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ASUS U36

So January 2011 is halfway done, and we bet a lot of resolutions have already been thrown by the wayside and geared up for resurrection in 2012. For those whose goal it is/was to lose weight, the latest player in the notebook world, the ASUS U36 would serve as a great visual reminder. Weighing 1.6kg and only 19mm thick, it’s going to make heads turn and eyes look at it from front to end. Yeah yeah yeah, you know the drill. Curves are great, too, but when it comes to electronics, you just can’t beat slim and edgy.

Before you lace up those sneakers and head off to the gym or out the door for a run, let us tell you about the other things that make this notebook look good and exactly what’s under the hood. ASUS opted to use lightweight aluminum-magnesium material for the lappie’s cover, and our test unit was wrapped in traditional and always-sexy black. One thing needs to be said about the exterior: If you’re the kind of end user who’s not careful with his/her stuff, then change your habits once you get hold of this baby. The notebook’s upper portion was already badly scratched when it got to us (true story!), which shows that it can’t quite take the knocks and bumps that are inevitable in daily use.

Let’s move on to other matters, shall we? Visual concerns are taken care of by a 13.3-inch HD LED backlit display, while a chiclet keyboard is seamlessly integrated into the body, reducing dust- and spillage-related worries. Nanometer coating was used for the palm rest, which takes away the dreaded fingerprint-magnet problem. However, your fingerprint is very much needed between the left and right mouse buttons; the fingerprint sensor is a great addition for security purposes. The requisite I/O ports can be found on the laptop’s left and right sides – staples such as VGA, LAN, audio/mic, and 5-in-1 card reader are there, and the inclusion of an HDMI port and 3 USB 3.0 ports is a welcome sight.

Hidden underneath the U36‘s 19mm frame are an Intel Core i5 processor, Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics, a 500GB hard disk, and 3GB of DDR3 memory, all of which sound promising when it comes to a notebook that touts a winning combination of performance and size. Here comes the all-important question: Does the U36 actually have that winning combination?

Our tests yielded a mix of good and bad results. Novabench gave us a score of 303, which is slightly lower than what we expected, but still an acceptable outcome. The notebook garnered a 4.1 Windows Experience Index rating, with the highest score going to the Intel Core i5 processor and the lowest score snagged by graphics. Battery life can be considered the U36’s Achilles’ heel – a mere 2 hours and 5 minutes of charger-free usage makes this the most power-hungry laptop we’ve laid our hands on so far for 2011, topping the similarly power-hungry Lenovo Ideapad U260 we tested a week or 2 ago.

Here are some other gripes: touch typists would have to make small adjustments with the keyboard’s right side; the keys may have great spacing, but the Enter key was made much smaller. Also, just because it’s called a laptop doesn’t mean you automatically have to put it on your lap – well, unless you want to feel the heat, and no, it’s not that kind of heat. The U36 becomes hot easily (especially the left side), and it’s advisable to put it on a table or lapdesk if you’re going to use it for long periods.

On the upside, the USB 3.0 interface (backward-compatible with USB 2.0) makes our file transfers move along much faster, while our media files and games were put out quite nicely and without any hiccups. (No, we’re not hardcore gamers, but we’re not limited to Pac-Man and Tetris, either.) Sound quality was a little tinny, but you could opt to use external speakers instead.

The ASUS U36 may be a thin-and-light machine with good specs, but there are some aspects that aren’t that easy to get over for some consumers. Mobile workers who are averse to heat and expect their gadgets to roll with the punches wouldn’t do well with this particular notebook.

Click here to see the ASUS U36 in the Buyer’s Guide.

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