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Asus S56CA review

Ultrabook size, with an optical drive

Asus S56CA review
The Asus S56CA has an optical drive but only an i3 processor


  • Great price
  • Good usability
  • Good battery life
  • Optical drive


  • Not super thin or light
  • Low-res screen
  • Performance not as good as other Ultrabooks
  • Noisy
  • Bloatware


  • + Great price
  • + Good usability
  • + Good battery life
  • + Optical drive


  • - Not super thin or light
  • - Low-res screen
  • - Performance not as good as other Ultrabooks
  • - Noisy
  • - Bloatware

With the arrival of Ultrabooks, laptops took a leap forward in portability by paring back on features. Where the MacBook Air led, others followed - low-power Intel chips, fast SSD storage and a cutting back of features and connectivity in order to fit the space.

But some recent Ultrabooks have been taking back what was lost, while still fitting into the slim-and-light spec. The Asus S56CA-XX024H is one such laptop.

Like the Toshiba U840-10V, it's a lower-priced Ultrabook that doesn't skimp on connections, though it's a few hundred pounds cheaper than the Toshiba - or almost any Ultrabook we've seen - at £499.99 in the UK (around AU$765) or US$699.99 in the US.

Asus S56CA review

But it's not just the price or connections that make the Asus S56CA stand out. There's also its optical drive and relatively large 15.6-inch screen.

The DVD drive was one of the first things to go from Ultrabooks, and it's something that can be a sticking point for many people. Certainly, its inclusion makes the Asus S56CA stand out from the skinny crowd its in.

Most Ultrabooks have a screen that's between 11 and 14 inches, so the 15-inch one here is a bit of a surprise. As with a few aspects of the Asus S56CA, it pushes the Ultrabook moniker to its limits. With a much larger footprint than the likes of the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A or Lenovo IdeaPad U410, it's not the most portable of ultra-portable laptops.

Asus S56CA review

It's actually 380mm wide and 266mm deep, with a thickness when closed of 21mm (15 x 10.5 x 0.8 inches). And at 2.3kg (5.1lbs), it's not exactly super light, either. It's more than double the weight of an 11-inch MacBook Air, and weighs around 60% more than the 13-inch Asus Zenbook UX32A.

Inside, it's fairly typical for Ultrabook specs: a low-power 1.8GHz Intel Core i3 processor and graphics, a 500GB hard drive and 24GB SSD combination, and 4GB of RAM - all used to power Windows 8.

With its large screen, DVD drive and thin profile, it seems to make sense as a home laptop more than something for road warriors - though it does offer a numerical keypad, which smaller Ultrabooks don't.

Asus S56CA review

As far as looks go, it's firmly from the 'Hey, those MacBooks are nice, aren't they?' school of design - at least, it is while open. The black keyboard, black screen bezel and silver body all look a bit familiar, but the finish on them is undeniably decent.

When closed, it's a different matter - the brushed black finish on the lid gives it a low-key look, but it's reasonably attractive for a budget laptop - it certainly doesn't feel any cheaper-made than a higher-end Ultrabook.

Also in the Asus S56CA range is the bigger, pricier brother called the Asus S56CA-XX081H, which features a 1.7GHz Intel Core i5 processor, 4GB RAM and a 750GB hard drive and 24GB SSD combination. That model costs £599.99/US$699 (around AU$918).

Asus S56CA review