Asus' F555LA laptop has some flaws, but you'd be hard-pressed to find a better work machine for $375. This 15-inch notebook really impressed us with some key features you don't typically find on a budget-priced system. Those features include a high-res 1080p display, solid battery life and a full slate of business-friendly ports.
Sure, it will take some time to warm up to its springy keyboard. But overall, the Asus F555LA is a killer deal for budget-minded business users.
Cheap notebooks usually look the part, but the Asus F555LA is actually pretty handsome for the price. The notebook's black, textured, plastic lid has raised ridges that look slightly metallic when they catch the light. The silver keyboard deck also has a texture that gives a brushed-metal effect.
Commuters will also appreciate how light this machine is. At 4.6 lbs., it's noticeably lighter than heavier rivals like the 5.3-lb. Dell Inspiron 15 3000 and the 4.8-lb. Toshiba Satellite L55-C5340. That's good news if you need to lug it between home and the office.
The plastic construction doesn't feel very sturdy, though. I noticed a significant amount of flex on both the lid and the keyboard deck, but that's typical for budget laptops.
But what really impressed me about the F555LA was its sharp display. I rarely see a 1080p panel on a sub-$800 notebook, let alone one that costs just $375. Most rival notebooks have lower-res, 1366 x 768-pixel displays.
The F555LA's full-HD screen is a big deal for workers, as it lets you view a lot more content on screen at once. It means less scrolling around inside documents and spreadsheets, and it makes split-screen multitasking feel much more comfortable.
I was also pleased with the display's matte finish, which helps fend off distracting reflections from windows and overhead office lights.
However, viewing angles aren't very wide. The display could also be a bit brighter: Topping out at 198 nits of brightness, it's dimmer than the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 (221 nits). It is, however, brighter than the Toshiba Satellite L55 (155 nits). A brighter display is easier to view in direct sunlight, but all three notebooks are fine for typical indoor use.
Keyboard and trackpad
The F555LA's keyboard is nice and deep, with about 1.5 millimeters of key travel. That's a good thing; deeper keyboards offer a more comfortable, desktoplike typing experience. Workers will also appreciate the full-size arrow keys, which are handy for navigating around documents, as well as a 10-key number pad that's good for crunching numbers.
The downside is that the keys feel unusually springy, which can make typing feel a bit unnatural at first. It's far from a deal breaker, but it takes some getting used to.
Budget laptops often sacrifice battery life, but the Asus F555LA is an exception. The notebook ran for a solid 5 hours and 44 minutes, which is on a par with the mainstream laptop average, including numerous models that are significantly pricier. The F555LA's closest rivals don't last that long; the Toshiba Satellite L55 died after 5 hours and 14 minutes, while the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 lasted 5 hours and 13 minutes. That means Asus' system is more likely to last through the end of a long business flight.
Business users will really appreciate the plethora of ports available on the Asus F555LA. The left edge has two USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, an Ethernet jack and a VGA video-out port that will come in handy for connecting to older projectors and monitors.
The right edge has an SD card reader for expanding the notebook's internal storage, a USB 2.0 port and a CD/DVD drive that will be useful for installing older software.
Powered by a modest Core i3-5010 processor with 4GB of RAM, the F55LA is no powerhouse — but it's zippy enough for light productivity and moderate multitasking. I was able to edit a large spreadsheet with about a dozen tabs open in my Firefox Web browser without experiencing any slowdown. But when I started to stream an HD video alongside my spreadsheet, I noticed some obvious lag, especially when switching between tabs and windows.
Those impressions were borne out in our benchmark tests. The F555LA managed a middling score of 2,080, which means it's much slower than the $500 Satellite L55 (5,564) and the $400 Inspiron 15 3000 (3,577). However, both of those machines are pricier than the Asus F555LA.
On the bright side, Asus' system did reasonably well in our OpenOffice test, matching 20,000 names with their addresses in a middle-of-the-road 6 minutes and 31 seconds. The Satellite L55 fared better (5:10), while the Inspiron 15 3000 trailed far behind, taking nearly 13 minutes to finish the test.
Asus sells the F555LA in two different hardware configurations. The model featured in this review is the one I'd recommend. It offers a Core i3-5010U processor with 4GB of RAM, a 500GB hard drive and a full-HD display, all for $374.99. It can only be purchased on Amazon.
Another model, available exclusively through Best Buy, offers a speedier Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, all for $499. However, that model comes with a lower-res 1366 x 768-pixel display. For the price, there are better options.
Budget-minded business users can't go wrong with Asus' F555LA laptop, which is easily our favorite work machine under $400. The system offers an attractive design, solid battery life, a sharp 1080p display that's roomy enough for screen-intensive work, and a good selection of ports. The springy keyboard might take some time to get used to, and rival notebooks are faster and more solidly constructed. But for light productivity at a low price, the Asus F555LA is a steal.