Customer Review

54 of 65 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good Ultrabook for the Price *See Updates*, December 1, 2012
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This review is from: ASUS S56CA-WH31 15.6-Inch Ultrabook (Personal Computers)

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.


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.

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

-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.

-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 (Rocketdock & Rainmeter) uses 66% of the internal 4GB due to the onboard GPU. I also would consider buying a larger battery if offered and if it's the same dimensions as the stock one. These are all things that are unnecessary due to the incredible price of this Ultrabook ($439.99 after rebate for me), but they will unlock this device's full potential.

In the end, I am very happy with my purchase; although I could have gotten a more expensive Ultrabook with more power, this packs a great punch for the price. It will be more than adequate for my internet browsing, mobile music production, word processing, media streaming, and casual gaming. Plus it makes a great fashion statement because it looks even sexier than a Mac ;)
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 13 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Dec 3, 2012 3:10:21 PM PST
Amy Yeh says:
thanks for the review!! how'd you get the rebate?? would you mind sharing that info with me??

In reply to an earlier post on Dec 8, 2012 12:27:53 PM PST
I found out I can't get it because it's only for a competing website, but I'm still OK with the price I paid!

Posted on Dec 17, 2012 12:49:21 PM PST
M. McFall says:
Yeah, the 5400rpm drive that comes with this laptop is anemic and slows the whole thing down, despite the "Hybrid" marketing. It's one of the primary reasons I couldn't give this any more than 3 stars. After I put in an SSD it is exponentially more usable.

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 10:19:57 PM PST
W. K. Law says:
Great review. Can you please let me know where to get the unmodified x64 iso of Windows 8? I plan to upgrade the HDD to SSD and reinstall the win8.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2013 8:03:15 PM PST
a.r.naddy says:
hey M. McFall -- thanks for the awesome review... i think i'll be picking up one of these i3's...

i'm not an advanced hardware guy -- where can i get the SSD installed? can i do it on amazon? is there an online vendor that does that for you?

i'm a pretty handy guy and not afraid to learn new stuff -- is it something that i can do in a day with a tiny screwdriver?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 1, 2013 8:04:54 PM PST
a.r.naddy says:
btw M. McFall -- i see you're a South Bay LA native ... if you're in the area, i'm in Culver City -- would not be averse to buying the laptop and grabbing you the six-pack of your choice to install the SSD for me...

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 5, 2013 10:04:26 PM PST
Jeffrey says:
You do realize almost every ultrabook with a hybrid style storage has a 5400 rpm hdd right? Even macbook pro's have 5400 rpm hdds. I do not believe for a second that the problems this guy described can be blamed on the rpm of the hdd.

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 6, 2013 6:03:28 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Feb 6, 2013 6:06:30 AM PST
If you do research on the specific model of HDD used in this laptop (Hitachi something-rather), you will find that it has been plagued by problems since it's creation and has extremely slow benchmarks. In fact, it was discontinued some time before this ultrabook was even released. That leads me to believe that Asus snatched up the last remaining stock of them at a cheap price and put them into this ultrabook. Also, if the problems weren't due to the HDD, then why did they all disappear when I upgraded to a SSD and changed nothing else?

a.r.naddy, I don't live in the LA area, so I can't help you in person. Installing the SSD in place of the HDD is a relatively simple process, however. M. McFall has detailed tear-down instructions in the link at the end of this comment. Basically you just have to unscrew about 5 or so screws, pop out the old HDD, and screw the new one in.

Posted on Mar 19, 2013 12:43:48 AM PDT
Joe Rhodes says:
I would upgrade the RAM before anything else. I'm not arguing the drive may not suck. I don't know it. But a lot of system problems disappear with some extra RAM.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 5, 2013 2:01:59 PM PDT
Joshua says:
Does nobody know what 5400 RPM means? It means that it's a slow-working hard drive. RAM won't speed up the RPM of a hard drive...

People really need to read specifications on technological devices and understand what them mean, or not complain when they don't get what they imagined they would in their head.
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