphics to conserve battery life, activating only when higher-end graphics are needed.

For the most part, Nvidia Optimus technology works seamlessly and invisibly. Graphically, however, we found the performance of this Nvidia GPU to be reasonable for playing games, but not stellar. Unreal Tournament III ran at 34.8 frames per second with medium settings at 1,366x768 native pixel resolution. That's not much different than the bamboo-clad and similarly specced Asus U33Jc-A1, but lags behind the Asus UL80JT. Bottom line: it's nice to even have the discrete graphics, since the last generation of this Asus laptop had only integrated graphics.

Juice box
Mainstream (Avg watts/hour)  
Off (60%) 0.43
Sleep (10%) 1.11
Idle (25%) 9.14
Load (05%) 42.01
Raw kWh Number 41.65
Annual Energy Cost $4.73

Annual power consumption cost
The Asus U35Jc-A1 has an eight-cell battery that ran for 3 hours and 58 minutes using our video-playback battery drain test. That's a far cry from the astounding 6 hours and 41 minutes the UL30A-A1 achieved back in 2009, but that machine had an ultra-low-voltage Core 2 Duo CPU and no dedicated graphics. We'd have preferred a life over 4 hours, but this result's a lot more palatable than the 14-inch Asus UL80JT, which ran for 3 hours and 35 minutes with a slower processor. It's also one of the best battery scores we've seen thus far in an Optimus graphics laptop.

Asus includes a better-than-average, two-year, parts-and-labor warranty with the Asus U35Jc-A1, along with one year of accidental damage protection. 24-7 tech support and toll-free phone lines can be found on Asus' Web site, though the information can get hard to track down with so many different models and configurations.

Find out more about how we test laptops.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS3 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

Asus U35Jc-A1
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-370M; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 310M + 1696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Seagate 5400rpm

Asus UL80JT-A1
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core i3-330M ULV; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 800MHz; 1GB Nvidia GeForce 310M + 1696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Seagate 5400rpm

Acer Aspire Timeline X AS3820T-5246
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.27GHz Intel Core i3 M350; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 128MB (Dedicated)/1696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 320GB Western Digital 5400rpm

Lenovo ThinkPad Edge 14 inch
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.27GHz Intel Core i3 M350; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 250GB Hitachi 5400rpm

Toshiba Portege R705-P25
Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); 2.27GHz Intel Core i3 M350; 4096MB DDR3 SDRAM 1066MHz; 64MB (Dedicated)/1696MB (Total) Intel GMA HD; 500GB Hitachi 5400rpm

AsusTek U35JC-A1
8.1

Asus U35JC-A1

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 8Performance 8Battery 7Support 8
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