ASUS S56CA-WH31 15.6-Inch Ultrabook



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3 Responses to “ASUS S56CA-WH31 15.6-Inch Ultrabook”

  1. K. Jancaitis says:
    231 of 240 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    A review from a mostly satisfied owner, November 28, 2012
    By 
    K. Jancaitis (Livermore, CA USA) –
    (REAL NAME)
      

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: ASUS S56CA-WH31 15.6-Inch Ultrabook (Personal Computers)
    I purchased this computer (S56CA-WH31) for my son to use at college, and have been configuring it for him for the past couple of days. Here are a few of my impressions so far:

    The overall construction is very good except for one issue – the DVD tray extends out from the side of the laptop by about 1 mm. One on-line reviewer noticed that the fit of the DVD tray was off in his review model also, but I am surprised that this got through into the production models. It is not a big issue, but it definitely detracts from the look of the aluminum body.

    The screen is bright and clear and has good viewing angles. The keyboard is nice and big and works well with my hunt and peck. The large scroll pad is nice, and I am liking the imbedded buttons more than I thought I would.

    The operating system is Windows 8 core (not pro). There is an ASUS-branded software DVD player, so I didn’t have to upgrade to pro to get the windows media pack for DVD play as I feared I might have to. There is no utility to create recovery DVD’s even though the paper manual refers to one called AI recovery. There is a Bluetooth module, so the “reviewer” who says that there isn’t one is wrong.

    The 500 GB hard drive is partitioned into a number of system and recovery partitions and a C: system partition of about 186 GB along with a D: data “drive” of about 258 GB. I used the Windows 8 disk manager to first remove the D: partition, expand the system “drive” to around 400 GB, and then used the rest of the space for a 39 GB D: drive just in case the recovery software expects to find the D: drive there.

    I installed Start8 from Stardock to get a start menu back on the desktop, and have ordered a 4GB SODIMM to expand the memory up to 8 GB ($25) – I figured more memory would be useful especially with the imbedded HD-4000 graphics.

    I don’t know what the reviewer who was complaining that this was a “slow” computer was talking about. It has a windows experience score of 4.8, which is not bad for an I-3 without turbo-boost and with imbedded graphics. It won’t play highly graphics intensive games, but that’s not what I bought it for, not should you expect it from the online specs.

    Hope this is good enough for an initial review.

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  2. M. McFall "Yay interwebs" says:
    307 of 323 people found the following review helpful
    3.0 out of 5 stars
    Good for casual user, better for advanced users. Great price., November 29, 2012
    By 
    M. McFall “Yay interwebs” (South Bay L.A., CA USA) –

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: ASUS S56CA-WH31 15.6-Inch Ultrabook (Personal Computers)

    Overall, this is a decent to good Ultrabook, providing fantastic value at the price point the i3 version is being offered for ($500 at time of purchase). I’d rate it at 3.5 stars. It’s a handsome looking notebook and I bought this to replace a tiny netbook my wife had been using; the price of this Ultrabook is only a couple hundred more than a difficult to use small, brand new netbook, while having good functionality (good luck typing on a fancy, more expensive tablet, or sub 11″ notebook), more processing grunt than tablets and most netbooks, all within a slim, relatively lightweight profile that is suitable for travel.

    There are a lot of pros and cons to this ultrabook, but some of are non issues to casual users, while others make this ultrabook better suited to advanced users (or advanced users who set it up for a casual user).

    OUT OF THE BOX:
    The quality and appearance is great. The aluminum body and top lid are very sleek looking. The darker brushed aluminum on the top does tend to discolor and pick up fingerprints with ease. It’s not terribly heavy and while the base is very sturdily built, the screen lid feels a bit flimsy. The top lid appears to be a combination of flimsier plastic, with a very thin brushed aluminum overlay. Lightly pressing on parts of the lid causes the LCD screen to have fluctuations. Despite the notebook being light, you’ll want to resist picking up the notebook by the lid/screen, as it may risk damaging the LCD.

