Notebookcheck

Review Asus A56CB-XX053H Notebook

Till Schönborn (translated by Liala Stieglitz), 03/28/2013

Diet plan. Thin is in: Asus shrinks a classic multimedia laptop to ultrabook dimensions in the A56CB. Nvidia's new GeForce GT 740M, which can render even demanding 3D games smoothly, is installed for the first time. But the affordable 15-incher has quite a bit to offer beyond that as well.

For the original German review, see here.

Slim, light, portable is the trend that can be currently observed across the entire laptop market. What began with the first ultrabooks one or two years ago has now infested office and multimedia laptops.

Asus' new A56CB falls right into this category. Equipped with energy-efficient ULV CPUs from Intel's Ivy Bridge series, the slim 15-incher is to excel with high portability and low emissions. At the same time, the laptop is also to let gaming hearts beat faster. As a special treat, Asus installs the brand new Nvidia GeForce GT 740M that we want to examine in a first performance test in this review. Although our approximately 580 Euros (~$745) entry-level model only sports a Core i3-3217U and has a small storage capacity of 4 GB RAM (500 GB HDD), it promises to be an exciting overall bundle. Alternately, various other configurations are available (excerpt):

  • A56CB-XX053H: Core i3-3217U, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD, GeForce GT 740M (from 580 Euros, ~$745)
  • A56CB-XX055H: Core i5-3317U, 4 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD, GeForce GT 740M (from 600 Euros, ~$770)
  • A56CB-XX057H: Core i7-3517U, 8 GB RAM, 500 GB HDD, GeForce GT 740M (from 750 Euros, ~$962)
  • A56CB-XX058H: Core i7-3517U, 8 GB RAM, 1000 GB HDD, GeForce GT 740M (from 800 Euros, ~$1026)

We used Acer's Aspire V5-571G and HP's Pavilion Sleekbook 15 as contenders for Asus' A56CB in the following review. Both aim at the same corner on the market and, depending on the configuration, are sold for roughly the same price of 500 to 600 Euros (~$641 to $770).

Case

Aluminum casing with high-quality build
Aluminum casing with high-quality build

A pleasant surprise to begin with: The A56CB makes an impressive high-quality impression for a laptop of this price range. Unlike many other contenders where the label "plastic bomber" would seem appropriate, our device relies on a high-end aluminum chassis. The elegant light metal is used on both the base unit's top and the display's lid. The other parts of the casing are made of a subtly textured, matte-black plastic.

Although the Asus laptop is not officially sold as an ultrabook - the manufacturer only speaks of "ultra-thin" unlike its S56CM - its dimensions and weight easily correspond to the standards of this device category. A thickness of just 21 millimeters and a weight of 2.3 kilograms are remarkable for a high performance 15-inch device, especially seeing that its stiffness has not suffered under this crash diet.

The casing easily defies selective pressure and barely exhibits visible deformations even at typical problem zones such as over the DVD drive. The screen is also stiffer than the class average despite its slim build. It is held by two tight, yet slightly wobbly hinges and requires both hands for opening the laptop.

Apart from a few insignificant details, the build quality is overall compelling. We did not find any sharp material transitions, annoying gaps or other flaws in our test model. Compared with the Aspire V5-571G and Sleekbook 15, Asus' A56CB keeps the upper hand and just scrapes a very good.

Connectivity

USB 3.0 has become standard even in affordable laptops and the A56CB features one such port. The other two of the three USB ports are still regrettably the older 2.0 version and consequently limited to a maximum transfer rate of a good 35 MB/s.

External monitors can be connected via HDMI or VGA as usual. However, the lack of a DisplayPort makes resolutions over 1920x1200 pixels only inconveniently possible, which will particularly affect owners of 27- or 30-inch displays. We will soon examine this issue found across the market more closely in a separate article.

There are only minor complaints about the interface positioning. For example, we would have appreciated the Gbit LAN port at the rear. However, the casing's build and the battery prevent this. The user can easily access all essential ports, such as the headphone jack or SD card reader.

