Netbooks are great when you need a mobile computer that’s as lightweight as possible. But they leave much to be desired when it comes to computing horsepower. Netbooks simply don’t have enough oomph to run processor-intensive applications such as video encoding, CAD/CAM, gaming or music-production software. The ASUS U31SD-A1 and U36SD-A1 13.3-inch notebook computers are smart compromises. And they weigh less than 4 pounds each.
The ASUS U31SD-A1 is a small but fierce notebook computer, designed to handle heavy-duty workloads without breaking a sweat. At the same time it’s also designed to be lightweight and thrifty when it comes to power consumption, so that lucky owners of this micro powerhouse won’t mind toting it around and won’t have to hunt down suitable recharging locations every few hours.
Housed in a sleek aluminum chassis, the U31SD-A1 notebook computer is powered by a 2.1 GHz Intel Core i3-2310M processor, which packs a dual-core punch without sucking down too much power. The notebook also features 4GB of RAM, a generously sized 640GB hard drive, 802.11n Wi-Fi and an integrated webcam.
The ASUS U31SD-A1 features an LED-backlit 13.3-inch widescreen display with a native resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels. It also features nVIDIA’s Optimus Technology, a hybrid graphics system designed to provide ample processing power when needed but also to conserve power whenever possible. The display is driven by a dedicated DirectX 11-compatible nVIDIA GeForce GT 520M GPU with 1GB of video memory when a heavy graphics workload is present, but switches to the integrated Intel GMA HD GPU when more ordinary tasks are undertaken.
Additional power is conserved via the U31SD-A1’s Super Hybrid Engine power management system, which switches between different power modes, depending on the workload. The efficient power system provides up to 10 hours of run time from a single charge of the 8-cell battery.
The notebook features three USB 2.0 ports, one VGA port, one HDMI port, a microphone, stereo speakers, a flash media slot, gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and a webcam. It has no optical drive but you can always hook up a USB drive. Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit) is the installed operating system.
Along the same lines as the U31SD-A1, although a bit faster and a bit lighter, is the U36SD-A1. Like the U31SD-A1, the U36SD-A1 features a 13.3-inch display with a native resolution of 1366 x 768 pixels, along with nVIDIA’s Optimus Technology. The display is driven by the same hybrid graphics system, consisting of a dedicated DirectX 11-compatible nVIDIA GeForce GT 520M GPU with 1GB of video memory used to process heavy graphics workloads, and an integrated Intel GMA HD GPU that consumes less power and is used when the graphics workload is light.
Whereas the U31SD-A1 is mostly silver-colored with black accents, the U36SD-A1 is basically all black. The U36SD-A1 loses a bit of weight by having a strong but lightweight magnesium-alloy cover, and it gains some processing power with its 2.3 GHz Intel Core i5-2410M processor and 4GB of memory.
Other features of the U36SD-A1 include a 640GB 5400 rpm SATA hard drive, gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, a 0.3MP webcam and a multi-card reader. Ports include one USB 3.0, two USB 2.0 ports, one VGA and one HDMI. The notebook weighs 3.7 pounds.
Like the U31SD-A1, the U36SD-A1 has no optical drive, but it’s easy enough to hook up a USB drive. Also like the U31SD-A1, the U36SD-A1 features a 64-bit version of Windows 7 Home Premium as the installed operating system.