I am trying to put a simple table of text (excel) into my layout and preserve cell formatting including alignment, borders and text sharpness. I've tried many approaches but nothing so far is satisfactory. BTW: ArcGIS 10.1
Have you been using the Online Help for Adding a table to a layout?
There's also quite a bit on getting the Appearance of the Table right, which you need to do before adding it to the layout, on the help for Understanding field properties, aliases, and table display options.