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

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

User Interface, Display and Audio Quality

User Interface

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The rigid surfaces across this laptop result in a rigid keyboard, as well. It’s a nice unit, large enough to handle serious typing sessions. More importantly, it’s well laid out. There’s plenty of palmrest space below the keyboard, and all of the important keys are at least as large as you’d expect them to be. Overall key feel on the review unit seemed a bit stiff. This, however, is a nitpick and likely the price one has to pay for an expensive but rigid chassis of such small size. 

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The trackpad is of moderate width. It could have been larger, but that would have cut into palmrest space for people with large hands, and I think ASUS made the right choice. There’s not much texture on the surface, and the borders can feel a bit vague after long use, but overall it’s entirely adequate. 

The touchpad buttons, however, did not impress. They’re of the rocker style, which means that instead of two individual physical button, there is one placed on a sea-saw mechanism, so that the left and right can be depressed, creating independent clicks. 

The problem? Rocker solutions almost always have poor travel and exhibit a dead zone in the middle of the button. ASUS has used this style for some time, and I complain about it in every review. It’s far from a deal breaker, but I cross my fingers that the company will someday abandon this design.

Display and Audio Quality

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The glossy display on the U36 is an entirely average panel, though one that appears more out of place than normal due to the aggressively matte finish found on the rest of the laptop. Black level performance, contrast, and brightness are all average, providing a display that’s adequately pleasing to use in most conditions, but not excellent in any. 

A lack of backlighting relative to the glossy coat is probably the biggest weakness, because it makes the laptop difficult to use in bright conditions, such as a room lit by direct sunlight. Even at maximum, there isn’t enough light coming from the panel to compensate for reflections. 

Audio comes courtesy of stereo speakers that hide in the front, under the palmrest. Music doesn’t show much distortion, but there’s no bass to be heard or felt, which makes most tracks sound flat. Podcasts, with their less complex vocals, are much easier to listen to - but because of a general lack of volume, noisy environments can make headphones your only viable option. This is a laptop that will absolutely need a pair of external speakers to provide acceptable audio. 

 

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.

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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