The best thing about the Asus K555LN is its $1,098 price tag. This modest sum gets you a laptop with a new fifth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and a dedicated Nvidia graphics chip.
To achieve this affordable price, there has to be some compromises. The display, for one thing, does not use in-plane switching technology. As a result, viewing angles are merely adequate and the colours look washed out.
What irked me most was the 1,366 x 768-pixel screen resolution. This resolution may be acceptable for a 13-inch or even a 14-inch model, but not for a 15-inch display. Even from a distance, text, photos and icons look fuzzy and pixelated.
In short, my initial positive impression of this laptop's industrial design - the lid and palm rest are aluminium - evaporated the moment I turned on the machine and glanced at the screen.
The mid-range Nvidia GeForce 840M graphics chip in this laptop is able to run last year's games at a smooth clip, but only at a resolution of 1,366 x 768 pixels, on low to medium (depending on your game) graphics settings.
To confirm this, I ran Bioshock Infinite and got around 38 frames per second on high settings. If you can accept playing some games without all the graphical effects turned on, this laptop can run game titles decently.
General system performance was below average, likely as a result of the laptop's slow 5,400rpm hard drive. In this case, storage capacity and price likely took priority over performance. After all, it is not realistic to expect a solid-state drive at this price.
Another sign that this is a budget machine is that the keyboard is not backlit. But I was more taken aback to find that there was no LED light to indicate if Caps Lock is turned on. The keyboard offers a decent amount of key travel, though the middle also has a slight amount of flex.
An optical drive is included for those who still rely on physical media. But the laptop's low screen resolution works against using this screen for watching videos.
Asus has bitten off more than it could chew here. This laptop tries too hard to be affordable, capable and good-looking - only to be undermined by the poor display and slow hard drive. But the situation can be salvaged. Just connect the Asus to an external monitor via HDMI or VGA.
Battery life, at just under five hours, is average for a 15-inch laptop.
A jack of all trades, this affordable laptop is let down mostly by its mediocre screen.
Processor: Intel Core i7-5500U (2.4GHz)
Graphics: Nvidia GeForce 840M 2GB DDR3
Screen size: 15.6 inches, 1,366 x 768 pixels
Connectivity: HDMI, VGA, 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, Ethernet port, SD card reader, audio jack
Battery: 37 watt-hour
Value for money: 4/5
Battery life: 4/5
This article was first published on Mar 18, 2015.
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