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Review Asus U36JC-RX081V Notebook

Tobias Winkler (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 03/10/2011

Slim and strong. Asus promises a 19 mm slim case for the U36JC, packed with a Core i5-480M CPU and two graphic chips and that should teach the one or other competitor the meaning of fear. USB 3.0, a large battery and HDMI are also in the bundle. This review will reveal if that's enough.

Small, slim, enduring and nevertheless a lot of power are characteristics that aren't easy to unite. However, today chances are better than ever since it's been recognized that pure performance takes its toll on power consumption and heat development. This is no longer contemporary and, above all, it is contra productive. New methods of reducing power consumption and simultaneously increasing computing power can be found, for example, in current CPU/GPU combinations, switchable graphics, LED displays and considerably more economic chipsets that supply interfaces intelligently with power.

The conditions are also good to create a slim, light and nevertheless high performance notebook, which can even serve with viable battery runtimes.

In order to achieve this balancing act, Asus pulls no punches. A fast Intel Core i5 CPU, Super Hybrid Engine with Intel HD Graphics and Nvidia Geforce 310M (Optimus), a 84 Wh battery, high-end lightweight materials and a selected interface configuration can quickly arouse curiosity in terms of specs. The Asus U36JC positions itself about on par with Acer Aspire 3820, Travelmate 8372, Dell Vostro V130 and Toshiba Satelite U500 at 840 euros. But it is still considerably less expensive than Samsung's QX310, Sony's Vaio S13 or even Apple's MacBook .

Case

Impression and gaps are successful
Top-rate manufacturing

The era of high-gloss surfaces is apparently coming to an end. More and more new releases are fortunately leaving out these very sensitive materials and are returning to more viable surface quality. Excepting the display bezel, Asus has also linked up to this trend and uses an aluminum magnesium alloy for the critical areas. That isn't only beneficial for the material's haptics, but also has a positive effect on the case's torsional stiffness. The wrist-rest is firm and can only be depressed marginally with strong pressure. Even the base unit as a whole can only be marginally twisted, if at all, with a lot of determination. No creaking, crackling or rattling is noticed.

The bottom also makes a very robust and resistant impression. The RAM can easily be replaced via the centrally located opening. If you have to access the mass memory, you will have to penetrate even further into the case and thus remove the bottom tray. The battery fits tight in its intended compartment and can be secured additionally. Our model, with an 8 cell battery, weighs 1.69 kg and is jacked up a bit at its rear.  An alternative with a 4 cell battery allegedly only weighs 1.44 kg and delivers the promised case height of 19 mm. Contrarily, the test device reaches a height of 30 mm at the rear and even without the battery the advertised 19 mm are surpassed with the rubber feet. So, this is only actually reached at the front. Otherwise, the case width of 322 mm and depth of 232 mm aren't record-breaking, but in comparison to other 13" components quite impressive.

The base plate and display are joined by a currently modern hinge design, flange-mounted on the rear, which does its job well. The display only starts to teeter during strong surface movements. A drawback of this build is that the rear has to be exempted from interfaces. The display is kept well in position in a closed state. However, the sides that don't close flush could be a problem since foreign objects could penetrate through the gap, between display and keyboard. Although the display lid has turned out very thin with a thickness of 2-4 mm, it is remarkably robust. It can be bent by pulling and twisting at its corners, but isn't at all inferior in comparison with the majority. Nevertheless, image distortions perceived as wave development can be provoked with medium pressure on display lid and display bezel.

Connectivity

Interface performance
Interface performance

The Asus U36JC is not a connectivity miracle, but you'll find everything that is really required. A digital video out, HDMI in this case, provides for a perfect picture quality on external monitors and TVs. External (USB 3.0) hard disks can be connected via USB 3.0 and data is thus transferred a lot faster than via the two installed USB 2.0 ports. USB 3.0 delivered 96.4 MB/s and the USB 2.0 27.1 MB/s in the test. The cardreader, which supports most formats, achieved the standard 17.1 MB/s with a SDHC memory card. Apart from that, you'll find audio in/out, gigabit LAN and an additional analog VGA out (provides a good picture in 1280x1024). There is no optical drive.

Obviously, the attempt of placing the ports in the back part of the sides has been successful. Thus, an almost conflict-free work zone has been created. Merely the audio port on the right might get in the way of using a mouse when cables are connected, in particular for right handed users. The power cable is angled and can therefore nicely disappear towards the rear.

