Windows 7 Mini Laptop – ASUS U31SD-A1
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If you are searching for a good traveling companion that offers a decent amount of power, you might want to have a look at the Asus U31SD-A1 which is a 13.3-inch laptop that adopts a silver and black exterior finish which we find to be quite appealing. It is manufactured entirely from plastic, except for the back of the lid which is made from aluminum. The quality of the plastics is on the average side, while the chassis seems to be lacking some internal strength but this shouldn’t worry you. The following configuration costs about $800 which we find to be a good price tag for the hardware specifications you’re getting.
At the heart of the laptop is a second generation Intel Core i3-2310M dual core processor based on the Sandy Bridge processor, and it runs at 2.10 GHz. It comes with an Intel HM65 chipset and a dedicated video card in the form of an entry-level Nvidia GeForce GT 520 that has 1GB of DDR3 memory. In the RAM area it has 4GB of DDR3 running at 1,333 MHz, but there’s another slot available so you can get up to 8GB of memory if you really need it. As far as the hard drive is concerned, one of the models offered by Asus is a 640GB Western Digital spinning at 5,400 rpm. We notice the absence of an optical drive and also the lack of Bluetooth which could be a major downside for some users. You do get a webcam and a massive eight-cell Li-Ion battery that has a capacity of 5800 mAh (83 Wh). We’ll talk about it at the end of the review.
The laptop measures 12.9 x 9.2 x 1 inches and weighs 4 lbs which is a typical size and weight for a laptop that has a 13-inch screen. We should also mention that Asus is offering a two-year global limited warranty along with one-year accidental damage cover. As far as the ports and features are concerned, the front of the U31SD-A1 is where Asus installed the speakers while at the back sits that big battery. On the left spine you will have access to the microphone and headphone jacks, AC power, Kensington Lock slot, USB 2.0 port and cooling exhaust vent. As for the right spine, this is where the two USB 2.0 ports are sitting, next to an HDMI port, multi-format card reader, Ethernet port and also VGA out.
The Asus U31SD-A1 has a 13.3-inch glossy screen that has a native resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels (720p). We have to mention that this is the only screen option for this model. While the glossy coating might be attractive at first, most people don’t really like it due to the reason that it catches a lot of reflections plus it’s also more difficult to clean. As far as the contrast and the accuracy of the colors are concerned, these are on the average side, while the brightest level is mediocre.
The horizontal viewing angles are quite good, while the vertical ones are limited, but this is understandable given the segment in which the U31SD-A1 belongs to since most of the laptops that have a similar price are suffering from poor vertical angles. Keep in mind that it has a 720p resolution so there isn’t a lot of vertical space, meaning that you won’t be able to fit in a lot of content at the same time, but this won’t be an issue for most users.
Below the palm rest of this model are two speakers which were made by Altec Lansing. The quality is below average while the volume is decent. Moving on to the island-style keyboard, it consists of flat-topped keys which feature a granular surface so the grip is better. These keys have a short travel so the level of feedback is not that great. In addition, we also didn’t like that it gave us a plasticky feeling that lowers the quality of the laptop. On the flip side, the touchpad is great as it comes with a non-slip coating that provides a good finger resistance. We wished that it had two separate left and right mouse buttons instead of a single-piece bar.
Let’s move on with the review and talk about the performance offered by this Asus U31SD-A1. It offers just about the same performance as other consumer notebooks, having more than enough power to handle most of the tasks, like picture editing, web browsing and watching high definition content. You do get a dedicated GPU (GeForce 520M) but this is good only for light gaming as it isn’t powerful enough to handle the latest games at the highest level of details.
It is worth mentioning that this model comes with Nvidia’s Optimus technology which saves precious battery life when running non graphics-intense applications as it uses the integrated Intel HD 3000 graphics chip and only fires up the dedicated GPU when it’s necessary.
One of the best things about the Asus U31SD-A1 would have to be that it remains not only cool but also silent most of the times. Even in full load it doesn’t get hot, while the fan is silent even in full load.
As promised, we end this review by talking about the battery which is able to last for a whopping eleven hours thanks to that huge 8-cell unit we mentioned earlier. It is most likely the best result in this category which makes the laptop a great companion while you are travelling.
Priced at about $750, the Asus U31SD-A1 is a good choice for the money you are paying since you’ll be getting a cool and silent laptop that has a tremendous battery life while the level of performance is enough for the daily common tasks. In addition, that warranty is also a nice plus to have. However, the keyboard is not one of the best we’ve seen, while the build quality could have been improved. If it’s battery life you’re interested in the first place, this is probably the laptop to have without having to spend a lot of money.