Asus’ U36J costs just £699, and appears even more the bargain when you consider that it was the second-fastest model in our recent ultraportable laptop group test. Its 106-point WorldBench 6 score was beaten only by the Toshiba Portege R700-1F7.
This isn’t perhaps surprising, given the power at the U36J’s disposal. It runs 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 2.53GHz Intel Core i5-460 processor. Windows 7 Professional 64bit will accept more RAM still, and upgrading requires just one screw to be removed.
The Asus won’t win any prizes for aesthetics. Its plasticky chassis is unattractive, and its screen bezel is even more reflective than the display itself in bright light. The 13.3in (1366x768-pixel) screen isn’t a complete disappointment, though, with its wide viewing angle, rich colours and sharp definition.
However, the Asus is well put together. It’s one of only two laptops here to offer USB 3.0, and has one of the better keyboards of the group. One quibble concerns the size of the right Shift key, which could cause you to accidentally tap the Up arrow instead. Dedicated Home, End, Page Up and Page Down keys are included.
Although this laptop is the heaviest on test, it remains portable at just 1.7kg. And at 322x232x19mm, it’ll prove easy to carry around. A fingerprint reader allows for increased data security when you’re away from the office and, pleasingly, a 500GB hard drive (the largest on test) means you should have room for all your documents inside.
One of this laptop’s more interesting features is its ExpressGate preboot environment. This lets you access the web and your email account within seconds, without needing to boot into full-blown Windows. The ExpressGate interface is ugly, however, with applications that were clearly designed for a 4:3 rather than 16:9 screen ratio. And several times we hit the ExpressGate button when we meant to press the similar-looking On button.
The 84Wh battery is the most powerful in the group, but it doesn’t last as long as some of its rivals. This is no doubt influenced by the powerful processor and nVidia GeForce 310M graphics chip with 1GB of video memory. The Asus produced the best framerates in our tests, and its 485-minute battery life is still enough to get work done.