Front: No interfaces
Front: No interfaces
Left: Kensington Lock, power, VGA, HDMI, USB 2.0
Left: Kensington Lock, power, VGA, HDMI, USB 2.0
Rear: Battery
Rear: Battery
Right: Audio in/out, cardreader, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, LAN
Right: Audio in/out, cardreader, USB 3.0, USB 2.0, LAN

Communication

WLAN 802.11 b/g/n, as an Atheros 9258 chip, is installed for wireless connectivity. Strangely enough, it merely supports b/g according to our tools. However, the data rates were on the usual n standard in a short speed test. Thus, they coincide with the manufacturer's specs. Bluetooth 2.1 +EDR is also installed. UMTS is generally not yet available. The webcam isn't quite up to date with a scanty resolution of 0.3 MP.

Supplies / Warranty

There are almost as good as no supplies offered for the Asus U36JC. The 4 cell battery is currently not available in Germany / Austria. The scope of delivery is also sparse. There is merely a driver CD, a Velcro for the power adapter and a microfiber cloth for the display and bezel in the package. A 24 month warranty is granted.

Input Devices

Keyboard

The keyboard in chiclet design is pleasing. Large keys, familiar layout and contrast rich, clear lettering are things that are noticed at first glance. Special functions can be enabled via FN combinations and multimedia control is incorporated in the arrow keys. Even the inner values are right. The stroke is pleasantly soft and the medium key drop bids many users a familiar key response. The input field fits tight and can't be bent thanks to the aluminum magnesium frame. The pressure point is well palpable and a coiling of single keys can't be determined. The stroke noise is very restrained. Therefore, it should satisfy prolific typists.

Touchpad

The large touchpad bids a lot of room for multi-finger gestures and has been given a very good responsiveness. Rotating, zooming, three finger tapping, etc. work perfectly. As usual, fine tuning can be set in Synaptics options. The gliding traits are agreeable and finger taps are accepted reliably. The correlating touchpad key is smooth and is equally generous. The key's high-gloss surface looks a bit greasy after some use, though.

Viable keyboard
Viable keyboard
Large touchpad
Large touchpad
Familiar layout
Familiar layout
Contrast richt lettering
Contrast richt lettering
Standard FN combos
Standard FN combos

Display

A 13.3", 16:9 LED display is installed in the Asus U36JC with a resolution of 1366x768 (WXGA) pixels. The dot density is 118 dpi and thus represents a more balanced ratio of desktop surface and content size for most users.

182
cd/m²
183
cd/m²
197
cd/m²
187
cd/m²
205
cd/m²
200
cd/m²
180
cd/m²
202
cd/m²
193
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
Gossen Mavo-Monitor
Maximum: 205 cd/m²
Average: 192.1 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 88 %
Center on Battery: 187 cd/m²
Black: 1.44 cd/m²
Contrast: 142:1

A major weakness of the display is the reflective surface. Depending on the lighting conditions, intense reflections come to the fore and the actual content is superimposed. The darker the content and the brighter the ambient lighting, the stronger this effect appears. This condition can only be minimized at the cost of ergonomics by increasing the display's brightness up to 205 cd/m2 indoors. However, this is rewarded with headaches in the long run since 130 cd/m2 would suffice in most cases.

Color spectrum
Color spectrum

You can't do much about this drawback outdoors, either. The maximum brightness of 205 cd/m2 is just not enough. Moreover, the maximum possible brightness in battery mode was limited to 187 cd/m2 in the test device. There is also no possibility to change this in the bios either.

The average brightness reaches 192 cd/m2 at all nine measuring points when connected to the mains. The illumination is also quite homogeneously distributed with 88%.

The other display qualities correspond to the otherwise common low standard. The color spectrum is remote from the sRGB color space. The contrast ratio of 142:1 is minimalistic and the viewing angle stability struggles with evident weaknesses on the vertical plane. On the whole, the colors look pallid, black is rather more gray and, if you move to far from the perfect viewing position, you will also have to cope with inverting or bleaching contents.

Viewing angles: Asus U36JC-RX081V
Viewing angles: Asus U36JC-RX081V

Performance

Asus especially heralds the processor's performance in the product description. It allegedly provides a considerably higher performance than the alternatives with lower power consumption. Intel's Core i5-480M is used in the test model, which is among the top 30 of all notebook CPUs. 2 processor cores that can process 4 threads at the same time due to Hyper Threading, Turbo Boost that allows a clock rate from 2.6 up to 2.93 GHz in single core application, a 3 MB L3 cache and an incorporated Intel HD graphics unit are computing performer's most important basic specs. This is enough to leave all ULV, LV and even the entire range of mobile AMD processor behind.