Front: No interfaces
Front: No interfaces
Left: Power socket, vent, VGA, HDMI, Gbit LAN, USB 3.0
Left: Power socket, vent, VGA, HDMI, Gbit LAN, USB 3.0
Rear: No interfaces
Rear: No interfaces
Right: Headphone jack, 2x USB 2.0, DVD burner, Kensington lock
Right: Headphone jack, 2x USB 2.0, DVD burner, Kensington lock

Communication

In terms of wireless communication, the A56CB only provides the common minimum standards. The AR9485 PCIe adapter from Qualcomm/Atheros at least supports the most important Wi-Fi 802.11 b/g/n versions. However, it is limited to the 2.4 GHz frequency band (no 5 GHz networks). The maximum gross data speed via single-stream transmission is 150 Mbit/s (net much less) and could slow down very fast internet connections. Nevertheless, the range and speed will usually be sufficient for home use. Windows certified excellent wireless signal strength at a distance of approximately 5 meters, which means that the aluminum casing does not significantly restrict the Wi-Fi transmission. Unfortunately, Bluetooth is generally not available.

Users who value an appealing picture quality should avoid using the 720p webcam. Low details and high noise ruin the fun of video chats. At least the integrated microphone makes good recordings and could thus replace an additional headset.

Accessories

The laptop alongside the battery, a compact 65 watt power supply and a few mandatory leaflets – there aren't really many accessories. However, it is better that the manufacturer cuts back on accessories than on the laptop's equipment and quality.

Asus also only installs the essentials in terms of software. These include a virus scanner though only a trial version of McAfee Internet Security and the very handy "Asus Tutor" tool that explains the main modifications of the new operating system in simple steps to Windows 8 newcomers.

Maintenance

The user can open the maintenance cover after removing two screws on the bottom and then access the laptop's key components. The hard drive can be exchanged or the working memory can be upgraded in a few steps. Both DIMM slots support a maximum of 8 GB of DDR3 RAM each. We missed an mSATA slot for an additional SSD as well as the option of accessing other components, such as the Wi-Fi module. The laptop would also have to be completely disassembled to clean the fan and heat sink. However, that may include risking loss of warranty.

Warranty

Asus includes a 24 month warranty including pick-up & return for customers in some countries. As usual, this period can be upgraded for a surcharge. An additional year costs approximately 75 Euros (~$96) depending on the supplier.

Input Devices

Keyboard

The chiclet-style keyboard merges seamlessly into the solid aluminum top of the laptop's chassis. Owing to the protruding 15-inch casing, the manufacturer could install both a number pad as well as generous keys with an edge length of 15 millimeters, which contributes to typing comfort. The looks and layout strongly resemble that of the unequally expensive Zenbook UX51VZ sister model.

Overall, the keyboard belongs to the better models on the market although details of the typing feel seem to have room for improvement. The fairly soft stroke could convey a bit more accuracy and have a longer key drop. However, the user will get used to that after a while. In return, the keyboard's low noise and the very meticulous build are compelling.

Touchpad

With a size of 10.5 x 7.3 centimeters, the silver-gray touchpad provides enough room to navigate or implement various multi-touch gestures. The velvety-sleek surface scores with good gliding traits when the fingers are completely dry. Regrettably, our test device's pad was a bit lopsided, which only affects the looks but not the function. More points are deducted for the rather late response.

The lower part of the pad's surface also replaces the mouse buttons, i.e. click pad build. Both keys are a bit too stiff for our taste although the crisp, direct pressure point alongside a rich click noise makes a pleasant, high-quality impression. Nevertheless, the user should use an external mouse in practice.

Keyboard
Keyboard
Touchpad
Touchpad

Display

Just like other laptops of this price range, the screen in Asus' A56CB only has a low resolution of 1366x768 pixels. That results in a pixel density of approximately 100 dpi alongside the screen's diagonal of 15.6-inches. That is not exactly razor-sharp but sufficient for most purposes.

