Asus S56CA review

Ultrabook size, with an optical drive

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The headline for the Asus S56CA-XX024H is surely its price. Ultrabooks for below £600/$800 are pretty rare, and Asus has somehow managed to get the Asus S56CA down to £499.99/US$699.99 (around AU$765) without sacrificing too much in the feature tick list - and even adding something to it in the form of an optical drive.

Actually, we say "somehow", but it's easy to spot the weak points. The processor is an obvious one, lacking even the grunt of the Toshiba Satellite U840-10V, which comes in at £650 (around AU$998/US$1,034) - still considered cheap for an Ultrabook.

It's also much larger and heavier than 13-inch Ultrabooks - so much so that you have to consider something of a perspective adjustment when judging it compared to other Ultrabooks. It's weightier, chunkier and slower than something such as the Asus Zenbook UX32A, but then it's also not far off half the price.

It makes much more sense to view the Asus S56CA as a svelte regular home laptop than as a bloated Ultrabook - suited more to sitting on the side of the sofa than in your travelling bag.

We liked

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There's no denying that the price of the Asus S56CA is rather attractive. It's half the price of even mid-range Ultrabooks, so regardless of the compromises, it's worth looking over if you've got a tight budget.

While we're not sure we'd say we explicitly "like" the optical drive, it's another feature that massively stands out. If you liked the idea of Ultrabooks, but not the sacrifice of physical media, you've something of a stopgap here.

It's also important to note that Asus hasn't abandoned usability in its quest to make a cheap Ultrabook. The keyboard is nice, and the trackpad's multi-touch gestures are easy to use. The battery life is impressive, too.

We disliked

Despite the good work Asus has done to make the S56C cheap, there's no denying that it doesn't feel as premium as other Ultrabooks. The processor is just a little slow here and there, the hard drive means that getting files is slow (even if it turns on quickly) and the screen is low-res and of distinctly average quality.

And it's all produced a laptop that really is big and heavy for an Ultrabook. It only just squeezes into the specifications, and we can't help but feel it's a case of following the letter of Ultrabooks, not the spirit. It's also annoying noisy, coming in no small part from the optical drive and hard drive.

And it's sad to see the bloatware menace pervade even on Windows 8. The new interface offers some respite, but going back to the Desktop mode will assault you with just as many needless popups as it ever did.

Final verdict

Let's get this bit out of the way: Is the Asus S56CA a good Ultrabook? No. It's too heavy, too large, too noisy and too slow.

But is it a good mid-range home laptop in general? It's not bad. It packs the waking speed of an SSD, an optical drive and good usability into a body that's still slimmer than most non-Ultrabook laptops.

If you abandoned the slim form factor, you might be able to find one with a better screen or faster CPU, but it certainly doesn't seem unreasonable for the price.


Tech Specs

Product TypeUltrabook
Green CompliantYes
Hard Drive Capacity750 GB
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 4000
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeDVD-Writer
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Maximum Battery Run Time4 Hour
Solid State Drive Capacity24 GB
Backlight TechnologyLED
Product FamilyS56
Operating System Architecture64-bit
Processor Modeli5-3317U
Operating SystemWindows 8
Brand NameAsus
Processor Speed1.70 GHz
Processor TypeCore i5
Screen Size39.6 cm (15.6")
Number of Cells4-cell
Screen Resolution1366 x 768
Standard Memory4 GB
Weight (Approximate)2.39 kg
Cache3 MB
Processor CoreDual-core (2 Core)
Green Compliance Certificate/AuthorityRoHS
64-bit ProcessingYes
Chipset ManufacturerIntel
Chipset ModelHM76 Express
Number of Total Memory Slots2
Optical Media SupportedDVD-RAM/±R/±RW
Dual-Layer Media SupportedYes
Display Screen TypeActive Matrix TFT Colour LCD
Display Screen TechnologyColour Shine
Wireless LAN StandardIEEE 802.11b/g/n
Bluetooth StandardBluetooth 4.0
Ethernet TechnologyGigabit Ethernet
Total Number of USB Ports3
Memory StandardDDR3-1600/PC3-12800
Height21 mm
Width380 mm
Depth266 mm
Screen ModeHD
Memory TechnologyDDR3 SDRAM
Product SeriesS56
ManufacturerASUS Computer International
Product ModelS56CA-XX081H
Product NameS56CA-XX081H Ultrabook
Pointing Device TypeTouchPad
Aspect Ratio16:9
Manufacturer Part NumberS56CA-XX081H
Manufacturer Website Address
Marketing InformationSleek aesthetic design

Beyond being extra thin and light, ASUS S56 ultrabooks pack a full feature set in just 21mm. The cool grey hairline design expresses a personal professional approach. One-piece molded top casing reinforces notebook strength and rigidity, and the entire style embodies subtlety that meets all your performance portability needs.

User-centric innovations

The large Smart Gesture touchpad enables always fingertip-natural computing, and the back-assembled chiclet keyboard assures extra-solid typing for greater comfort.

Maximum Memory8 GB
Package Contents
  • S56CA-XX081H Ultrabook
  • Standard Battery
  • AC Adapter
Limited Warranty1 Year