- Good build quality and keyboard
- Automatic switchable graphics
- Good performance with moderate heat
- Average screen
- Average battery life
A solid student laptop with good performance but nothing that really stands out.
The ASUS K42J is the latest in the K series of affordable laptops. This 14-inch notebook features a high-performance Intel Core i5 processor, discrete graphics with Nvidia Optimus technology, and a starting price below $900. Is this the ideal back-to-school laptop? Read on to find out.
Our review unit of the ASUS K42J (K42JC-A1) features the following specifications:
- 14-inch 720p (1366×768) display with LED backlighting
- Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit)
- Intel Core i5 430M (2.27GHz)
- Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics card w/ 1GB dedicated memory (Optimus switchable graphics)
- 4GB DDR3 1066MHz RAM
- 500GB 7200RPM hard drive
- 802.11n wireless
- DVD Super Multi drive
- Two-year warranty w/ one year accidental coverage
- 6-cell Li-ion battery (10.8v, 4400mAh, 47Wh)
- Weight: 5.01 lbs
- Dimensions: 13.7 x 9.4 x 1.5 inches
- MSRP: $899.99 ($880 street price)
Build and Design
The K42J has a traditional notebook design and shape similar to the previous generation ASUS K40IN. In other words, it looks like a fairly boring coffee brown notebook without much flare. The notebook features a mixture of matte black, semi-gloss brown and black and glossy brown and black plastics. All of the corners and edges are rounded to give the laptop a smoother look, and the textured touchpad and palm rests give the K42J a nice feel. The glossy screen lid features a subtle imprinted design that replicates the pattern used on the palm rests, but overall we’re talking about a very clean, simple laptop design.
The build quality of the K42JC-A1 is typical of most of the ASUS consumer-grade notebooks we’ve reviewed. The overall chassis strength is good with no specific areas of plastic flex or creaking sounds. The internal chassis frame resists pressure quite well and the screen hinges provide a good balance of resistance (not too firm and not too loose). The back of the screen lid does flex under heavy pressure, but even when significant pressure is applied to the back of the screen there are no obvious ripples or distortions on the screen.
The bottom of the notebook includes two access plates for the RAM and the hard drive. ASUS engineers obviously understand that most consumers buying a mainstream notebook like this won’t upgrade much (if anything) beyond the RAM and hard drive. Yes, we usually like to have more access to the notebook’s internals, but the majority of the people who buy this laptop probably won’t care.
Screen and Speakers
The K42JC-A1 has a 14-inch diagonal display with LED backlighting and a 16:9 aspect ratio. The overall quality of the display is “very good” within the narrow viewing angle sweet spot. Brightness, contrast and color are all quite good. If there is a single obvious issue it has to be the narrow vertical viewing angles. While the horizontal viewing angles (side view) are nearly flawless, the colors become over exposed when viewed from above and significantly inverted and distorted when viewed from below. If you are using this laptop for color-accurate editing you will need to be certain you’re viewing the screen from straight ahead. The backlighting also appears slightly uneven with brighter light coming from the bottom of the screen in our review unit.
The display’s 1366×768 resolution is a standard resolution for mainstream notebooks. The horizontal resolution is adequate, however only 768 pixels of vertical space means a good deal of scrolling while surfing the Internet and only enough space to view about one-half of a page in a Microsoft Word.
The K42J has Altec Lansing speakers located underneath the palm rests facing forward on the front edge of the notebook. Despite the Altec Lansing brand name, these speakers didn’t deliver exceptional sound quality. Vocals sound muddy and distorted, and the speaker output is weighted heavy toward the highs with no real midtones or bass to talk about. If you want quality audio out of this notebook you’ll really have to consider external speakers or headphones. The headphone jack provides a great, static-free connection for alternate speakers.
Keyboard and Touchpad
The full-size keyboard on the K42J full-size keyboard features Chiclet-style keys that are responsive and provide a little extra spacing to prevent typos. The keys are large and flat and have a matte texture, which may wear over time. There is no noticeable flex unless you apply significant pressure to the keys in the middle of the board. A individual key presses are quiet with the softest possible “click-clack” noise while typing; making it nice for taking notes in a classroom or office meeting room. The keyboard lacks dedicated multimedia keys, but the arrow keys double as media keys when used with the function key.
The ELAN touchpad is a mixture of good and bad. The textured surface provides excellent traction for your fingertips but the touchpad suffers from obvious lag. This is a multi-touch touchpad with customizable gestures, but the mediocre responsiveness makes using the touchpad less than ideal. The lack of a dedicated scroll zone is also annoying. The touchpad buttons have very shallow feedback with loud clicks when you press the buttons.
Ports and Features
The K42J is a step up from previous K-series notebooks in terms of the port selection. The K42JC-A1 adds the much needed HDMI port, though we’d still like to see the addition of an ExpressCard slot to make this laptop a little more future proof. A simple ExpressCard slot would have made it possible to upgrade the K42J with USB 3.0 … a potentially important feature since USB 3.0 is starting to show up in more and more notebooks. All picture descriptions are left to right.