The screen's brightness can also only be called "satisfactory". The brightness achieved an average of 196 cd/m² from the total of our nine measuring points. This is still better than that of the Aspire V5-571G and Sleekbook 15. It is annoying that the brightness is dimmed to only 160 cd/m² in the screen's center when used in battery mode.

178
cd/m²
178
cd/m²
184
cd/m²
196
cd/m²
207
cd/m²
198
cd/m²
198
cd/m²
207
cd/m²
216
cd/m²
Distribution of brightness
Information
X-Rite i1Pro 2
Maximum: 216 cd/m²
Average: 195.8 cd/m²
Brightness Distribution: 82 %
Center on Battery: 160 cd/m²
Black: 0.38 cd/m²
Contrast: 545:1

The installed TN screen from AUO (B156XW04 V5) is the same model used in Acer's Aspire V5-571G. Our new X-Rite i1Pro 2 gauge recorded a deeper black value of 0.38 cd/m² and a consequently higher contrast ratio of 545:1 (V5-571G: 193:1) but we cannot confirm this improvement subjectively.

Being an affordable consumer laptop, the A56CB will not satisfy the needs of professional photographers or image editors. Despite calibration, the representation proved to have a bluish cast and shows extreme color deviations in magenta hues among others. In terms of color space, the screen also exhibited weaknesses and failed covering both sRGB and AdobeRGB. However, these restrictions will be insignificant for most private users.

A56CB vs. AdobeRGB (t)
A56CB vs. AdobeRGB (t)
A56CB vs. sRGB (t)
A56CB vs. sRGB (t)
A56CB vs. V5-571G (t)
A56CB vs. V5-571G (t)
Calibrated color accuracy
Calibrated color accuracy
Calibrated color saturation
Calibrated color saturation
Calibrated gray scales
Calibrated gray scales
Outdoors
Outdoors

The user will be tormented by distracting reflections outdoors due to the screen's glare-type surface. The much too low brightness, particularly in battery mode, even intensifies this problem so that the screen at most only remains readable in the shade. That is too bad seeing that the ultrabook-like size actually supports mobile use. A matte screen and a brightness of at least 250 cd/m² would help here.

Viewing angles: Asus A56CB-XX053H
Viewing angles: Asus A56CB-XX053H

The viewing angle stability is a known weak point of TN screens. Colors distort and the contrast ratio deteriorates when the screen is not viewed from an absolute perpendicular angle. Asus' laptop is just as good or bad as the direct contenders in this issue. Particularly the vertical range of movement is very restricted; at least slight deviations from the sides are tolerated.

Performance

System overview
System overview

In order to build the casing of the A56CB this light and thin, Asus relies on especially energy-efficient ULV processors from Intel's Ivy Bridge generation. In contrast to their dual-core sisters with a TDP of 35 watts, they are specified with a TDP of only 17 watts.

The lower power consumption of these ULV models is primarily due to lower supply voltages and reduced clock rates. With 1.8 GHz, the Core i3-3217U clearly lags behind the i3-3110M (2.4 GHz, 35 W) and, like all Core i3s, does not feature Turbo Boost technology. However, Hyper Threading for simultaneously processing up to 4 threads is supported and improves the performance in well-parallelized applications. For more details, we would refer to our CPU database.

Since Intel's HD Graphics 4000 is only suitable for gaming to a degree, Asus additionally installs a dedicated Nvidia GeForce GT 740 in the A56CB. Optimus automatically selects the ideal graphics processor for every application. The energy-efficient processor graphics is active during idle periods or in video rendering while the fast GeForce chip takes over for more demanding 3D tasks.

Besides 4 GB of working memory (DDR3-1600, one module), the memory configuration also includes a 500 GB hard drive. Asus unfortunately does not offer SSDs ex-factory.

System info CPUZ CPU
System info CPUZ Cache
System info CPUZ Mainboard
System info CPUZ RAM
System info CPUZ RAM SPD
System info GPUZ
System info HWInfo
DPC Latency
System information: Asus A56CB-XX053H

Processor

The lack of Turbo Boost alongside the ULV-typical low default clock of the i3-3217U has an impact on performance. This especially affects the single-thread performance that is roughly on a par with an older Pentium P6200 with a score of 0.74 points in Cinebench R11.5 (64bit).

