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Asus S56CA review

Ultrabook size, with an optical drive

Our Verdict

Product features

  • Screen Resolution : 1366 x 768
  • Processor Core : Dual-core (2 Core)

View full specification

For

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

Against

  • 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

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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

Tech Specs

Product TypeUltrabook
Green CompliantYes
Hard Drive Capacity750 GB
Processor ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ManufacturerIntel
Graphics Controller ModelHD 4000
BluetoothYes
Wireless LANYes
Optical Drive TypeDVD-Writer
Graphics Memory AccessibilityShared
Maximum Battery Run Time4 Hour
Solid State Drive Capacity24 GB
HDMIYes
WebcamYes
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 Addresshttp://uk.asus.com
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