Most notebooks make you choose between high performance and low prices, but the 15-inch Asus F555UA tries to be an exception, offering a speedy Core i7 CPU and 8GB of RAM for just $579. While its processor provides plenty of pop for everyday tasks, this Asus laptop makes some tough compromises by including a dim, low-res display and a bouncy keyboard. If you need computing power and are willing to make some compromises, the F555UA is a pretty good deal.
The Asus F555UA's black lid features a concentric-circle pattern that feels like a vinyl record and will catch plenty of eyes when light bounces off of it. The notebook's silver deck has a neat mesh texture, and the faux-brushed-metal palm rests felt cool against my wrists.
Weighing 4.8 pounds, the Asus F555UA is lighter than the Lenovo Ideapad 500 (5.2 pounds) and Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (5.4 pounds), and just as heavy as the HP Notebook 15 (4.8 pounds). The Asus F555UA is about as thin as those notebooks, with a full inch of girth.
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Considering that you can get laptops with full-HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) displays for less money, the Asus F555UA's dull 1366 x 768 panel is pretty disappointing. When I watched an X-Men: Apocalypse trailer on the F555UA, I noticed more noise than detail and couldn't pay attention to the titular villain's backstory. Flames of an exploding library appeared with a proper orange glow, but Nightcrawler and Mystique's blue skin tones didn't pop, and Cyclops' red optic blast erred on the pink side.
You don't need to settle for a 1366 x 768 display at this price, as both the $600 HP Notebook 15 and the $480 Lenovo Ideapad 500 come with 1080p displays. Neither has a Core i7 processor, but their i3 and i5 processors proved fast enough. Even the Asus VivoBook E403SA -- the $399, Pentium-powered, 14-inch sibling of the F555UA -- has a full-HD display.
The F555UA comes with Asus' Splendid Technology display utility app, which offers an Eye Care option that sets the display to emit less blue light, and a Vivid mode for enhanced color. The former mode appeared to work accurately, but the latter didn't offer a strong reason to switch and removed detail while oversaturating brighter colors.
According to our colorimeter, the F555UA can produce only 64 percent of the sRGB spectrum, which isn't good but is close to the HP Notebook 15 (63 percent), Lenovo Ideapad 500 (61 percent) and Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (59 percent). The average for mainstream notebooks (87 percent) is higher, but that category includes more expensive laptops with better displays.
The F555UA's color accuracy is OK for its class, as it earned a 2.3 on the Delta-E test (zero is perfect). The HP Notebook 15 (3.5), Ideapad 500 (4.6) and Inspiron 15 5000 (3.8) earned worse scores.
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The F555UA's display emits 223 nits (a measure of brightness), which was enough brightness to enable proper viewing. The HP Notebook 15 (220 nits) and Ideapad 500 (216 nits) are slightly dimmer, while the Inspiron 15 5000 (239 nits) and average mainstream notebook (249 nits) shine brighter. Its brightness also enables decent viewing angles, as I saw colors stay true at up to 45 degrees to the left or right.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Typing on the Asus F555UA was like tapping my fingers against a bounce house. Before I had a chance to test out the keyboard on the 10fastfingers.com typing test, I was distracted by the notebook's keyboard deck, which flexed as my fingers hit the keys. The keys, which have a decent 1.6 millimeters of vertical travel, also appear to go too far down when clicked, providing a hollow sensation.
I click-clacked my way to 70 words per minute with 95 percent accuracy -- a step down from my usual 80 wpm and 100-percent average. Spreadsheet wizards will enjoy the F555UA's number pad, but shrunken right Shift and right Ctrl keys didn't help my typing.
The F555UA's 4.13 x 2.94-inch buttonless touchpad offered a solid feel to each click and accurately tracked my input as I navigated the desktop. It also enabled precise scrolling in Chrome and speedy recognition of three-finger Windows navigation gestures.
Asus' SonicMaster audio system helped the F555UA fill a large conference room with decent sound that improved after adjustment. Out of the box, the notebook did a fine job of reproducing the strong bass and guitar riffs of DJ Shadow's "Nobody Speaks," though it muffled El-P and Killer Mike's vocals.