In return, the Core i3 benefits from SMT in the multi-thread test and still achieves 1.8 points. For comparison: The equally 17 watt Core i5-3317U with a clock of up to 2.4 GHz during full load takes a lead of approximately 30% with 2.4 points.

This difference is not only measurable but also perceivable particularly in CPU-heavy applications. However, the Core i3-3217U principally has sufficient power for most situations. In view of the low extra charge for a stronger CPU, the buyer should risk looking at the other configurations of Asus' A56CB.

Cinebench R11.5 - CPU Multi 64Bit (sort by value)
Asus A56CB-XX053H
GeForce GT 740M, 3217U, Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD5000LPVT
1.8 Points ∼10%
HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15z-b000
Radeon HD 7600G, A8-4555M, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380
1.23 Points ∼7% -32%
Acer Aspire V5-571G-53314G50Makk
GeForce GT 620M, 3317U, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380
2.38 Points ∼14% +32%
Acer Aspire TimelineUltra M5-481TG-73514G25Mass
GeForce GT 640M LE, 3517U, Lite-On LMT-256M3M
2.77 Points ∼16% +54%
Gigabyte U2442N
GeForce GT 640M, 3210M, Crucial RealSSD M4-CT128M4SSD3
2.91 Points ∼17% +62%
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single CPUs 64Bit
2977 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 64Bit
6535 Points
Cinebench R10 Shading 64Bit
3852 Points
Cinebench R10 Rendering Single 32Bit
2348
Cinebench R10 Rendering Multiple CPUs 32Bit
5401
Cinebench R10 Shading 32Bit
3459
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Multi 64Bit
1.8 Points
Cinebench R11.5 OpenGL 64Bit
24.1 fps
Cinebench R11.5 CPU Single 64Bit
0.74 Points
Help

Storage Devices

HDTune benchmark
HDTune benchmark

Asus divides the 500 GB hard drive into two partitions. Together they offer a usable capacity of a lush 400 GB. As usual, the rest is reserved for conversion factors, recovery, Windows and preinstalled software.

The 5400 rpm drive comes from Western Digital's Scorpio Blue product line (WD5000LPVT). The average transfer rate of almost 83 MB/s is quite good for a 2.5-inch hard drive with this speed and barely any worse than some 7200 rpm models. The access time of 17.7 ms is also quite fast and speeds up starting applications and booting processes. Users who are planning to change to an SSD should consider the height of only 7 mm.

Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD5000LPVT
Transfer Rate Minimum: 41.9 MB/s
Transfer Rate Maximum: 114.8 MB/s
Transfer Rate Average: 82.9 MB/s
Access Time: 17.7 ms
Burst Rate: 111.9 MB/s
CPU Usage: 4.1 %

System Performance

Our experience shows that PCMark 7 benefits from both strong processors and flash memory drives. Consequently, the A56CB cannot reach the performance level of the fastest ultrabooks. However, the achieved 2253 points are absolutely decent in view of the purchase price and surpasses both the Aspire V5-571G (1858 points) and HP's Pavilion Sleekbook 15 with an AMD APU (1505 points).

The user will hardly ever want more power during routine use. Even multitasking is possible without major restrictions once the selected programs are running. An SSD would bring significant advantages here. The more expensive models featuring a Core i5 and Core i7 processor would likely manage such scenarios even better.

PCMark 7 - Score (sort by value)
Asus A56CB-XX053H
GeForce GT 740M, 3217U, Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD5000LPVT
2253 Points ∼34%
Acer Aspire V5-571G-53314G50Makk
GeForce GT 620M, 3317U, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380
1858 Points ∼28% -18%
HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15z-b000
Radeon HD 7600G, A8-4555M, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380
1505 Points ∼23% -33%
4.9
Windows 8 Experience Index
Processor
Calculations per second
6.3
Memory (RAM)
Memory operations per second
5.9
Graphics
Desktop performance for Windows Aero
4.9
Gaming graphics
3D business and gaming graphics
6.6
Primary hard disk
Disk data transfer rate
5.9
PC Mark
PCMark Vantage5109 points
PCMark 72253 points
Help

Graphics Card

Now for the likely most interesting part of this review. After Nvidia recently introduced the GT 730M as the first scion of the new 700M series, the second model dubbed GeForce GT 740M follows.

