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ASUS U36SD-XA1 Notebook Review: The Battery That Never Dies

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Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Design

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Ultrabooks are now on store shelves, but that doesn’t mean the more traditional ultraportables are dead - not by a long shot. Thin may be cool, but the high price premium attached to ultrabooks means that they will, at least for now, be a niche product. Meanwhile, the workhorse 13.3” ultraportable will remain popular. 

One of the most accomplished manufacturers of this type of laptop is ASUS, which has been building U-Series ultraportables for several years now. We’ve generally given them high marks here, but now there is a new model to check out, the updated U36. Unlike the stylish U33 Bamboo, this model is a tough, simple laptop that seems to take ques from Lenovo’s ThinkPads. Has this compromised the series? Let’s find out.

Continue reading our review of the ASUS U36SD-XA1 Ultraportable notebook!!

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As you can see above, there are a few things about this U36 that stand out. It offers a 120GB SSD, has Nvidia GeForce GT520M graphics with Optimus instead of relying on just Intel’s HD 3000 IGP, and provides a large 83Wh battery. What this tells you right away is that ASUS considers this to be a premium product, and that’s also reflected by the current U-series lineup. Budget users can be directed towards the U31 instead, which has fewer features but is also considerably less expensive. 

And just how expensive is our review model? It typical goes for $949 over at Newegg, which makes it the most expensive model currently listed. You can save a little money by dropping the solid state hard drive in favor of a mechanical model, but you’re still paying $849. Even in base guise, this laptop is not meant to be a budget model.

Design

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The U36 is matte black. That’s an unusual choice for a consumer device, but it’s sure to go over well with enthusiasts, who often prefer a functional (i.e. easy to clean) coating as opposed to something that looks like a McDonald’s PlayLand after a few days of regular use. ASUS calls this the “Nanometer coating” and doesn’t deviate from it much. But don’t set your hopes too high, because the display bezel and panel remains glossy. 

From appearance, it would seem that ASUS wants a shot at Lenovo’s reputation for build quality, and they’re part of the way there. Picking up the laptop reveals a tight chassis, and the lid itself is thin yet strong, displaying minimal flex when forced. The palmrest feels particularly robust, as if the material there isn’t hollow (it is) - a good choice, since that’s where a user’s hands spend a lot of time. However, the material feel – particularly on the lid – is not up to the par with laptops designed from the ground up for enterprise use.

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Ports are not neglected, either. There’s VGA and HDMI as well as two USB 2.0 ports, a USB 3.0 port, a SDcard slot and individual headphone and microphone jacks. My only complaint here is the lack of a second USB 3.0 port, but otherwise, this compliment of connectivity is in line with what I’d expect from an ultraportable. 

Not everything is excellent, however. In a laptop going for this look and market, plastic hinges like those found here don’t cut it. The underside of the laptop also gives away that the tough looks are mostly for show, as there’s plenty of vents and portals that are just waiting to suck up a spilled drink. You’ll find no spill-resistant keyboard or shock-mounted hard drive (though one wouldn’t be needed in an SSD powered model, such as ours). You do, however, receive the ASUS 1 year accidental protection warranty as well as the 2 year limited warranty, so you’re well protected from catastrophe for awhile.

December 2, 2011 | 02:32 PM - Posted by Cristian Kleuser (not verified)

Nice review, I have the U36SD-A1 model for almost 3 months now, have changed the HDD to an SDD and as far as I can tell, this thing is a beast. Really fast and light machine, can't get nothing close to it. Just one concern : I can't find anywhere to buy the 4 cell baterry for this laptop.

December 21, 2012 | 09:46 PM - Posted by Elana (not verified)

There's certainly a lot to know about this topic. I really like all of the points you've made.

my web-site ... Elana

December 2, 2011 | 03:39 PM - Posted by Mark (not verified)

Seems like a solid laptop, the battery life is a winner. I'd rather have a long lasting brick then something that is lighter but less battery life.

December 3, 2011 | 12:02 PM - Posted by ToiT (not verified)

Glossy panel = x_x ....can't wait until the world gets over these.

Thanks for another great review.

On my pcper x-mas wishlist is to see all notebook/mobile reviews indexed for ease of access. I love your reviews, but it's a pain to sift through archives to find them.

December 5, 2011 | 11:55 AM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

You could go to Reviews and then right above the listing there is a link to filter by type: http://www.pcper.com/reviews/mobile

December 4, 2011 | 04:33 PM - Posted by Carl (not verified)

I have this laptop in non SSD form but with a 7200rpm harddrive and it's the best laptop I've ever had. I think it's cheap for what you get, I compare it more to a Sony Vaio or Mac Air than anything else and both those are way more expensive.

More CPU power than anyone will need, ok screen, superb build quality, great keyboard, outstanding battery life, light and compact for travel, great price.

December 5, 2011 | 04:06 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

This review has received a minor update. Nvidia encouraged us to retest BF3 after installing the latest drivers. This resulted in a gain of a couple FPS and fixed a graphics glitch that I had experienced.

December 6, 2011 | 05:26 AM - Posted by Cazare (not verified)

You know what would be nice? If you can integrate some sort of a widget or something to display different prices for this products so we can make an idea of how much it costs - Cazare Brasov

December 6, 2011 | 04:48 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is this the same as the U36S I read about in PC magazine? Having trouble finding it in the stores though.

December 8, 2011 | 01:02 PM - Posted by JimboS (not verified)

Great machine, but the SSD version doesn't appear to be available for sale anywhere! Why bother reviewing things we can't get?

December 9, 2011 | 06:08 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

It was for sale when we reviewed it. Also, the SSD has impact on only a few benchmark scores and no impact on anything else.

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July 9, 2012 | 11:52 PM - Posted by waybar (not verified)

I paid under 1k for a u36s quad core i7 750GB Hdd 8GB ram. superb battery life, lite and super fast for a laptop,great machine.

January 6, 2013 | 01:54 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Unfortunately I have to report that all Asus laptops have a serious problem with the sound, with a simple search on google "asus laptop sound problem" discover a world of mistakes and headaches

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