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CNET First Look
Asus U31SD-A1 laptopSurprisingly good graphics and great battery life hide inside this 13-inch, $799 Asus notebook. It may not be sexy or super-thin, but it's a rock-solid back-to-school consideration.
Hi. I'm Scott Stein, Senior Editor at CNET.com, and this is the ASUS U31SD-A1. Now if you're doing any back-to-school shopping, you're probably looking for some budget laptop that's portable, that is a good solid all-around set of features and performance; well, this will slot into that area. It's maybe not that exciting but it is a laptop that fits the bill. It's 13 inches. It's 4.2 pounds. Now, it's nowhere near as thin and light as a MacBook Air; but at $799, it's more affordable than one. And it comes with a Core i3 processor that's 2nd gen and also has some decent graphics, NVIDIA GeForce 520M. It's not gonna blow the doors off anything but it is capable of playing some basic games. Plus this laptop's got really good battery life; we got it at almost 6 hours running on our video playback battery drain test. So that's really an all-day battery life which is great in this little form, but it's not that exciting looking. I mean, it's kind of the old-fashioned almost for a couple of years ago, but you're not necessarily buying a laptop to draw attention. If you're budget shopping, this has got a 640-gigabyte hard drive, 4 GB of RAM and enough oomph to get you through a day which qualifies for us as a really good buy. But just be aware that at $800, you can get a lot of laptops now with a lot of different features. Some of which are better than this, and some of which are a little more lacking; so it's not quite the bargain that you think it is. Just before I warned, this does not have an optical drive. No, there's no DVD drive in here whatsoever; now, that you expect on a 13-inch MacBook Air. But I'm telling you, this thick you could've sought an optical in there but you're not gonna get one. But if you're looking for a 13-incher back-to-school that's not too thick but not that thin, take a look at the ASUS U31SD-A1.