The Asus U36JC-A1 is a powerful but lightweight 13in laptop with 2.53GHz Core i5 processor
If performance and battery life count for more than size and weight, Asus's U36JC-A1 fits the bill. This wide-body notebook offers good performance but is somewhat large and heavy as an ultraportable.
The Asus U36JC-A1 is a relatively conventional notebook. It has a detachable battery and a hatch for access to memory chips.
Its angular case is in stark contrast to the rounded corners of models like Lenovo’s IdeaPad.
The front of the Asus U36JC-A1 is 0.9in thick, but with its bulky eight-cell battery in place, the rear is raised by an extra 0.3in. for a total of 1.2in. This gives the keyboard a 5-degree typing angle.
Asus also offers a thinner four-cell power pack that makes for a slimmer profile and lighter load. Measuring 12.8 x 9.4 in, the Asus U36JC-A1 system's footprint is quite deep and wid, but it still fits on an airline tray.
Thanks to the rubberized coating on its magnesium-aluminum alloy case, the Asus U36JC-A1 felt good in our hand. We also liked the looks of the bright chrome company logo and the touchpad's button. Overall, however, the Asus U36JC-A1 is a plain Jane compared to the design flair of Lenovo and Dell ultraportable machines.
With its large battery, the system weighs 3.8lbs - still less than most 13in notebooks, which generally weigh between 4 and 5 lbs. Adding the AC adapter to the Asus U36JC-A1 brings its travel weight to 4.5lbs, more than a pound heavier than the IdeaPad.
Buried inside is a powerful mix of components. The model we tested is built around an Intel Core i5-460M processor, which runs at 2.53GHz for most tasks. Using Intel's TurboBoost technology, it can speed up to 2.8GHz when needed. (Other configurations for the Asus U36JC-A1 can include a 2.53GHz Core i3 or a 2.66GHz Core i5.)
The Asus U36JC-A1 has four operating modes - High Performance, Entertainment Mode, Quiet Office and Battery Saving - that use different component settings to match real-world scenarios. A handy button above the keyboard lets you cycle through the choices, but when a selection is made, the screen goes blank for an annoying six seconds as the changes take effect.
The Asus U36JC-A1 comes with 4GB of memory and no DVD drive; the company doesn't sell a matching external drive but you could buy a third-party model if you need to read or write to CDs or DVDs. The system's storage is a 500GB hard drive. (Drives ranging from 250GB to 750GB are available.)
Unlike the whisper-quiet Dell Vostro, the Asus U36JC-A1 has a loud fan. And while we like the system's 19.3mm keys, it can't touch the luxurious feeling of as IdeaPad's padded wrist rest.
The Asus U36JC-A1 system's 13.3in display matches that of the Vostro and is 0.8in. bigger than an IdeaPad U260. It offers a top resolution of 1366 x 768 but isn't as bright as the IdeaPad's screen.
Graphics are better than some, using an nVidia GeForce 310M processor, a slower version of the GeForce 320M that the Apple MacBook Air uses.
As far as connections go, the Asus U36JC-A1 includes two USB 2.0 ports and one USB 3.0 port for high-speed data transfers. There are also HDMI and VGA ports, as well as separate headphone and microphone jacks. It has a flash card slot but lacks an eSATA connection for an external hard drive.
On top of 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi networking, the system has an ethernet port. It includes Bluetooth but no options for an integrated 3G modem card for go-anywhere data access.
With its fastest processor, it's no surprise that the Asus was quick in High Performance mode, with a score of 1095 in the PerformanceTest 7.0 benchmark.
That's nearly double the score of the IdeaPad U260 or Vostro V130. In Battery Saving mode, its score dropped to a slow 588.1 points.
The Asus U36JC-A1 was also able to process and display more graphical elements when running Trainz Railroad Simulator. For instance, it revealed background details such as snow, plants and rock surfaces, which the other machines showed as plain gray.
Its eight-cell battery powered the Asus U36JC-A1 for 4 hours and 17 minutes in Battery Saving mode in the Computerworld test. In High Performance mode, it ran for 3 hours and 20 minutes, roughly equal to the IdeaPad and nearly an hour longer than the Vostro. In our Wi-Fi range test, it stayed in contact with the office's router for 125 feet - 30 feet farther than the Vostro.
Our test model came with Windows 7 Home Premium (also available: Windows 7 Ultimate, Professional and Home Basic), Office 2010 Starter and a lot of extra software, including a utility for tweaking the video settings.?
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