According to rumors, different versions of the graphics card might be available. Besides a version with the GK107 chip (which is also used in the GT 640M, 650M and 730M), a scion featuring the yet fairly unknown GK208 is possible. It is likely a 28 nanometer derivate of the Kepler architecture. We cannot yet state any clock rate specifications or other details about it though.

Apparently, the "old" GK107 has been installed in our test device. It features a somewhat higher clock than the GT 730M. The frequency of the 384 Shader Units is 810 - 895 MHz (730M: usually 725 - 895 MHz), while the 2 GB DDR3 memory with a 128 bit interface runs at an unmodified 900 MHz. The performance differences are accordingly slight. The GPU score of 2066 points in 3DMark 11 is only 7 points higher than the former best result of the GT 730M and can be seen as a difference within the range of measurement tolerance.

3DMark 11 - 1280x720 Performance GPU (sort by value)
Asus A56CB-XX053H
GeForce GT 740M, 3217U, Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD5000LPVT
2066 Points ∼9%
Acer Aspire V5-571G-53314G50Makk
GeForce GT 620M, 3317U, Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A7E380
1032 Points ∼5% -50%
Acer Aspire V3-571G-53238G1TMaii
GeForce GT 730M, 3230M, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024 HN-M101MBB
1777 Points ∼8% -14%
Asus N56VZ-S4044V
GeForce GT 650M, 3610QM, Seagate Momentus SpinPoint M8 ST1000LM024
2147 Points ∼9% +4%
3D Mark
3DMark 06
 1280x1024
8418 points
3DMark Vantage6701 points
3DMark 112020 points
3DMark Ice Storm31366 points
3DMark Cloud Gate4409 points
3DMark Fire Strike1195 points
3DMark Fire Strike Extreme602 points
Help

Gaming Performance

Call of Duty: Black Ops 2
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2

In return, the advantage compared with the Aspire V5-571G is greater. Depending on the game, the GeForce GT 740M outperforms the GT 620M in Acer's laptop twice over and thus makes it possible to render almost all up-to-date games in the native screen resolution smoothly. Often, there are even sufficient reserves for activating AA and AF without the frame rate dropping to a critical range.

However, there are a few exceptions. The processor slowed down noticeably especially in low graphics settings in Hitman: Absolution or Crysis 3. Consequently, neither game achieved the crucial 30 fps mark even in minimum details. As mentioned, it seems recommendable to increase the budget a bit and select the model featuring the Core i5-3317U.

low med.high ultra
Mafia 2 (2010) 53474230fps
Battlefield 3 (2011) 42343112fps
CoD: Modern Warfare 3 (2011) 89705540fps
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) 49.24130.617.5fps
Anno 2070 (2011) 111573518fps
Mass Effect 3 (2012) 363930fps
Risen 2: Dark Waters (2012) 38342613fps
Diablo III (2012) 94.771.770.852.2fps
Dirt Showdown (2012) 41.53028.919.1fps
Max Payne 3 (2012) 28fps
Darksiders II (2012) 6235fps
Sleeping Dogs (2012) 5641.627.46.8fps
Counter-Strike: GO (2012) 88.176.770.254.1fps
Fifa 13 (2012) 13912411962fps
Dishonored (2012) 54.754.453.341.2fps
Medal of Honor: Warfighter (2012) 64443611fps
Need for Speed: Most Wanted (2012) 52.344.632.719fps
Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 (2012) 73.869.354.431.2fps
Hitman: Absolution (2012) 28.426.617.57.3fps
Dead Space 3 (2013) 133.375.358.538.4fps
Crysis 3 (2013) 28.925.118.47.7fps
Tomb Raider (2013) 7053.631.810.8fps
SimCity (2013) 41.621.618.211.5fps

Emissions

System Noise

Asus has perfectly tuned the A56CB's fan management to different load situations so that the laptop never produces more noise than necessary. The fan is usually completely inactive during idle and only leaves the hard drive as the sole noise source with 31.4 dB(A). Activities such as browsing or playing videos are also virtually silent.

Games or other 3D applications increase the noise up to 37.1 dB(A). Despite its much faster graphics chip, Asus' laptop is not any louder than the contenders from Acer or HP. We subjectively perceived the fan's homogeneous and low-pitched noise as fairly quiet and not excessively distracting even after a longer time. We only ascertained higher rates of up to 39.8 dB(A) during simultaneous load using Prime95 and FurMark.

Noise Level

Idle 30 / 30.6 / 31 dB(A)
HDD 31.4 dB(A)
DVD 36.3 / dB(A)
Load 37.1 / 39.8 dB(A)
 
    30 dB
silent
40 dB
audible
50 dB
loud
 
min: , med: , max:    Voltcraft SL 320 (15 cm distance)

Temperature

Stress test
Stress test

The low noise development regrettably has its downside. Together with the aluminum casing's high heat conductivity, the surface temperatures already reached rates of almost 38 °C in idle. Users who occasionally use their laptop on the thighs will likely soon find this unpleasant. The temperatures climbed even higher during full load, but altogether remained within an acceptable range.

The question whether the device throttles during load recurrently arises especially when dealing with ultrabooks and very thin laptops. We can give the all-clear in this case. The A56CB did not throttle even after one hour of our stress test. The processor and graphics card maintained their maximum clock of 1800 and 895 MHz. The low temperatures of below 80 °C let us assume that the cooling system will easily cope with even faster i5 and i7 CPUs.

Max. Load
 39.1 °C37.3 °C27.2 °C 
 38.2 °C39 °C28.5 °C 
 34.6 °C39.2 °C31.9 °C 
Maximum: 39.2 °C
Average: 35 °C
26.6 °C44 °C42.5 °C
28.3 °C45.2 °C43.6 °C
33.3 °C41.8 °C37.7 °C
Maximum: 45.2 °C
Average: 38.1 °C
Power Supply (max.)  49.3 °C | Room Temperature 23.3 °C | Voltcraft IR-360

Speakers

"Crystal Clear Sound" and "Deeper & Richer Bass" are only two slogans that Asus uses to praise the laptop's integrated "SonicMaster" sound system. However, only two simple stereo speakers, which at most can serve with average sound quality, cannot fulfill that. The small speakers noticeably falter particularly in the low ranges so that a part of the atmosphere is lost in music and high-effect movies. The playback of trebles and mids is fairly good although some contenders achieve a slightly higher surround sound and volume. Here, an external sound system would help. It can be connected via the digital HDMI or the conventional 3.5 millimeter jack (light noise).

Energy Management

Power Consumption

Despite Optimus support and energy-efficient ULV CPU, the A56CB cannot quite compete with the low idle consumption rates of the Aspire V5-571G. We ascertained 8.6 to 12.3 watts, which is approximately 2 watts more than Acer's laptop and within the range of other 15-inch, multimedia devices.

Our test model also consumed a bit more power with 50.6 to 54.2 watts during load (V5-571G: 42.1-49.5 watts), which was expected considering the much faster graphics solution. These rates will likely increase by about 5 watts when equipped with the stronger Core i5-3317U. Asus has designed the included 65 watt power supply sufficiently.

Power Consumption

Off / Standby 0.0 / 0.3 Watt
Idle 8.6 / 11.8 / 12.3 Watt
Load 50.6 / 54.2 Watt
 
Key: min: , med: , max:         Voltcraft VC 940

Battery Runtime

The A56CB's battery is not exceptionally big with a capacity of 44 Wh. However, the contenders from Acer and HP sport even smaller power storages (both 37 Wh).

This advantage is nullified by the somewhat higher power consumption. We only ascertained a runtime of almost 5 hours in Battery Eater's Reader's test using the energy saving mode, minimum brightness, Wi-Fi and GPU off (V5-571G: 5 h 34 min).

The user can browse on the internet for 3 hours and 52 minutes until the battery's reserves are exhausted, as we ascertained in a practical scenario via Wi-Fi and adapted brightness (approx. 150 cd/m²). Playing a DVD is possible for at most 3 hours and 27 minutes. That is a somewhat better result than in the direct comparison with the idle runtime. However, some ultrabooks last quite a bit longer.

Since neither the CPU nor GPU clock rates are throttled in battery mode, the user has the laptop's full power available even remote from the mains. However, the possible runtime is reduced accordingly. We could not achieve more than 60 minutes in Battery Eater's Classic test using high-performance mode, maximum brightness, Wi-Fi and GPU on.

Reader's Test
Maximum battery runtime (Reader's Test)
Classic Test
Minimum runtime (Classic Test)
Charging
Charging
Battery Runtime
Idle (without WLAN, min brightness)
4h 55min
WiFi Surfing
3h 52min
DVD
3h 27min
Load (maximum brightness)
1h 00min

Verdict

Asus A56CB-XX053H
Asus A56CB-XX053H

The concept of a particularly portable multimedia laptop is not new. Almost every major manufacturer now has a corresponding model in its product line, even if configuration and price differ extremely.

Despite this intense competition, Asus' A56CB manages to stand out from the bland masses in our review. The reasons for this are simple. Other manufacturers might offer a slim build, a high-quality aluminum casing and gaming-suitable hardware, but hardly ever for a comparable price of below 600 Euros (~$770). Unlike in many ultrabooks, the buyer does not have to waive on an optical drive or essential ports like Gbit LAN.

Naturally, Asus had to make cutbacks in a few areas. The simple WXGA screen based on TN technology is an almost inevitable drawback in this price range. We also missed an mSATA slot as well as a bit more processor power. The available Core i5 version for a slightly higher price will likely get along even better with the fast GeForce GT 740M and is probably the most balanced configuration of the laptop. This almost takes the suspense out of our final verdict. The bottom line is that Asus' A56CB has definitely earned a purchase recommendation.

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Specifications

Asus A56CB-XX053H

:: Processor
:: Mainboard
Intel HM76 (Panther Point)
:: Memory
4096 MB, 1x 4096 MB DDR3-1600 Samsung, 2 slots
:: Graphics adapter
NVIDIA GeForce GT 740M - 2048 MB, Core: 810 - 895 MHz, Memory: 900 MHz, DDR3-VRAM, ForceWare 311.00, Optimus
:: Display
15.6 inch 16:9, 1366x768 pixel, AUO B156XW04, TN screen, LED backlight, glossy: yes
:: Harddisk
Western Digital Scorpio Blue WD5000LPVT, 500 GB 5400 rpm 8 MB cache
:: Soundcard
Intel Panther Point PCH - High Definition Audio Controller
:: Connections
2 USB 2.0, 1 USB 3.0, 1 VGA, 1 HDMI, 1 Kensington Lock, Audio Connections: headphone/headset (3.5 mm jack), Card Reader: SD,
:: Networking
Realtek RTL8168/8111 Gigabit-LAN (10/100/1000MBit), Atheros AR9485 WiFi Adapter (b g n )
:: Optical drive
Matshita DVD-RAM UJ8C2
:: Size
height x width x depth (in mm): 21 x 380 x 266
:: Weight
2.3 kg Power Supply: 0.15 kg
:: Battery
44 Wh Lithium-Ion, 4 cells, 2950 mAh
:: Price
580 Euro
:: Operating System
Microsoft Windows 8 64 Bit
:: Additional features
Webcam: 720p, Speakers: ASUS SonicMaster stereo speakers, Keyboard: chiclet, Keyboard Light: no, leaflets, 65 watt PSU, McAfee Internet Security trial, 24 Months Warranty

 

[+] compare
Take a common multimedia laptop...
Take a common multimedia laptop...
Owing to the ULV processor, the power consumption remains within acceptable limits.
Owing to the ULV processor, the power consumption remains within acceptable limits.
The low-bass speakers are not as compelling...
The low-bass speakers are not as compelling...
just like the noisy webcam pictures.
just like the noisy webcam pictures.
The backlight is too dark for outdoor use.
The backlight is too dark for outdoor use.
Unlike many ultrabooks, the A56CB has a maintenance cover,
Unlike many ultrabooks, the A56CB has a maintenance cover,
which can be opened after removing two screws.
which can be opened after removing two screws.
The user will find the hard drive...
The user will find the hard drive...
as well as both memory banks here.
as well as both memory banks here.
The battery has a capacity of 44 Wh...
The battery has a capacity of 44 Wh...
and keeps the laptop going for roughly 4 hours in routine use.
and keeps the laptop going for roughly 4 hours in routine use.
A very compact power supply with a power output of 65 watts
A very compact power supply with a power output of 65 watts
Nvidia's GeForce GT 740M renders even demanding games with smooth frame rates.
Nvidia's GeForce GT 740M renders even demanding games with smooth frame rates.
The real highlight awaits the buyer inside the casing.
The real highlight awaits the buyer inside the casing.
The stroke and typing feel are adequate for the price range.
The stroke and typing feel are adequate for the price range.
and add a few ultrabook genes:
and add a few ultrabook genes:
Asus' new A56CB uses this interesting concept.
Asus' new A56CB uses this interesting concept.
Despite the big 15-inch display,
Despite the big 15-inch display,
the laptop is only 2.1 centimeters thick...
the laptop is only 2.1 centimeters thick...
and weighs 2.3 kilograms.
and weighs 2.3 kilograms.
The result is quite impressive.
The result is quite impressive.
Although the A56CB is available for less than 600 Euros (~$770)...
Although the A56CB is available for less than 600 Euros (~$770)...
it comes with a well-manufactured aluminum casing.
it comes with a well-manufactured aluminum casing.
Besides USB 3.0 and Gbit LAN...
Besides USB 3.0 and Gbit LAN...
it also sports a DVD burner.
it also sports a DVD burner.
The chiclet keyboard including a number pad is implemented seamlessly into the casing.
The chiclet keyboard including a number pad is implemented seamlessly into the casing.
recharges the battery.
recharges the battery.

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Pro

+Attractive value for money ratio
+Fast graphics card
+Aluminum casing
+High-quality build
+Slim design
+Optical drive
+Low noise development
+USB 3.0
 

Cons

-Average battery life
-Viewing angle weak TN screen
-Reflective screen surface
-Middling 720p webcam

Shortcut

What we like

Asus fuses the advantages of slim ultrabooks with the power of full-blown multimedia devices in the A56CB. That results in an equally portable as well as gaming suitable 15-incher which also scores with above-average casing quality and an attractive value for money ratio.

What we'd like to see

We did not find many shortcomings during our tests. The poor webcam and missing mSATA slot are upsetting but tolerable. However, a much better screen with an acceptable brightness is at the top of our wish list.

What surprises us

Asus offers the laptop with a much faster Core i5-3317U for just 20 Euros (~$25) more. A surcharge that is definitely worthwhile.

The competition

Asus' A56CB competes against other slim 15-inch laptops and ultrabooks, such as the Acer Aspire V5-571G, HP Pavilion Sleekbook 15, Lenovo IdeaPad U510, Dell Inspiron 15R or Sony Vaio SV-T1511.

Rating

Asus A56CB-XX053H
03/23/2013 v3
Till Schönborn

Chassis
85%
Keyboard
82%
Pointing Device
84%
Connectivity
70%
Weight
84%
Battery
79%
Display
74%
Games Performance
85%
Application Performance
90%
Temperature
82%
Noise
92%
Add Points
80%
Average
82%
82%
Multimedia *
Weighted Average

> Notebook / Laptop Reviews and News > Reviews > Archive of our own reviews > Review Asus A56CB-XX053H Notebook
Author: Till Schönborn, 2013-03-28 (Update: 2013-06- 6)