Asus U41JF: Average Performance, Cheap-Looking Case
At a Glance
The U41JF performs pretty well for its category, but the case looks and feels cheap.
Asus' ultrathin U41JF is designed to be both powerful and portable, with a chassis that is around 1 inch thick and a Nvidia graphics card. Unfortunately, the entire notebook looks cheap, despite obvious attempts to make it look otherwise. This notebook has all the right parts, from the brushed-aluminum cover to the Chiclet-style keyboard and fancy graphics card (though no Sandy Bridge processor or Blu-ray drive), but it's still very obviously a budget machine.
Our review model, priced at $830, came loaded with a 2.53GHz Intel Core i3 380M processor, 4GB of RAM (upgradable to 8GB), and an Nvidia GeForce GT 425M graphics card. It also carried a DVD-RW drive, a built-in 0.3-megapixel Webcam, and a 500GB hard drive. It ran a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium and had a 14.1-inch screen.
The U41JF's attractive, brushed-aluminum silver cover is simple, with a small mirrored logo in the center. The rest of the chassis, save for the interior deck area (which features the same brushed-aluminum as the cover), is black and subtly textured. Asus has sacrificed some durability in favor of portability: the laptop doesn't feel sturdy at all, and the lid/display bends easily under very light pressure.
Though Asus touts the U41JF as a superthin, superlight ultraportable, only the laptop's screen seems impressively thin. The rest of the laptop is average for an ultraportable model, weighing in at about 4.7 pounds and measuring about 1 inch thick. At least Asus didn't skimp on battery life--our tests eked out almost 7 hours of battery life with the included six-cell battery. The U41JF provides three USB 2.0 ports, a VGA-out, an HDMI-out, an ethernet jack, microphone and headphone jacks, and a multi-in-one card reader.
I found the U41JF's Chiclet-style keyboard quiet and comfortable to type on. The matte-black keys are set against a shiny, smooth black background, and are spaced evenly apart. The keyboard doesn't feel cheap, but it visibly bent in the middle as I typed on it--not a great sign, to say the least. The trackpad is responsive and features a silver mirrored rocker bar instead of individual mouse buttons. Both the trackpad and the rocker bar are big and comfortable to use, and neither looks particularly cheap.
The 14.1-inch glossy screen has a native resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels. It combats glare reasonably well, and displayed content is easy to view, even in bright (though not direct) sunlight. Horizontal and vertical viewing angles are dismal, however: This is not a laptop for side-by-side movie viewing. The Altec Lansing speakers, which are located along the bottom front of the chassis, are loud enough to fill a medium-size room, but they sound very tinny at the highest volumes.
The U41JF earned a WorldBench 6 score of 107--pretty good for an all-purpose laptop (negligibly better than the 106 managed by our top-scoring laptop in the category, the HP Envy 14, but lower than the 126 posted by our current second-place laptop in the category, the Asus N53SV). The U41JF also delivered fairly good video playback and performed admirably in games for a laptop of its class. It is perfectly suitable for streaming HD video and playing graphics-intensive games.
The biggest problem with the Asus U41JF is its overall look. Though Asus obviously sought to emulate the Macbook Pro with its brushed-aluminum casing, Chiclet-style keyboard, and sleek(ish) design, the U41JF just ends up looking really cheap. Factor in the laptop's generally cheap feel, and you have a basis for looking elsewhere.One nicer-looking, more durable feeling laptop with a similar price is the Gateway ID49C13u ($840), which received a WorldBench 6 score (106) and performed similarly well in our graphics tests.