The Asus VivoBook S56CA-DH31-CA ($599.99 CAD list) is a Windows 8-equipped ultrabook that stands apart from the increasingly saturated field by virtue of its integrated DVD burner, reasonable price tag, and generous two-year warranty. Unfortunately, its subpar keyboard and average performance hold it back from achieving pure ultrabook nirvana, effectively relegating an otherwise great system to a mere good choice.
Design and Features
The VivoBook S56CA’s trim chassis measures 0.82 by 13.7 by 9.6 inches (HWD) and, at 4.86 pounds, it’s a smidge heavier than comparable ultrabooks like the Acer Aspire V5-571P-6627 (4.63 pounds). While its underside is fashioned from a rather utilitarian black plastic, a stylish brushed aluminum finish on the system’s lid and palmrest adds a touch of panache to its overall aesthetic. The VivoBook S56CA’s thin body and dashes of aluminum make for an attractively designed system that can easily be stashed into most laptop bags or backpacks.
With a maximum resolution of 1,366 by 768, the VivoBook S56C’s 15.6-inch display can play video at 720p, a useful feature since the system ships an integrated DVD burner. Whether in video or the Windows 8 Start screen, the VivoBook S56CA’s display dishes out bright colors and crisp text. Equally impressive are the VivoBook S56C’s speakers, which pump out clear, tinny-free audio at surprisingly loud levels—at least for an ultrabook.
The VivoBook S56C’s chiclet-styled keyboard exhibits the dreaded shallow key travel syndrome that commonly comes with ultrabooks. The absence of backlighting further compromises this already uncomfortable typing experience in dimly-lit settings. The VivoBook S56C’s smooth and responsive touchpad partially acquits its subpar keyboard by providing a good amount of tactile feedback and offering fluid support of Windows 8-specific gesture controls.
True to its ultrabook status, port selection on the VivoBook S56C is modest. You’ll find a cardreader on the front of the system while the right side houses the DVD burner, a combined headphone and microphone jack, and a pair of USB 2.0 ports. The left side, meanwhile, sports VGA and HDMI ports, an Ethernet port, and the system’s sole USB 3.0 port. Peripheral-happy users may be better served by the HP Pavilion M6-1148CA, which features three USB 3.0 ports.
The VivoBook S56C’s combined 500GB 5,400 hard drive and 24GB SSD hits the sweet spot between capaciousness and brisk load times. There is, however, a decent amount of preloaded software that must first be contended with. While unnecessary bloatware (desktop links to Skype) is mercifully kept to a minimum, there’s also some trialware (Office Starter 2010, McAfee Internet Security), as well as a hefty chunk of proprietary software of varying usefulness (ranging from ASUS WebStorage Sync Agent to ASUS Vibe 2.0). The VivoBook S56C’s generous two-year warranty on parts and labor is twice as long the standard one-year deal offered by the competition, like the HP Pavilion G6-2368CA.
The VivoBook S56C’s 1.8GHz Intel Core i3-3217U processor and 6GB RAM yielded mostly average performance on our benchmark tests. Its PCMark7 score of 2,762 points trumped the rest of its class, save for the front-running Samsung Series 3 NP300E5E-A05CA (2,828 points). Its Cinebench R11.5 score of 1.64 points, on the other hand, bested the HP G6-2368CA (1.13 points) but nevertheless struggled to keep up with the competition, including the Lenovo IdeaPad N581 (2.49 points) and, to a more pronounced extent, the class-leading Series 3 NP300E5E-A05CA (3 points).
The VivoBook S56C did, however, demonstrate an ability to handle moderately intense media creation tasks. It completed our Handbrake video-encoding test in 1 minute 58 seconds, landing a mere second behind the Acer V5-571P-6627 (1:57) while breezily outpacing the HP G6-2368CA (3:08) by a wide margin. The 8 minutes 3 seconds it took to run through our Photoshop CS6 test was slower than the rest of its class, though, including the Lenovo N581 (5:34) and the Samsung Series 3 (4:35). All said, the VivoBook S56C is adequate for casual users looking to dabble in occasional photo- or video- editing projects.
When it came to 3D rendering, the VivoBook S56C trailed closely behind its peers. Its 3DMark11 scores (1,169 points in Entry-level settings; 218 points in Extreme settings) landed within striking distance of the Ideapad N581 (1,234 points and 224 points, respectively) and the top-performing HP G6-2368CA (1,263 and 257 points, respectively). High-end gaming, on the other hand, is a no-go. The VivoBook S56C’s integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 didn’t have the firepower to break the 30 frames per second (fps) playability barrier on our gaming benchmark tests.
The VivoBook S56C’s average performance extended to its removable 2,950 mAh battery, which lasted 3 hours 55 minutes on our battery rundown test. While this handily outlasted the HP M6-1148CA (2:23), it nonetheless came up short of both the Lenovo N581 (4:43) and the Samsung Series 3 (5:11). For most deskbound users, this is perfectly sufficient. Users planning on spending the entire day away from their desks should be sure not to stray too far from a power outlet, though.
Although the market is presently brimming with ultrabooks, the Asus VivoBook S56CA-DH31-CA stands apart from the pack thanks to its integrated DVD burner, reasonable price tag, and generous two-year warranty. That said, its subpar keyboard and average performance hold it back from achieving pure ultrabook nirvana. It’s worth checking out, but be sure to fully explore other options before doing so.
BENCHMARK TEST RESULTS:
Check out the test scores for the Asus VivoBook S56CA-DH31-CA
|Processor Name||Intel Core i3-3217U|
|Operating System||Microsoft Windows 8|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics 4000|
|Processor Speed||1.8 GHz|
|Primary Optical Drive||DVD+/-RW (Plus Minus)|
|Screen Size||15.3 inches|
|Storage Capacity (as Tested)||500 + 24 GB|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc