ASUS U31JG-A1-13-inch Laptops Review

ASUS U31JG-A1-13-inch Laptops Review
Graphics oomph doesn't have to come at the expense of long battery life. Consider the ASUS U31JG-A1, a 13-inch laptop that combines Nvidia's Optimus technology with well over 6 hours of endurance. The Core i3 processor under the hood isn't the latest and greatest, but this thin-and-light machine has a lot to offer for $814. Is this notebook good enough to rise to the top of your shopping list?

Design :

The U31JG looks identical to the 14-inch version of this notebook, the U41JF. It starts strong with a brushed aluminum lid that feels sturdy. When you flip it open you'll see a two-tone design that's handsome but somewhat conservative. The area around the keyboard is glossy black, while the deck is silver plastic. We appreciated little aesthetic flourishes such as the textured cross-hatch pattern above the keyboard and the mirrored touchpad button. Overall, though, we prefer the sleeker, more modern design of ASUS' U36JC-A1, which is practically all black and sports a soft-touch finish.

Weighing 4.2 pounds and measuring 13.1 x 9.5 x 0.8-1.2 inches, the U31JG-A1 doesn't make the cut-off for what we consider an ultraportable (under 4 pounds), but it's certainly easy to slip the system into a bag. While the 13-inch MacBook Pro is heftier (4.6 pounds), the MSI X370 (3.8 pounds, 0.8 inches thin), HP Pavilion dm3t (4 pounds, 1 inch), and Toshiba Portege R835 (3 pounds, 0.7-1.1 inches) are all thinner and lighter. Even ASUS's own 13-inch U36JC-A1 is more portable, at 3.8 pounds and 0.8 inches.

Above the keyboard you'll find a power button on the right side and a shortcut button that activates the Quick Start OS, for those who don't want to boot Windows to start surfing the web.

Keyboard and Touchpad :

ASUS isn't known for great keyboards, and this model is no exception. The chiclet-style layout on the U31JG provided adequate feedback when typing this review, but we wish certain keys were larger--like the right Shift key--especially since there's unused space on the deck. We also noticed some flex. As per usual, adjusting the brightness, volume, and other settings on the keyboard requires a function key combo, as opposed to more convenient direct action keys.

The 3.1 x 1.8-inch touchpad on the U31JG-A1 is a bit on the small side, but we found the smooth silver surface easy to use. While pinch to zoom gestures worked fine, we saw inconsistent results when using the Synaptics touchpad to rotate photos and skim through them with three-finger flicks. We sometimes had to perform a gesture more than once to execute it.

Ports and Webcam :

The right side of the U31JG-A1 houses a Kensington lock slot, power jack, USB 2.0 port, and headphone and mic jacks. Two more USB ports line the right side of the notebook--no USB 3.0 here--along with HDMI, a memory card reader, Ethernet, and VGA. You don't get a built-in optical drive, a trade-off more and more people are willing to make for portability.

Equipped with a 0.3-MP webcam, the U31JG offered clear call quality over Skype. The other caller said she could easily make out our blue shirt and even details in the background. However, she also said that the sound echoed a bit, as if we were in a tunnel.

Heat :

After playing a Hulu video for 15 minutes, we measured mostly cool temperatures coming from the U31JG-A1. The touchpad registered just 82 degrees and the space between the G&H keys reached 90 degrees. The underside got a bit toasty at 94 degrees, but that's still below the threshold of what we consider uncomfortable (95).