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

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Cooling, Portability, Battery Life, Software

Cooling

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Leave this laptop at idle, and it will make only the slightest of sounds. Having a large number of cooling vents throughout the bottom half of the chassis may not be good for protection from spills, but it is good for temperatures, and may be the reason why this laptop’s fan is almost inaudible in many situations. The SSD means there's no grinding of mechanical drive parts to tolerate, either.

Place the laptop under a heavier load, such as a game, and the fan will rise (in volume) to the occasion. Noise was not excessive even in these situations, but if you have a roommate or significant other trying to sleep in the next room with the door open, they may not appreciate your gaming session.

Lap use of the U36 is unfortunately not a comfortable long-term option due to a hot-spot on the left hand side of the laptop. Once placed on a surface, however, users should be comfortable with external heat levels. Both the keyboard and palmrest warm noticeably during periods of load, but not enough to cause serious discomfort.

Portability

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Measuring about .75 inches thick, and weighing in just a smidgen over three pounds with the 8-cell battery installed, this laptop couldn’t be easier to cart around. In fact, it brings question to the importance of the “ultrabook” category where portability is concerned. According to official specifications, the ASUS Zenbook UX31 is just .5 inches thinner and weighs only .11 pounds less, distinctions that you’d probably never make without a tape measure and a scale. 

No ultrabook could hope to match this laptop’s battery life, either, as you can see in the graph below.

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This is a simple formula. Take a big battery, slap it into a small laptop, then build a power saving profile for use when on battery. Presto! Awesome battery life. At over six hours in Battery Eater Standard and almost nine hours of light use, this laptop offers the longest life of any laptop we’ve tested that didn’t use an optional extended life battery. 

A combination of Intel's low power processors and NVIDIA's Optimus technology, which disabled the discrete GPU when not in use, are the to thank for much of this battery life.  The rest of the credit lies with the ASUS engineers' ability to enable power management.  

Software

Our U36 came equipped with some desktop shortcuts to various ASUS utilities, most of which were not of much use, but were also rather easy to ignore. These are not programs that launch at system start-up but rather shortcuts for the user’s convenience. One, for example, opens the electronic manual. 

For the most part, user will only be required to interact with the ASUS Super Power Saver gadget, which allows for switching between “high performance” and “power saving” profiles. It’s actually rather useful, in that it at least allows for quick switching between modes. Less useful is the Intel processor monitor gadget, which doesn’t appear to update quickly, doesn’t offer meaningful data, and is obscured by most programs that actually tax the processor. 

 

December 2, 2011 | 11:32 AM - 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 | 06:46 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 | 12:39 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 | 09:02 AM - 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 | 08:55 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 | 01:33 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 | 01:06 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 | 02:26 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 | 01:48 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 | 10:02 AM - 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 | 03:08 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.

July 9, 2012 | 08:52 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 | 10:54 AM - 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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