August 15, 2011
- Compact & portable design
- Very long battery life
- Strong graphics performance
- Keyboard/touchpad issues
- Unimpressive display
The Asus U31SD-A1 is a 13-inch laptop that's extremely portable and has some power to back it up. It has an Intel Core i3 CPU, dual-graphics with 1GB discrete Nvidia graphics and extremely long battery life. It does have some flaws, however, like a somewhat dull display.
The Asus U31SD-A1 has a brushed-aluminum lid and a two-tone interior. The palm rest area below the keyboard is made of plastic, but it has the same brushed-aluminum design, so it melds together well. It measures 12.9 x 9.1 x 1.12-inches (wdh) and weighs just over 4-pounds, so it's quite compact, lightweight and portable. This is a laptop that is great for people who are on-the-go because of the small size.
The keyboard is an island-style keyboard that has keys that are well-spaced and sized. The lettering on them are also extremely legible and bright white, so even older users can use it without issue. The only two gripes about the keyboard was the undersized right Shift key and the amount of flex the keyboard gave, which decreased its comfort rating slightly.
The touchpad is smooth and frictionless, but it's definitely not the biggest one out there, so some might feel the space is a little limited. It supports multitouch gestures, but it could be a little more sensitive because some gestures took multiple tries to get it to register.
Asus' 13.3-inch display has a native resolution of 1366 x 768-pixels. We found the display quality to be only average because some of the images were grainy and not as vibrant as they could be. This was mostly evident when watching DVDs, where the overall picture left us wanting more.
In terms of ports, the Asus U31SD-A1 has three USB 2.0 ports, HDMI-out, VGA-out, the usual audio ports, Ethernaet and a 5-in-1 memory card reader. Unfortunately, Asus did not include either USB 3.0 or eSATA. 802.11b/g/n wireless is also on-board.
Specifications of the Asus U31SD-A1 include a second-generation Intel Core i3-2310M CPU (2.1GHz), 4GB of DDR3 memory, a 640GB 5400RPM hard drive and Nvidia GeForce GT520M graphics with 1GB of dedicated video memory. While these specs certainly aren't the best out there, they will definitely get the job done for most users. We had no problems watching HD content, streaming video or doing heavy multitasking. Asus provides Microsoft Windows 7 Home Premium as the laptop's operating system.
Graphics performance definitely is this laptop's strong side because the discrete Nvidia GT520M card offers really great performance, even with 3D gaming. When you don't need the added graphics performance, it will switch over to the Intel Integrated GMA HD 3000 graphics, which also will increase your battery life.
This laptop has the ExpressGate instant-on operating system that is Linux-based, which lets you boot into a basic operating system in about 10 seconds by pressing a button above the keyboard. Here you can do basic tasks, like surf the Internet using Google Chrome, view pictures, watch videos and play some basic games.
Battery life with the included 8-cell battery is an astounding 9-10 hours, which is almost double what other similar laptops provide.