Intel's HM55 chipset serves as the system platform. Asus has, as mentioned in Connectivity, supplemented it with USB 3.0. A 4 GB DDR3 RAM and a 500 GB hard disk finish off the main components.

The Asus U36JC has a special feature in the graphics field. Intel's HD graphics incorporated in the processor is complemented with an additional Nvidia's Geforce 310M. Both chips can be used by Nvidia's Optimus technology and should provide more performance, respectively lower power consumption, depending on the requirements.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CPUZ Cache
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ RAM
System info CPUZ RAM SPD
System info GPUZ Intel
System info GPUZ Nvidia
System info HDTune
System information: Asus U36JC-RX081V
Video converting with CUDA
Video converting with CUDA

The benchmark results confirm that the 13 incher has a very good CPU performance, as expected. SuperPi 32M is calculated win 856s, wPrime 1024m in 539s and we receive 3884 points in Cinebench R10 64 bit (single) and 8969 points (multi). The Core i5-480M CPU achieves 42990 points in the SiSoft Sandra Dhrystone benchmark, and 30500 points in the Whetstone. Thus, the best possible performance is always made available for every single task with Hyper Threading and Turbo Boost.

The graphics field should be looked at more discriminately since two different graphic chips are in charge here. A look in the Intel HD graphics option settings once again reveals the senseless pre-settings. According to these, you should work as energy efficient as possible in mains operation and High Performance is made available for battery mode. However, this is only important for those who expect the highest possible performance when using the Intel graphics, in terms of performance. Therefore, it is recommendable to take a look at the settings.

The difference between both Intel alternatives is almost 800 points (1489 to 2243) in Cinebench R10 64 bit OpenGL Shading. The Geforce 310M however adds a good portion to that and reaches an almost twice as high score with 4267 points. This ratio looks similar in 3DMark Vantage. Intel achieves 316 points and Nvidia 1019 points. The Nvidia solution is noticeably better in comparison to Intel's HD graphics. Nevertheless, it's not strong enough for current, 3D-heavy games in medium or high quality settings.

At least the CUDA engine has a significant advantage in video converting. With the right program, such as Badaboom from Elemental, converting can be passed on to the graphics chip and thus still has enough system reserves for "normal" work left over. When the same task is managed by the CPU, the computer is usually busy with this task for a longer period and occupied. The Geforce 310M achieves 47.6 fps while converting our DVD test video into an iPhone compatible format (H.264, 427x320).

low med.high ultra
StarCraft 2 (2010) 5526fps
DPC Latency Checker
DPC Latency Checker: Asus U36JC-RX081V

We test to what extent latencies could turn up at the interfaces while interacting with external devices with the DPC Latency Checker. We receive a throughout "green" picture with harmless 857µs in the absolute maximum. Consequently, sound crackling, synchronization errors or the like shouldn't occur.

4.5
Windows 7 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
6.9
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
5.9
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
4.5
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
5.8
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.8
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
3884 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
8969 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
4267 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
4428
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
3158
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
7553
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
8.23 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
2.37 Points
Help
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage5505 points
Help

The application performance makes an overall very good impression. All tasks are finished well in PCMark Vantage. However, especially the hard disk develops an impairing effect and thus prevents reaching a better total score. Nevertheless, the result of 5505 points is very impressive and no restrictions should be expected during routine office and internet use. There are enough performance reserves available to still manage many tasks in energy saving settings very smoothly.

3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
3025 points
3DMark Vantage1019 points
Help
WDC Scorpio Blue WD5000BEVT-80A0R
Transfer Rate Minimum: 28.3 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 80.7 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 58.6 MB/s
Access Time: 20.7 ms
Burst Rate: 84.7 MB/s
CPU Usage: 1 %

The mass memory, WD5000BEVT, installed in the test model comes from Western Digital and has a capacity of 500 GB. This is a lot of room for data, media and programs. The 2.5" drives works with 5400 rpm and is, in view of performance, in the lower midfield of current notebook hard disks. With an average transfer rate of 59 MB/s and access times of over 20 ms, it won't be able to tackle everything. For more information see our comprehensive HDD benchmark table. This could be improved with a faster conventional hard disk or a solid state drive. Since Asus currently doesn't offer any alternatives, you would have to take care of this upgrade yourself.

Emissions

System Noise

The noise emissions can generally be described as low and of an unobtrusive quality. Although the fan is frequently inactive during low and small load, you almost always have a basic noise level of 32.2 dB(A), which we ascribe to the hard disk. When it turns itself off after a longer period of idle, the U36JC is even noiseless. An occasional hard disk clacking of 33.4 dB(A) turns up every now and again (likely the adjusting / parking of write/read heads). The noise level increases to a still moderate 38.3 dB(A) during medium load. You will have to live with a slightly fluctuation 49.2 dB(A) during full capacity. However, to accomplish the latter, it's necessary to provide the system with a large amount of tasks.

