Asus U36JC review
13.3 in 1,366x768 display, 1.6kg, 2.67GHz Intel Core i5-480M, 4.00GB RAM, 500GB disk, Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
It’s not often that an ultra-portable laptop has serious performance as well as mobility, but the Asus U36JC manages it. It's less than 2cm thick and weighs just 1.44kg, but still manages to squeeze in a Core i5 processor and dedicated graphics.
Unlike other ultra-portables, which typically use slower low-voltage processors, the U36JC has a regular Intel Core i5-460m running at 2.67GHz. Using Turbo Boost, it can also increase this to 2.93GHz for improved performance in single-threaded applications. Combined with 4GB of memory, there are very few other thin-and-light laptops with so much power. It scored 97 overall in our multimedia benchmarks - this is essentially as fast as our reference desktop PC, which uses a quad-core processor.
Graphics performance is also respectable; rather than relying on the Intel chip's integrated graphics, Asus has added an Nvidia GeForce 310M dedicated card. It’s certainly capable of playing high definition video, either in 720p on the laptop screen or Full HD on an external display. Unfortunately, even with 1GB of dedicated video memory it isn’t well suited for playing games. It managed 15fps in our Call of Duty test, although we did manage to boost the frame rate to a slightly more playable 27fps by dropping antialiasing and some detail settings. The laptop switches automatically to the less powerful Intel graphics when the more powerful dedicated graphics aren't needed; this made a big difference in our light use test, where the U35JC managed an above-average six hours - impressive for such a powerful laptop.
In everyday use, we immediately noticed how responsive the keyboard was. The full-size, isolated keys all have a crisp action and very short travel. We were also very impressed with the lack of wobble from the keys, unusual for a Chiclet-style keyboard. There isn’t room for a separate number pad, but this is still one of the best laptop keyboards we’ve used. The smooth touchpad was also a joy to use, with very little friction and high sensitivity. Unfortunately, the buttons below it were less impressive. The silver effect plastic felt cheap, even though the buttons themselves were responsive. There's a fingerprint reader for added security, but we didn’t like its position between the two touchpad buttons. It was easy to knock it during everyday use, which by default loads the authentication software - we soon disabled it.
We were impressed with the sharp image quality on the 13.3in screen; the 1,366x768 resolution is detailed and viewing angles are wide. It's a glossy screen, so there are reflections under office lighting. The screen is of average brightness, but colours are accurate.
The U36JC is a fantastic laptop; the slim, matt black body looks fantastic, the keyboard and screen are both great and performance is unmatched in this weight category. It doesn’t match the miniscule proportions of the MacBook Air 13in, and we wish gaming performance was a little better, but it is still one of the best ultra-portables around.