August 17, 2010 8:59 am

The ASUS U Bamboo: Naturally Beautiful

“Whoa.  This thing is freakin’ gorgeous.”

That’s the first thing I said when I unboxed my new ASUS U43Jc, affectionately known as the “U Bamboo”.  More than almost any other laptop I’ve ever used, this laptop is truly striking. The engineers and designers at ASUS caseback and palmrest are made entirely of natural, sustainably grown bamboo, which ASUS tells me can grow over two feet in a single day.  Talk about a renewable resource! Even the trackpad and mouse buttons are overlaid with bamboo, so when open, the machine has a clean, unbroken feel – a big plus for a minimalist like me. Working with a hard grass like bamboo is tricky, but ASUS has done an excellent job of blending it with brushed aluminum (the keyboard body) and polycarbonate (display frame, undercarriage). Together they make the U Bamboo look more like a piece of fine furniture than a PC.

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I’ve mentioned how much I like ASUS’ PCs many times before, particularly the ASUS UL30vt that I carry with me on trips. From unboxing to shut down, the U Bamboo reaffirmed my appreciation for ASUS’ gear. Inside is an Intel Core i5 processor, 4 GB of RAM, a 500GB 5400rpm hard drive, and NVIDIA GeForce G310M discrete graphics, which are instantaneously switchable to integrated Intel HD graphics using NVIDIA’s OPTIMUS technology.  If you’re not familiar with OPTIMUS, you need to be – it allows you to toggle between GPUs instantly with zero flickering and maximum battery life.  Totally awesome.  For more info on just how awesome, check out Brandon’s post on the tech.

Aside from the graphics, the U Bamboo has the usual suspects in terms of drives and ports; DVD super-multi, USB, ethernet, VGA and mic/headphone.  There are a few surprises, though.  First, the ASUS U Bamboo is one of the first laptops to offer a USB 3.0 port for wicked fast data transfer!  There aren’t a lot of USB 3.0 devices out there yet (mostly external hard drives) but from the ones I’ve used, there is a noticeable difference in speed.  Second, the ASUS U Bamboo series features Intel Wireless Display technology, which I first discussed when I reviewed the Toshiba E205.  WiDi is really cool – it allows you to remotely project your entire display to any monitor or TV (you’ll need a receiver, of course).  To see what it’s all about, hit my hands-on with the E205 and watch the video.

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Battery life was very good, netting me about 8 hours of real use over the weekend.  A lot of that has to do with ASUS’ highly customizable “Power4Gear Hybrid” application and “Super Hybrid Engine” that go a long way to helping you squeeze every second of uptime out of the battery.  I normally don’t like these types of apps since Windows 7 does an excellent job of power management out of the box, but these are great at giving you a huge spectrum of control, from “Just do it for me” to “I want to control every little aspect of power management, from processor state to device activity”.  That flexibility is what Windows is all about – tailoring your experience to be exactly what you want it to be.

In the limited time I’ve had to play with the U Bamboo, I’ve been impressed by its beauty and brawn.  Mostly by its beauty, though; this is a PC that looks less like a computer and more like a work of art.  It’s well worth a look if you’re on a mission to up your style game or looking to add a “coffee table laptop” that matches your furniture. That’s how I’ll be using mine, since the U Bamboo matches the wood in my living room perfectly!  And given today’s offer – you can get it through Amazon.com for $999 with a $150 gift certificate to use towards another purchase – it’s a hard deal to pass up.

Have a question about the U Bamboo or any other PC?  Post a comment, hit me on Twitter, or Ask Ben Anything via email.  Your question might appear in my monthly Ask Ben Anything Q&A column!