    LCD QUALITY:
    The glossy screen is clear, but has very poor viewing angles. 1366 x 768 resolution is merely adequate. Minor backlight bleeding on right and left edges. Colors are bright, vibrant, with a lot of contrast, but actual gamut (range of natural colors it can reproduce) is only average. This isn’t a graphics workstation replacement nor intended for photographers/graphic artists who will be using this notebook for producing color perfect prints, so it’s mostly a non issue.

    TOUCHPAD:
    The large touchpad seems to have fairly high dpi sensitivity, which is a very good thing. Swiping and navigating with the touchpad is fairly smooth, although I did experience an occasional stutters. Two and Three finger multitouch work as advertised. There is an easy to understand short manual showing users how to take advantage of the touchpad features. One of the nicer ones is to swipe in from the right edge to bring up the Windows 8 “Charms” bar.

    KEYBOARD:
    I’m a big fan of island style keyboards and having a full numpad. Keyboard feels very good to use and will have no problems for users who need to do a lot of typing and numerical input with it.

    SPEAKERS:
    The speakers are pretty unique and are actually integrated into the laptop’s battery and produce a fantastic range of sound for a laptop. Among the best I’ve heard. UPDATE: Apparently, they’re in the laptop. The battery has a faux speaker cover looking applique.

    CPU+GRAPHICS:
    The i3 provides a nice balance between power consumption and speed. The i3 is not slow by any means and the Intel integrated graphics aren’t either. While you won’t be able to play the newest games on high settings on this, many games are completely playable at low-mid settings. 1080p videos play flawlessly (when output to a higher resolution screen). The Intel integrated graphics share graphics memory with the computer– if you add another 4GB of RAM (~$25), you can, through the BIOS settings, increase total graphics memory allocation to 512MB. I was able to play Shogun 2: Total War on decent quality settings after a small memory upgrade. The graphics power is around that of the Nvidia GT 610M or GT 630M (with max 512mb memory allocation).

    HARD DRIVE:
    This ultrabook has an integrated 24GB mSATA SSD (short type) on the motherboard and a 500GB 5400 rpm secondary hard drive, where both operate in tandem as a hybrid HDD (via Intel IRST). This provides relatively quick boot up and loading of most programs, but the 5400rpm hard drive a big crutch and despite any marketing, these 5400rpm drives are always a crutch and I’ve had a bit of slowdown on this notebook solely due to the 5400rpm drive. I swapped it out for an SSD, but it was a lot of work, which I’ll get into later. This Ultrabook operates much faster and more reliably with an SSD in place of the 5400rpm mechanical drive.

    INTEGRATED PERIPHERALS:
    A nice amount of ports, USB 2.0 and 3.0 work at advertised speeds, HDMI and VGA out is nice, although I do wish it had an eSATA port. The camera is not very good and produced a very grainy picture. It’s a typical low end webcam. Bluetooth, which was included in my model, has adequate range. I am surprised that a DVD drive can fit in this form factor, squeezing one in might have resulted in some QC issues with mine– the eject DVD button works strangely, requiring a abnormally hard button press…

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  3. Alexander Duplessie says:
    52 of 62 people found the following review helpful
    4.0 out of 5 stars
    Good Ultrabook for the Price *See Updates*, December 1, 2012
    By 

    Amazon Verified Purchase(What’s this?)
    This review is from: ASUS S56CA-WH31 15.6-Inch Ultrabook (Personal Computers)

    *UPDATE AFTER SSD PURCHASE*

    Upgrading the internal HDD to a 240GB SSD has fixed all of the problems I mentioned in my previous update. The computer now runs incredibly fast.

    I will add, however, that trying to reinstall Windows 8 with the same product key was impossible except by using an unmodified x64 iso of Windows 8. For some reason, I could not download the iso from Microsoft and had to find it elsewhere. After finally getting the proper iso, the reinstall was a breeze, and the OEM product key was entered in automatically (make sure you have secure boot enabled). I also formatted the internal 24GB SSD and now use it to store my internet browser’s cache to extend the life of my 2.5″ SSD. Not having the Intel Rapid Start or Asus Instant On features has not created any noticeable affect on performance or resume speeds.

