Asus 14" U43F Bamboo Core i5 Notebook Review

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User Experience

Where should we begin? At the lid and palm rest, that's where! Yes, Asus' U43F is definitely in the Bamboo line, and it's pretty obvious from every angle. We can't say it enough: we really like this design. We like how classy it is, and we dig that it has made Asus remove those dreadful palm rest stickers. We're not big fans of the chrome accents and flexible plastic bottom, but the rest of the machine is great. The lightweight design makes this unit highly portable; we had no issues lugging it around in our backpack, though we admit that the beautiful bamboo lid makes us think twice before just throwing it in with other gear.

Asus has also done an admirable job with the port selection. Although there is only one USB 3.0 port, it's better than none, and given the difficulty in finding USB 3.0-compatible accessories right now, it's probably just fine. In fact, we aren't being picky with USB 3.0 these days. Just having it at all places this machine one leg above the vast majority of others that are shipping right now. We also like the inclusion of HDMI and VGA, though we would have preferred if the two weren't clumped right beside each other. The optical drive is also a great addition for those who still need one, but of course a Blu-ray option would be nice. On this caliber of machine, with this low of a resolution, it makes sense to just dodge that, though.

Even though the U43F is just a 14" machine, it feels much larger than the 13" and 12" machines we have had in the labs lately. It's a breath of fresh air to be honest. We like the 14" size; it's nearly as portable as cramped 13" machines, yet provides most of the amenities you'd normally find on a standard 15" machine. The main knock we have here is the 14" display. While the viewing angles were decent (not great, but fair), the lowly 1366x768 resolution belongs on smaller screens. HP's Envy 14 (which also has a 14" display) is shipping with a 1600x900 resolution panel, which is a much better fit in our opinion. 

We actually thought Asus' decision to not have a row of hot keys was for the best here. All of the function keys double as hot keys along the top row, and this solution works well for us. It keeps the layout internally much cleaner as well. Using the trackpad was also a nice experience. The bamboo finish was nice to the touch, and provided just enough friction to really feel where you were. We also like the central placement of the pad, though it could've stood to be a centimeter or two wider. The click bar, however, could use work. We much prefer bars with two discrete buttons versus Asus' solo bar which just clicks to one side or the other. It gets the job done, but we would recommend carrying a travel mouse if you'll be using it heavily.

Typing on the chiclet-styled keyboard was about the same as it is on every other larger Asus laptop with this layout. There's a small degree of flex in the keyboard, but nothing too distracting. The keys also have a rough finish on the top that reminds us of very fine grit sandpaper; it took a while to get used to, but eventually we began to favor it. The keyboard is mostly a standard layout, with the right Shift key being shrunken slightly in order to fit the arrow keys in. Overall, we didn't have to adjust much, and we noticed a surprisingly small amount of typographical errors when getting used to this new keyboard. The spacing between the keys is perfect.

The speakers along the top are far nicer than your average netbook speakers, and while it obviously lacks for low-end, these will be plenty to get you by in the office. As for heat? With a Core i5, you can expect plenty of it. The fans kicked on with even the smallest of tasks, and they remained on as HD video clips played and we goofed around in Half-Life 2. A noticeable amount of heat built up underneath of the laptop, with the vent on the left in particular was blowing out quite a bit of hot air. The palm rest never got "hot," but it was certainly warm after an hour or so of normal use. Of course, the machine is barely an inch thick with a Core i5 under there, so this is somewhat expected. It's nothing too bad, and we still say the heat output is worth the boost in performance that comes with this CPU.

When it comes to performance, it's safe to say that the U43F is a solid workhorse. The Core i5 chip allows for brisk performance and a general snappiness that you won't usually find on CULV machines. You may expect the integrated GPU to bog things down, but in the vast majority of cases we didn't find it to be a hamstring at all. Desktop chores were fine, even 1080p movie playback went off without a hitch. We were able to play the some games of yesteryear at native resolution too, though obviously newer titles won't be pretty. We never really felt like we were "waiting around" for the system to catch up to us, which is always a great sign. Hopefully the benchmarks to come will reveal even more.

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