Hardware, design and build: nice brushed aluminium
Brushed aluminium is the order of the day on this Asus U30Jc. It's used on the hood and the wrist rest, which gives the computer a certain elegance, also making it both nice to the touch and robust. The finish is also excellent.
The keyboard has small keys (15 x 15 mm), separated and flat. It's comfortable to use and keying is supple and quiet. The keys are well-positioned and retain the same proportions as on a traditional keyboard.
The multi-touch touchpad has a very nice, soft, precise glide. In spite of being respectably large (85 x 47 mm), you can't help comparing it adversely with the giant MacBook touchpads which are still a good notch up in terms of comfort of use. The chrome click bar is quiet and responsive.
The webcam is ok, but no more than. Colours are a little too warm, contrast sufficient. However, the very light areas of the image tend to be overexposed.
The fan is quiet and emits just a slight sound except during heavy processing (photo retouching, video editing/encoding, gaming and so on), when it accelerates. That said, noise levels remain low and heat is well evacuated. This machine heats up very little when processing the odd office doc.
Connectivity is as standard as it comes. On the left hand side, there are 2 USB 2.0 ports alongside the VGA and HDMI video outs and mic and headphones sockets. On the right, there's a DVD burner with a USB 2.0 port and an RJ45 (Ethernet Gigabit). A 4-in-1 memory card reader has been placed under the touchpad at the front. You also get Wi-Fi b/g/n and Bluetooth.
Under the laptop, two panels give access to the RAM and the hard drive.
|Asus U30Jc from above
||DVD rewriter, USB 2.0s, RJ45, power
|Antitheft, VGA, HDMI, 2 USB 2.0s, mic, headphones
||Touchpad and click bar
Processing: high performance thanks to the Intel Core i
Windows 7 index: 4.5. Detail: CPU 6.7 - Memory 5.9 - Graphics 4.5 - Gaming graphics 5.1 - Main hard drive 5.7.
In contrast to the models in Asus' UL series that we have already tested and which have a ULV processor (ultra low voltage), the U30Jc has an Intel Core i (i5-430M on the model tested). Using slightly more power, this processor is, above all, higher performance and scores 105 on the index after being run through our test protocol. In comparison the Asus UL30Vt only scores 67. Remember our reference machine (100 on the index), is the Fujitsu Siemens Amilo Xi3650 (equipped with an Intel Core 2 Duo T9400).
In practice the Asus U30Jc can handle video and photo as well office doc work.
Although the processor does do HD 1080p (Blu-Ray equivalent) playback on its own, we advise you to use software that can exploit the decoding capacities of the NVIDIA graphics card. For that, you have to use something like PowerDVD or Media Player Classic HC.
3D gaming: a few undemanding games at low graphics settings
The NVIDIA GeForce 310M graphics card is an entry level model. So don't expect to be able to run the latest games in spite of the fact that what the NVIDIA gives is a good deal better than what you get with a built-in Intel graphics solution. So forget about Crysis and the rest, which are unplayable in native resolution. In contrast, you can enjoy a bit of gaming with titles such as Race Driver GRID or games which use the valve Source engine: Half-Life 2, Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead are playable with settings at low or medium.
Audio: brand isn't everything
In spite of the Altec Lansing speakers, the audio quality is disappointing. It lacks depth and precision and the treble is overly dominant. SRS mode should be disactivated as it only makes the sound more confusing. Fortunately the headphones out is very clean and saves the day.
Mobility, battery life: almost 4 hours in spite of the Core i5 processor
The Asus U30Jc uses the NVIDIA Optimus technology, which allows it to switch automatically and instantaneously between the Intel graphics chipset and the dedicated NVIDIA graphics card (and vice versa) when software is able to exploit the NVIDIA card. This is not enough however for it to attain the excellent results you get with the UL series ultras, which get close to 6 hours of battery life. The Asus U30Jc does however give you 3h57 video playback (screen at 100 cd/m², headphones plugged in and Wi-Fi deactivated), which is already very good, given this computer's performance levels.
This excellent result is down to the 8 cell 5600 mAh battery. Take care to check on purchase however as you'll aslo find the U30Jc sold with a 6-cell 4400 mAh.
The U30Jc is slightly thicker than the UL30Vt (30 mm against 25 mm) and weighs 300 grammes more. This extra girth benefits the cooling system however, so we won't be too hard on it.