Asus U41JF: Average Performance, Cheap-Looking

Asus' ultrathin U41JF is designed to be both powerful and portable, with a chassis around one 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 processor or Blu-ray drive), but it's still very obviously a budget machine.

Our review model, priced at $830, features a 2.53GHz Intel 380M processor, 4GB of RAM (upgradeable to 8GB), and an Nvidia GeForce GT 425M graphics card. It also includes a DVD-RW drive, a built-in 0.3-megapixel webcam, and a 500GB hard drive. It runs a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium and has a 14.1-inch screen.

The U41JF sports an attractive, brushed-aluminum silver cover and a black, textured chassis. The 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 given up 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 super-thin, super-light ultraportable, only the screen of the laptop seems to be impressively thin. The rest of the laptop is average for the ultraportable category, weighing in at about 4.7 pounds and measuring about an inch thick. The good news is that you're not skimping on battery life--our tests managed to eke out almost seven hours of battery life with the included six-cell battery. Port-wise, the U41JF is average in terms of connectivity: there are 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.

The U41JF's chiclet-style keyboard is both 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 bends in the middle while you're typing 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's pretty good at combating glare, and it's easy to see, even in bright (though not direct) sunlight. Horizontal and vertical viewing angles are dismal, however, so 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-sized room, but sound very tinny at the loudest volumes.