Asus' U36 slips standard-voltage CPUs into slender chassis

Asus has quietly released a new thin-and-light laptop based on Intel's current Core 2010 platform. TechConnect caught wind of the system last week, and the official product page reveals many interesting attributes. Chief among them is the chassis, which has an aluminum-magnesium alloy lid and a "nanometer coating" on the palm rest that's said to resist fingerprints and be easy to clean. And then there's the size of the thing, which measures just 0.75" thick and weighs 3.2-3.7 lbs depending on whether you opt for the 4- or 8-cell battery.

The 8-cell unit is rated for 84 Wh, so battery life should be pretty decent. Asus is claiming 10 hours of run time for the system, which actually uses standard-voltage Core i3 and i5 processors as well as a GeForce 310M discrete GPU. Nvidia's Optimus graphics-switching technology is on the menu, of course, and once again we see it deployed with just about the slowest graphics chip in Nvidia's mobile arsenal. Given the slender chassis and standard-voltage CPU options, I suspect the U36 simply doesn't have the thermal headroom to spare for a more powerful GPU.

Graphics are pumped to a 13.3" LED-backlit panel with the expected 1366x768 resolution. You also get HDMI and VGA outputs, an integrated card reader, and three USB 3.0 ports. Add Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11n Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth support, and the U36 starts to look pretty sweet indeed. I think I might be smitten.

According to Asus, the U36 is scheduled to arrive stateside in a couple of weeks. The configuration planned for North America has a $999 suggested price and includes a Core i5-460M CPU, the 8-cell battery, 4GB of memory, and a 500GB hard drive. That's sounds like a pretty good deal if the U36 lives up to Asus' battery life claims and delivers the fit and finish we expect from more luxurious laptops. Based on what we saw with the Bamboo-infused U33Jc, there's every reason to be optimistic.

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