ASUS U33JC Core i3 13-in Bamboo Notebook Review – ASUS Gets Classy
Introduction and Design
Laptop design is sometimes a very stagnant field. The basic construction of a laptop chassis has been the same for years – plastic body clad in plastic parts with a plastic lid. Recently we’ve had aluminum dashed here and there, but any other material, if used, is usually kept well out of sight. Sure, HP likes to put flowers and butterflies on things and Dell will let you spend 40 bucks on a colored laptop lid, but these options remain the exception to the rule and often look tacky rather than appealing. Our laptops may be faster than ever before, but they’re generally no better to look at.
ASUS seems to have noticed this problem and has decided that creating unique laptops might be a good way to stand out from the crowd. The first sign of this was the ASUS G73, the company’s stealth-bomber inspired gaming laptop that is simultaneously subtle and menacing. Now we have the ASUS U series Bamboo laptops, which try to class up the market by adding real bamboo to the lid and palmrest. The U33JC is the smallest of the family, and it feels familiar – the price, overall design and hardware is reminiscent of ASUS U30JC, which received an Editor’s Choice Award from this site in July.
The U33JC isn’t a bamboo-clad clone, however. Let’s take a look at what you’ll find inside.
There isn’t anything too unusual about the specifications of the U33JC except for the fact that the laptop does not have an optical drive. The specifications above are indicative of the U33JC-A1 model, which is the only model currently available. As is typical, ASUS sells its laptops through retailers and does not offer customization. What you see here is what you’ll get if you buy a U33JC.
Obviously, the star of this show is the bamboo finish applied to the U33JC’s exterior display lid and interior palmrest. As you can see in our pictures, the bamboo applied to this laptop does not have the bright tone that you might at first associate with bamboo. Instead the material is a deep chocolate brown that appears almost black in a dimly lit room. When placed under a bright light, however, the texture of the material becomes obvious.
The decision to give the bamboo in the U33JC a deep color has been mirrored throughout the laptop’s design. The U33JC reminds me of cigars, nicely tailored suites and yachts with interiors made entirely of exotic wood. Much of the laptop’s interior – the entire keyboard and the area above it – is finished in gunmetal aluminum that absorbs light like a winter’s night. The only hint of overt extravagance is the chrome plastic trim that is used around the laptop’s edge and at the base of the lid, but even this is subtle and doesn’t distract from the laptop’s bamboo elements.
Maturity seems to be the theme here, and it may turn off some buyers. Upon presenting the ASUS U33JC to some friends I found that their reactions were surprisingly mixed. Some liked the elegance of the laptop, but others thought it looked too antique to be a cool new laptop. Whatever your opinion on the aesthetics, however, it’s hard to deny the practical benefits the U33JC’s reserved nature. The chrome trim (and the glossy display – we’ll talk more about that later) are the only surfaces prone to picking up fingerprints. Everything else on the laptop remains smudge-free. And while the U33JC may look old-school, the actual footprint of the laptop is modern, as the laptop is no thicker than an inch and as thin as .68 inches thick at the front.
The underside of the ASUS U33Jc reveals the laptop’s long but relatively thin battery, which protrudes only slightly from the bottom of the chassis (at least compared to some other laptops). Two speaker ports are located at the front and a handful of vents are peppered throughout. The ASUS U33JC smartly packs the hard drive and RAM under a single plastic cover that can be removed by taking out two screws. Upgrading your ASUS U33JC shouldn’t be difficult.