Noise Level

Idle 32.2 / 32.2 / 32.2 dB(A)
HDD 33.4 dB(A)
Load 38.3 / 49.2 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft sl-320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

The heat development behaves accordingly to performance requirement. While a maximum of 30.1°C are reached during normal work without graphics or CPU heavy tasks, the temperature increases to 42.6°C under load. But this rate is also absolutely unpretentious and no restrictions should be expected.

Max. Load
 39.5 °C42.4 °C28.7 °C 
 31.1 °C38.3 °C26.6 °C 
 29.1 °C23.3 °C26.0 °C 
Maximum: 42.4 °C
Average: 31.7 °C
29.5 °C40.1 °C40.3 °C
27.3 °C42.6 °C40.5 °C
26.6 °C24.1 °C33.4 °C
Maximum: 42.6 °C
Average: 33.8 °C
Power Supply (max.)  49 °C | Room Temperature 17.2 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

Speakers

The loudspeakers located in the front area radiate their sound toward the user. However, the low maximum volume is hardly suitable for presentations or demonstrations. As usual, you find an unbalanced sound in terms of sound characteristics. It is very treble-heavy and especially leaves out basses and midranges. Nevertheless, it suffices for background music or internet movies.

Battery Life

Asus has given the U36JC a very high capacity 8 cell battery. 84 Wh are very unusual for a 13" notebook. A 4 cell battery is allegedly also available, which particularly would have an advantage on weight and height. The smaller battery is currently neither found alone nor are there configurations with this alternative.

The lavish battery capacity is supported by low power consumption. We measured rates of 9.1 watts to 13.7 watts during little load. The system treats itself to 46 watts in medium load and, occasionally, even to almost 80 watts (CPU only: 66 watts).

Asus has extended the energy saving profiles, known from Windows 7, by its own (Entertainment, Quiet Office, High Performance and Battery Saving). They can be easily switched via the Power4Gear button. Moreover, Nvidia's Optimus has its fingers in the pie and switches automatically between Intel and Nvidia graphics, depending on the application. You can intervene in both technologies and adjust the settings to suit your personal needs.

Power4Gear tool
Power4Gear tool
Power4Gear settings
Power4Gear settings
Intel settings
Intel settings

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.4 / 1.2 Watt
Idle 9.1 / 10.5 / 13.7 Watt
Load 46.4 / 79.1 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940 // VC 960
Reader's Test
Maximum battery life (Reader's Test)
Reader's Test optimized
Maximum battery life (Reader's Test)
Classic Test
Minimum battery life (Classic Test)

In any event, you should take a look at the Intel graphics setting options. We yet again found contra productive settings here. Battery mode was set to "High Performance" (graphics run on maximum clock rate), which leads to a minimum battery life of over 60 min (543 min) in BatteryEater's Reader's Test.

With the right setting ("maximum battery life" – graphics clocks down to a minimum), a considerably better runtime of 609 min can be reached with the Intel HD graphics. Thus, Asus also keeps its promised theoretical battery life 10 hours.

Then again, it looks slightly different in practical use. A touch of more brightness, enabled WLAN and surfing on the internet cause a few more watts in power consumption and the runtime is reduced to 487 min. When you watch movies via the hard disk, the battery capacity only lasts for 336 min.

However, you have to look at the settings here as well. Nvidia's graphics is first automatically selected for the Windows Media Player and reduces the battery life by about an hour. Logically, you definitely have to count with a shorter battery life when an external optical drive is used for watching movies.

Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
10h 9min
WiFi Surfing
8h 07min
DVD
5h 36min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 52min

Verdict

Asus has done a lot of thing right and has set up a really attractive subnotebook. Highlights are the slim and light case with high-quality material haptics, the very good battery life and the nevertheless system's high performance. The Nvidia's CUDA engine rather falls into a niche, as it's really only supported by few programs until now. However, video converters will be happy about it.

On the other hand, we find the inappropriate display highly restricting again. The screen isn't much fun and basically obliterates all other mobility advantages with its reflective surface, low contrast ratio and, for outdoor use, too low brightness. The fact that the installed hard disk rather belongs to the slower category and also that 1-2 USB ports would have been desirable, is a drawback but not as extremely restricting.