    *UPDATE AFTER 2 WEEKS OF USE*

    Do NOT buy this laptop if you don’t intend to upgrade the internal Hard Drive to an SSD. The performance of the internal HDD bottlenecks the entire computer. I cannot listen to a 320kbps mp3 while browsing the internet without it skipping/stuttering, and I cannot listen to a FLAC file doing nothing else without it skipping. I also cannot watch an SD .avi file without it skipping/stuttering at least 10 times during a 40 minute TV show, and I cannot play Worms: Reloaded (a very simple game that this computer should be able to handle) without it locking up for a second or two EVERY 3 SECONDS. Either the internal HDD is EXTREMELY slow (my guess because my RAM and CPU usage are always well below 100%, and it’s not just video but also audio that skips) or my unit is defective in some other way. The HDD indicator light is pretty much constantly on when I try to do any of the previously mentioned tasks as well. I will be ordering a 240GB SSD within the next month to see if that fixes the problem. Otherwise I will be sending the unit in to Asus. If you need a working laptop for under $500, don’t get this. I’m going to be spending at least $200 on this laptop within the next few months (SSD and 8GB more RAM).

    If the SSD upgrade fixes the problems, I would rate this at 4 stars again, but these issues bring it down to 2 for now.
    —————-
    ORIGINAL REVIEW:

    This is a review for the Core i3 with 4GB of RAM.

    PROS:
    -Great keyboard w/ numpad, touchpad, and overall build quality with ample ports.
    -Large, glossy screen and great audio quality on built in speakers.
    -Snappy performance with Windows 8 on the internal SSD
    -Laptop stays cool under load.
    -Instant On resumes the OS very quickly.
    -Latest 22nm version of the Intel CPU/GPU chipset (a lot of Ultrabooks in this price range are using the older 32nm architecture)
    -ASUS Gesture makes Windows 8 a breeze on a non-touchscreen device.

    CONS:
    -Battery life is a bit lacking with the 4-cell battery (around 5 hours) BUT it also charges insanely fast (faster than my cell phone)
    -LCD quality could be better; although it is perfectly adequate for a student or casual user. The viewing angles are limited and the color range is not the greatest. Tweaking the graphics settings helps quite a bit, but if the screen quality is the most important thing in a laptop to you, you probably won’t be happy.
    -The back is a fingerprint magnet, but that’s nothing a little Windex can’t help.
    -DVD drive sticks out a NEGLIGENT amount on the backside. It’s less than 1mm for me, and the front is flush. I’ve seen people complaining about it, but don’t see it as being a huge deal.
    -The speakers are on the bottom, so when the laptop is sitting on a bed, sound is a bit muffled but still loud enough.
    -Grainy webcam

    As a student, this laptop suits me very well. It’s got enough battery life to make it through a day of classes without charging, and it’s extremely light due to the stylish and thin aluminum design. Sound quality is great, and the display is adequate for mobile use (I’ll do my Photoshopping at home on my desktop though). The processor is very fast as well. I’ve always been an AMD user except for an eeePC that had an Intel Atom. I’m very happy with the speeds of the i3; in comparison to my desktop’s Phenom II X3 2.8Ghz the i3 transcoded an album from FLAC to V0 in 160% of the time it took the Phenom. Not bad at all. I’ve yet to do any gaming yet on this laptop, but I have a feeling with a total 6-8GB of RAM the Ultrabook would have no problem playing many recent games on low-medium settings. As far as video, the HD 4000 graphics provide a perfect HD media streaming experience. The webcam, however, is mediocre at best with a grainy, but decently high resolution image.

    As far as future modifications, I intend to purchase a 128GB SSD to replace the internal HDD as well as pick up another 4GB of RAM. A freshly booted system configured to my liking…

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