While you'll either love or hate the bamboo finish of the U53Jc, the power and components it delivers ensures this laptop provides great value for money. Only the limited software package lets it down,
Sharp and vibrant screen
plenty of storage
Poor software package
Graphics not that capable
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Adding to Asus' comprehensive range of high-end laptops, the U53Jc (£899 inc. VAT) is a powerhouse portable with a twist.
Finished with a bamboo exterior, it is one of the most uniquely designed machines you can buy, but proves to be far more than just a pretty face.
Chosen for its environmental credentials, the use of bamboo on the lid and palm rest is notable for the strength and organic look that it lends this laptop. With a finish resembling mahogany, it creates a luxurious style of its own – albeit one that is likely to divide opinion.
The remainder of the chassis' interior is finished in brushed aluminium, contrasting nicely with the bamboo veneer. As such, the black-plastic keyboard looks a little out of place, but it is a pleasure to type on, with its spacious design and firm keys responding well at all times.
Built around a 15.6-inch screen, this is one of the larger laptops in this group test and so is better suited to home use than travel. At 2.8kg, you can certainly carry it on shorter journeys, however, and the 271-minute battery life is a capable enough result for a laptop of this size.
Thanks to its larger dimensions, storage is comprehensive, with two hard drives paired up for a staggering 640GB of storage space. As with all the laptops here, cutting-edge wireless and fixed network connectivity is also in place, courtesy of 802.11n Wi-Fi and Gigabit Ethernet.
Powered by a processor from Intel's Core i5 range, the Asus delivers fantastic performance. While slightly bettered by the Toshiba Satellite R630-141, software loads and runs impressively quickly. Graphics are slightly less capable, but there is still more than enough power for watching high-definition (HD) movies and editing your photos and videos.
The HP Envy 14 more than doubles the performance on offer here, however, so bear this in mind if you're a serious gamer. That's not to say the Asus is not a good choice for home entertainment, as the bright 15.6-inch screen proves sharp and vibrant. With its deep black levels providing a striking level of contrast, widescreen movies in particular look great.
One area that this laptop falls short of the others in this group is the software included as standard. There is no office or multimedia software and internet security is limited to a 60-day trial version; so factor the software you need into your budget. While you'll either love or hate the bamboo finish of the U53Jc, the power and components it delivers ensures this laptop provides great value for money. Only the limited software package lets it down, but this is still a unique and highly capable home machine.