Asus U36J-RX197X review

13.3in ultraportable with a core i5 processor on board
Photo of Asus U36J-RX197X
£690

The U36J is an ultraportable laptop computer that packs some power into its slim body, in the form of an Intel Core i5 processor. The notebook is reasonably light, weighing in at just under 1.5kg, and is a whisker under 2cm thick at the widest part of the body. However, a semi-circular ridge protrudes from the battery pack making the unit a tad thicker at the rear, designed as a stand to slightly elevate the laptop at an angle when placed on a flat surface.

DVD drive-less
One notable sacrifice has been made to give the U36J its trim lines – there’s no optical drive present. All you’ll find located along the sides of this ultraportable is a decent array of ports, including an HDMI port, twin standard USB plus a USB 3.0 connection, a VGA port, a multi-memory card reader and Ethernet port, along with microphone and headphone sockets.

The laptop feels commendably solid, particularly when you consider its lightweight construction. The touchpad buttons are unpleasantly stiff, but conversely the chiclet keyboard has a very light typing action. The latter makes typing a pleasant experience, and this is definitely a device that users who need to bash out lengthy documents will be able to get along with.

The core spec of this notebook is an Intel i5 480M dual-core processor running at 2.67GHz (with turbo-boost capability up to 2.9GHz) teamed with 4GB of memory and Nvidia GeForce 310M graphics. The hard disk is a decent-sized 500GB Western Digital, and the 13.3in display has a native resolution of 1366×768. The operating system is Windows 7 Professional 64-bit.

Bright display
The laptop’s display is bright and nicely suited for watching movies – although bear in mind that without an optical drive you won’t be watching any DVDs, only downloaded or streamed video content. Horizontal viewing angles are good, vertical less so. The U36J’s speakers also let the side down, as they’re very tinny sounding. That’s not too surprising given that there isn’t much room to cram in components, of course.

This isn’t a laptop for gaming – although it could have been, had Asus pepped up the graphics solution a bit. While the processor is speedy enough, the GeForce 310M can’t handle modern games at anything but the lowest settings (and even then, not brilliantly).

In terms of extras, the U36J serves up some rather juicy morsels alongside the main feast. On the security front, there’s a fingerprint sensor ensconced just below the touchpad. This is used in conjunction with AuthenTec TrueSuite software to lock your computer, preventing anyone but you from using it. Other functions are provided, such as signing on to favourite websites with a single swipe of a digit.

As is becoming more common with notebooks these days, the Asus has a quick-boot button. Pressing this boots the machine up within 10 seconds to the Asus Express Gate Cloud, a simple low-resolution OS that allows you to access a basic browser from which to quickly check your webmail or Facebook. It also lets the user browse photos and play a few simple games such as Blackjack.

Cool runner
Rounding off the package are support for Wi-fi and Bluetooth wireless connections, and a VGA webcam. It’s also worth noting that the machine runs quietly and cool, and battery life is impressive. Asus claims up to ten hours for the U36J, and in our testing we got eight and a half hours worth of light usage before the juice ran out.

Company: Asus

Website: http://ukasus.com/

Contact: Asus on 01442 202 700

Positives
  • Slim lines; runs cool yet still packs a punch; neat touches like quick-boot.
Negative
  • No DVD drive; graphics can't handle gaming.

Verdict

The U36J manages to pack some serious performance into its slim frame while still running cool, and boasts a few neat extras such as the fingerprint reader. But there are chinks in its armour, such as the graphics solution that doesn't quite match up to the beefier processor, and the lack of a DVD drive, sacrificed for space. However, those who need a very portable general use laptop that can still pull its weight - and which offers excellent battery life - will find much to like here.