The Bottom Line
Sep 22 2011 - The ASUS U36SD-A1 is a step between the ultrathin laptops with reduced features and performance and a standard 13-inch laptop. Its less than one inch thich frame makes it highly portable and its standard laptop processor and parts give it solid performance. It offers a huge hard drive but no DVD drive as well. Overall, it is a good 13-inch laptop for those wanting good performance in a more compact design as long as you can handle a few quirks and annoyances.
- Strong Performance From Core i5 Processor
- Spacious Hard Drive
- USB 3.0 Port
- Batterly Life While Good, Well Below Claims
- Low Resolution Webcam
- Intel Core i5-2410M Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-10600 DDR3 Memory
- 640GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- 13.3" WXGA (1366x768) LED Backlit Display With VGA Webcam
- NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M Graphics With 1GB Memory
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11a/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- One USB 3.0, Two USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, 5-in-1 Card Reader
- 12.9" x 9.3" x .8" @ 3.7 lbs.
- Windows 7 Home Premium, Office Starter
Review - ASUS U36SD-A1
Sep 22 2011 - The ASUS U36SD-A1 is essentially an update of the previous U36JC-A1. The primary difference between the two is the move to the Intel second generation Core i processors. For this model, it uses the Intel Core i5-2410M dual core processor. This is a nice balance between performance and price. While it only has two cores, it does support Hyperthreading unlike the Core i3. This helps benefit it when multitasking and doing more demanding tasks such as desktop video. It is matched up with 4GB of DDR3 memory that allows it to run smoothly. It is possible to upgrade it to 8GB by removing the two existing 2GB memory modules and replacing them with larger 4GB modules.Storage wise, the ASUS U36SD-A1 is overall better than average. It uses a traditional hard drive instead of newer solid state drives. This allows it to have a much higher capacity and keeps the cost a bit more affordable. The great advantage though is the drive size at an amazing 640GB. This is roughly fifteen percent more space for applications, data and media files the other systems that use 500GB drives. The drive does spin at the 5400rpm rate typical of many laptop drives which means it is slightly slower than those using faster 7200rpm spin rates. There is no form of optical drive included with the laptop but that is becoming more popular with ultraportables as there is less need for CD and DVD media as files can be purchased digitally. Still, if you want to watch a DVD while travelling, you won't be able to do that without an external drive. Just like the past U36JC, there is a USB 3.0 port for use with high speed external peripherals.
The display of the U36SD-A1 is a fairly standard 13.3-inch panel. It features a glossy coating that also goes around much of the bezel. This has several issues with it including lots of glare and reflections when used outdoors. The other issue is that it shows fingerprints and scratches from the repeated opening and closing of the laptop. The colors are acceptable if not a a bit off due to viewing angles. There are certainly better displays on the market. For the price of this laptop, it would be nice to see ASUS include a webcam that had higher than VGA resolution. What is unique though is ASUS includes a dedicated NVIDIA GeForce GT 520M graphics processor with one gigabyte of memory. This is used in combination with the NVIDIA Optimus hybrid technology to only use the processor when it is needed to help boost the battery. This is a fairly low end graphics processor but it should help boost applications such as Photoshop as well as handle some low resolution casual PC gaming with older titles, something most ultraportables lack.
ASUS packs a high capacity eight cell battery pack in the U36SD-A1 with a 80WHr capacity rating. The downside is that this sticks slightly out the back compared to the six cell battery pack versions. The company claims that this can achieve up to ten hours of running time. In video streaming playback testing, the laptop was able to run for just under five hours. This was a marked improvement over the U36JC-A1 using a first generation Core i5 processor. The problem is that it will be well below the claimed ten hours of running time in more typical usage. I would estimate roughly eight hours.
ASUS continues to use their isolated keyboard designs that are very comfortable and accurate. It would be nice to see some of the home keys moved away from the right hand edge as it can be confusing at times when looking for the backspace key but it can be learned fairly quickly. The trackpad is of a nice size but offcenter with the space bar slightly but centered with the home row. They still use a rocker bar design for the buttons that is annoying compared to dedicated right and left buttons.