I am a design student, so to replace my three-year-old dell I did a lot of research to find the best blend of performance (heavy photoshop, flash, 30+ tabs with firefox), size (I bike all around, and walk the rest of the time. plus, you know, convenience) and price (i am pretty poor).
The Asus u36jc-b1 gets really close. Really close. Like, if I could give it 4.8 stars would. The one thing it gets wrong isn't really asus's fault really, the other manufacturers were just driving there prices down so much they couldn't help it. well. more on that later.
First, the build quality is (to coin the phrase) stunning. Very solid, slim, stylin'. It's more like I am using a prop from a near-future scifi crime drama than something you can actually BUY. What with most laptops these days being so chintzy and plastic and bendy and flexy and just rubbish. Very impressed here, no question. Since I may have mentioned I go to an art and design university, it is filled with the mac-wielding hipster sort that wears old junky looking clothes and listens to junky sounding music on archaic vinyl records. But on the other hand, they spend much more money on their computers than anything else (except perhaps their coffee). So when I say I have gotten compliments for how this machine looks, in this particular context, that is no small thing. But I digress. I do a lot of coding (double major) as well as drawing on this machine. Keyboard is top notch, very good clicky feedback that you don't get on many laptops. Touchpad is bigger than the one on my old machine so i'm happy. not a big fan of the rocker button but it doesn't bother me.
I just bought Portal 2, (not the most graphics intensive game but it's certainly cutting edge) and after I updated the nVidia driver and downloaded the Performannce control panel, I was able to look at the core temperatures and see how the game did on different settings. When I bought the machine it handled basic parts of the game with default (most medium) settings on native (1366x768) resolution at about 30 FPS, and then dropped to 15 when looking at a lot of objects from a far distance with portals around. After bumping the clock from 606 to 707, the temps jumped a few degrees from mid 50C to 58-61C, but the game went to 35-55 FPS from the previous 15-30. I highly recommend playing with the GPU overclocking if you feel comfortable. I did not change the CPU or memory clock. Just in case I still have some conditions set that if the temperatures get above 70-80 there are warnings and it will automatically scale back the core clock.
The BIG BONUS: I don't have to worry about the GPU clock eating up my battery hardly at all! With optimus, I am only going to be using the Intel integrated graphics on battery and when not in-game or watching hi def videos. I think this is fantastic and I would look for this feature in ANY laptop you buy.
Excellent. Before I overclocked, I played portal 2 for nearly 3.5 hours on battery before I got a warning saying it was low. This would translate to very useful battery run times in the field, though I haven't had this machine long enough to use it away from home for a full day, but I am expecting to not need my power adapter away from home if I charge every night.
Did I mention I am a design student? I probably know a LOT more about LCD displays than you do, probably. Short version: It can be a little cramped if you have a lot going on on your screen, but not much. View angles from side to side are fine. Enough for a whole couch to see a movie from a decent distance. top to bottom? You can see everything from a good number of angles with just a little bit of fading. Yeah it's glossy, but that's splitting hairs to me. It's dang bright.
If you don't know that #343434 is gray without looking at a chart, skip this next paragraph. if you don't know what the heck #343434 is at all, DEFINITELY skip this next paragraph.
The screen real estate is just enough to use photoshop without it being a headache, you can get two web pages up on either side of the screen, or one webpage and notepad++ up, but you won't be able to see the 960px of most page widths. Your code window should be wide enough for most things. The viewangles are actually pretty terrible from a designer's perspective, though most people wouldn't notice. unless you have it exactly pointed at your face, the colors will shift and you will be looking at something a shade lighter or darker than what you think it is. I kind of hate this, and I am looking around the web for a (hopefully higer res) panel with better view angles, one that may be matte finish. I find myself always moving the lcd to try and find the sweet spot to know exactly what colors I am looking at when I am trying to change colors for web pages or photos.
Ok, welcome back everyone.
I fear the lid may be pretty scratchable. there's a small hairline scratch on mine already, I am going to tak extra precautions to keep it away from deadly spiral notebook edges.
Lots. When you get the computer, first thing is go to control panel>programs and features> and start uninstalling junk. Most of the ASUS stuff is junk, don't uninstall any drivers. Though DO update the nVidia driver from nVidia's website. Also, the desktop gadgets are junky memory hogs, go a head and right click on the desktop and go View>Show desktop gadgets and uncheck.
Small. I like that. comes with a strap too.
Eco-friendly. that's nice.
Great machine, I'm excited. I love almost everything about it, except the LCD panel is not as nice as the one on my 3 year old dell, in the race-to-the-bottom pricing strategy of today's manufacturers, lcd quality is the first thing to go. Everyone's doing it, even Sony. So don't go thinking that other laptops in this class will have anything better. Speaking of which, the alternative to me getting this machine was the Sony Vaio Z, at the time of writing it was also a core i5, with nVidia 330m. The big difference was that it had a 1600x900 LCD panel that was very, very beautiful (saw it at Best Buy a few times). I was torn for a long time, but then they discontinued the Vaio Z and this machine has lots of other features like Optimus, it's thinner and has a better battery by far. But the kicker was the Vaio Z has a $2000+ price tag, even though it's discontinued and only on eBay. The very cheapest I can get it right now is $1600 from Microsoft Store with the weakest configuration.
I feel like this machine is going to serve me well for the next 2 or 3 years. Well, it's going to have to. But that's beside the issue. I highly recommend this computer. Things I gripe about like the LCD are a problem, but it's not like I can go and buy another laptop this good for this price that will have a better LCD. I even carefully considered the Macbook Pro 13 inch and Macbook Air 13. The pro has NO dedicated graphics, and the air has a weak Core 2 Duo. So this Asus really is a hidden gem behind the crapware, obscure product name and terrible lack of notoriety.