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ASUS S56CA 15.6-inch Laptop (Black) - (Intel Core i5 3317U 1.7GHz Processor, 4GB RAM, 750GB HDD, DVDSM DL, LAN, WLAN, Webcam, Integrated Graphics, Windows 8)
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Top customer reviews
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This is a very attractive looking laptop in comparison to some I've seen with its nice black shiny (brushed aluminium?) top and silver base. However, I suspect the top will be rather hard to keep clean as it picks up fingerprints very easily & I didn't find them the easiest to get rid of surprisingly. However, I did find it rather disconcerting that if you pressed lightly on the lid (as you might when moving it with the lid open) the LCD screen would "bubble" in a different place to where the pressure was being applied, giving the impression that some of the circuitry may be very susceptible to easy damage.
I was impressed by how Asus have provided not only a fairly good manual for the laptop itself, but also a small Windows 8 one which given how big a change this OS version is, is something that really makes this model stand out for me. Personally I hate Win 8 and spend all my time flipping back to a more familiar Win 7 desktop although find myself struggling without the familiar Start Key but working on that too! The only problem with the Manual is that it's not model specific (even online!) as it gives information on an A1 DVD Recovery option which isn't actually available on this model. Even online when you specifically choose the model it comes up with videos relating to this plus 2 other programs this model doesn't have, something I think should be addressed before more customers end up wasting 2 hrs or more, as I did, hunting around trying to find them!
The screen is nice and large but (for me) doesn't provide the quality of graphics that my older Acer does. However, it's a good quality screen with no problems viewing from side angles.
I found the Touchpad a bit hypersensitive a lot of the time, so am endlessly finding my cursor doing things I've no intention of (often opening up programs other than the one I intended, or switching from Desktop to the Win 8 Start screen on its own etc). As yet, I've not figured out how to change this but suspect there should be a setting somewhere in Device Manager to do so. The Multitouch facility works great with Windows 8 and the manual gives good info on how to utilise this.
The keyboard sells this laptop hands down for me - it's not any bigger than most others in terms of the space it takes up yet Asus have provided sensible sized keys which make touch typing much more possible than any other model I've used to date. All the other usual Function keys are pretty much in the same place as on my Acer so were easy to find and utilise. The keys are very responsive and have a good solid "click" to them which again makes typing easier. There's also a full numeric keypad as well which is useful for many who desire it.
The sound quality on the Asus is really good - I whacked it up to maximum and it wasn't long before I had to turn it down to a more comfortable level which impressed me too, as my (secondhand) Acer has abysmal sound, so again, good to find. I couldn't determine exactly where the speakers are located but presume they're somewhere in the sides of the base.
The "blurb" says this machine has a 750 Gb HDD with a 24 Gb SDD included yet my C partition shows 300 Gb and the D partition 400 Gb so I seem to have lost 50 Gb somewhere along the way though I suspect that, as ever, this is down to how partitions show space rather than any actual loss of space. It's certainly more than enough space for most users but the one thing the basic manual doesn't provide information on is the location of the HDD and/or how to upgrade it should you desire. I found it quite difficult on the Asus site to locate any more comprehensive manual that might provide the info so it might prove a bit of a challenge should you wish to undertake that project, unless you're already familiar with these models.
This model has quite a few ports, both USB 2.0 and 3.0, HDMI and VGA out. The camera is not very good and produced a rather grainy picture but adequate for most I would think. There's also a basic webcam and the Bluetooth has a reasonable range. The DVD is a DVDRW which is really useful especially for backups. But the eject DVD button takes a bit of getting used to requiring a hard button press to get the DVD tray to eject - you need to hold it in until you hear the release click before letting go. The DVD drive motor is a bit loud in comparison again to some other makes.
The battery is a lot lighter than many others being incorporated into a long strip which slots into the back of the machine, so freeing up the space in the base for the other peripherals/ports etc. It takes around an hour to charge from 3% and lasts just under 6 hours with minimal usage - heavy usage will drop that down to about 4-1/2 to 5 which is still pretty good for most users. Replacement batteries aren't exorbitantly expensive should you require one at any point in the future.
I would have loved to see Asus incorporating a good battery monitor gadget itself, but while it does have the little icon it's not as visible as I'd like, so I downloaded Battery Bar instead which works a treat.
Another good plus point is that the base of the notebook doesn't get overly hot with extended use primarily because of the battery location no doubt, which will be a welcome relief to those, like me, who normally have to haul around a cooler pad under their machine for the purpose!
Overall, I think this is a great laptop for novices and advanced users alike. It will particularly suit those who like to touch type or have hand dexterity issues which make a normal laptop keyboard difficult to use. The only Con I could really provide on it, is that I truly wish they'd just stuck to Windows 7 as the OS - while they've tried to make it useable for Win 8 with the Touchpad Multitouch gestures etc, the OS itself is just not feasible (to me) on anything other than a true touch screen. 9. Thankfully you can at least workaround that niggle.
It is slim for a model with an optical drive and fairly light for a 15.6" laptop (2.3kg). It is quick with i3 processor, 4gb RAM and 24gb SSD. The SSD helps give a 2 second wake up from sleep and quick boot times. You can choose faster processors and you can add up to 4gb RAM (total 8gb max) in a free slot in an easily accessible compartment underneath - search Youtube for videos on upgrading this model.
It is quiet in normal operation. The review that said they are noisy must have been pushing it to the max which would make the fan louder. This is not a gaming laptop - if that is what you want choose one with a dedicated 3D graphics card e.g. from nvidia. Sound is good though you will probably want to use headphones to listen to music.
There is a good range of ports - including 2 USB2, 1 USB3, SD card reader and HDMI. The keyboard is good even though there is not much key travel. If you want more travel or a positive click you can easily add an external keyboard. The touchpad is quite sensitive but the left and right click buttons at the bottom of the pad need a firm press to click - at least you won't click them by accident. The indicator lights for Caps Lock and Number Lock are on the front edge which makes them hard to see in normal use. The power button (only) is illuminated.
I find the screen bright and sharp with little if any bleed at the edges and there are Asus and Windows tools to adjust colour balance etc if you want to. There are function keys along the top to adjust brightness, switch to an external monitor, adjust volume etc. The only problem I have found is that it is sometimes slow to pick up my wifi especially if my smart TV (plugged into the router) is on, though that seems to have been a problem with my D-Link 2680 modem; I no longer have the problem with my new Technicolor TG582n modem.
All in all this is a stylish and quick laptop which I would recommend. Very similar models include K56CA, S56CM, S56CB, S551CA, S551LN etc - check Asus.com and check specs carefully as they may vary and some features are optional.
Although there is a manual in a file on the computer, this is no good when the computer refuses to start, I also would like a printed manual with more information about the computer's possibilities. It is also my first experience with windows 8 and i feel a little as if i am launched into it without enough understanding of it. The reliance on facebook, xbox, hotmail etc. is not welcome if i do not wish to join these optional facilities.On the other hand : when it works as specified it is great.
Most recent customer reviews
Considering it was a mid range product I thought I had paid the extra for less hassle and easy usage, I was wrong.Read more