The Asus can still count the good keyboard, USB 3.0, HDMI and the low temperature development on its pro side. The warranty period is 24 months and the price is very fair when compared to the competition.

Asus U36JC-RX081V
Asus U36JC-RX081V
In Review: Asus U36JC-RX081V
In Review:  Asus U36JC-RX081V

Specifications

Asus U36JC-RX081V
Processor
Intel Core i5-480M 2.666 GHz
Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce 310M - 1024 MB, Core: 606 MHz, Memory: 667 MHz, Intel HD + Nvidia 310M, Nvidia nvlddmkm 8.17.12.5964 / Win7 64, Intel igdumd64 8.15.10.2141 / Win7 64
Memory
4096 MB 
, 2x2048 MB DDR3 PC3-10700, 2 slots
Display
13.3 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, COR17D8, glossy: yes
Mainboard
Intel HM55 Express Chipset
Harddisk
WDC Scorpio Blue WD5000BEVT-80A0R, 500 GB 
5400 rpm
Soundcard
Realtek ALC269 @ Intel Ibex Peak PCH
Connections
2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: in/out, Card Reader: SD,MMC,MS,MS-Pro,XD,
Networking
Realtek PCIe GBE Family Controller (10/100/1000MBit), Atheros AR9285 802.11 b/g/n (b g n ), 2.1+EDR Bluetooth
Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 19 x 322 x 232 ( = 0.75 x 12.68 x 9.13 in)
Weight
1.69 kg ( = 59.61 oz) Power Supply: 350 g ( = 12.35 oz)
Battery
84 Wh Lithium-Ion, 8 cells, 5600 mAh
Price
830 Euro
Operating System
Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium 64 Bit
Additional features
Webcam: 0.3 MP, 24 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
The Asus U36JC's elegant case is lithe and lissome to begin with.
Bildgeschichte mit Bildunterschriften (getrennt per Enter für jedes Bild)
The advertised promises are well kept.
The keyboard is even suitable for prolific typists.
The webcam can only satisfy low demands with a scanty resolution of 0.3 MP.
The power button might look like a slider, but it has to be pressed.
The display hinge has a good grip, but isn't perfect
Status LEDs in front of the touchpad provide status information.
The wrist-rest is very stable and makes a robust impression.
The lavish battery capacity of 84 Wh helps reach very good battery runtimes.
The bottom tray is made in robust, black plastic.
But only the RAM is easily accessible.
ExpressGate Power4Gear button
USB 3.0 takes care of fast data transfer with 96 MB/s.
The color combination of black and aluminum additionally add to the looks,
Bitte in Alternative Text und Title Text ebenfalls kopieren
which reinforces this impression.
The display bezel is built especially thin
and thus can't protect the screen quite as well as the one or other competitor.
The opening angle is restricted due to the hinge's build,
but it is big enough for most tasks.
Although VGA is now only second choice, this port can be found
despite a superior digital alternative. Here HDMI, still in many notebooks.
The gap between lid and keyboard can't prevent small foreign objects from penetrating.
The audio ports are well reachable on the sides. But they could also prove to be awkward with connected peripherals.
The adapter has a standard size.

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Pro

+Very good workmanship
+Solid case
+Pleasant surfaces
+Good keyboard
+Good interface distribution
+Good application performance
+Good battery life
+Good keyboard
+Slim and elegant design
+USB 3.0
+Low heat development
 

Cons

-Reflective, contrast weak display
-No ExpressCard
-Webcam with only 0.3 MP
-Slow mass memory

Shortcut

What we like

The great case, the good application performance, the good mobility characteristics and the prolific typist apt keyboard.

What we'd like to see

A mobile device should be treated to the matching display. An anti-reflective surface is mandatory here. However, the contrast ratio and viewing angle stability are also worthy of improvement.

What surprises us

… that Asus has set up a device of such high workmanship.

The competition

Acer's Travelmate 8372 and Aspire 3820, Dell's Vostro V130 and Toshiba's U500 are in about the same price range. You'll have to dig a bit deeper in your pocket for Samsung's QX310, Sony's Vaio S13 or Apple's MacBook.

Rating

Asus U36JC-RX081V
03/03/2011 v2
Tobias Winkler

Chassis
91%
Keyboard
89%
Pointing Device
92%
Connectivity
67%
Weight
90%
Battery
91%
Display
68%
Games Performance
62%
Application Performance
88%
Temperature
90%
Noise
81%
Add Points
89%
Average
83%
86%
Subnotebook *
Weighted Average
> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Asus U36JC-RX081V Notebook
Author: Tobias Winkler, 2011-03-10 (Update: 2013-06- 6)