I fixed that problem when I enabled Speech Mode on the included AudioWizard utility, which made voices clearer in songs and trailers. The utility offers presets for music, movies and games as well, but I found Speech to be the best setting for all content.
The Asus F555UA's most powerful weapon is its Core i7 processor, which you typically don't find in a sub-$600 notebook. With that CPU; 8GB of RAM; and a 1TB, 5,400-rpm hard drive, the F555UA powered me through rigorous multitasking. I didn't see a single stutter or moment of slowdown when I split my screen between a streaming video and two dozen Chrome tabs, including Google Docs, TweetDeck and Spotify.
The Asus F555UA earned a great score of 6,933 on the Geekbench 3 general performance test, which beat the Core i7-powered Ideapad 500 (6,128), as well as the Core i5-powered HP Notebook 15 (5,784) and Inspiron 15 5000 (6,331).
It took the Asus F555UA's hard drive 2 minutes and 47 seconds to finish the Laptop Mag File Transfer Test (duplicating 4.97GB of multimedia files), which translates to a speed of 30.4 megabytes per second, which is similar to the range demonstrated by its competitors (29.57 to 31.93 MBps).
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Even with its powerful processor, the Asus F555UA fell into the middle of the pack on our OpenOffice test, which matches 20,000 names to addresses. The F555UA beat the category average (5:12), but the HP Notebook 15 (4:30), Lenovo Ideapad 500 (4:04) and Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (4:30) finished in less time.
The Asus F555UA's integrated Intel HD 520 graphics limit its gaming capabilities to casual titles like the preloaded Candy Crush Soda Saga. The F555UA earned a score of 66,786 on the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited test, which beats the HP Notebook 15 (51,066) and Inspiron 15 5000 (62,763). The Ideapad 500 (76,761) and average mainstream notebook (70,609) notched higher scores.
The Asus F555UA has no trouble staying cool under pressure. After streaming 15 minutes of HD video on the notebook, we recorded cool temperatures on its touchpad (71 degrees), keyboard (78 degrees Fahrenheit) and underside (85 degrees). We consider anything under 95 degrees to be comfortable.
Ports and Webcam
You won't have trouble connecting the F555UA to most devices, as Asus has given it a full set of input ports and an optical drive. On the left side of the notebook, you'll find its Ethernet, VGA and HDMI ports; two USB 3.0 ports; and a Kensington security lock slot. An SD card reader, headphone jack, USB 2.0 port and DVD-CD-RW drive sit on the right side.
The F555UA's 0.3-megapixel webcam shot grainy selfies of me in our well-lit office, rendering edges with the blurriness of watercolor drawings. The photos accurately captured the red on our office's wall, but it washed out the black stitching details from my white shirt.
The Asus F555UA-EH71 demonstrated decent endurance for its class on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness), lasting 5 hours and 39 minutes. That's just 10 minutes short of the category average for mainstream notebooks (5:49) and longer than the Lenovo Ideapad 500 (3:43). The HP Notebook 15 (5:51) and Dell Inspiron 15 5000 (6:22) fared better.
Software and Warranty
Asus preloads a number of useful utilities on the F555UA, including the HiPost utility for file sharing with Android devices, the On-Screen Display app to modify on-screen notifications and the Splendid display app for lowering blue light and tinkering with output.
Other preinstalled apps include iHeartRadio, Netflix and TripAdvisor. Asus also includes song creation program Music Maker Jam, but you need to pay to unlock most of its genre styles and other features. As if that weren't enough, the F555UA also bundles the Asus GiftBox app, which offers deals like 20 percent off Adobe Creative Cloud and six free months of Evernote Premium.
The only configuration of the F555UA costs $579 and packs an Intel Core i7-7500U processor; 8GB of RAM; and a 128GB, 5,400-rpm hard drive.
The 15-inch Asus F555UA is a stylish notebook that offers strong performance for the price. We also appreciate the solid audio performance. However, the sub-1080p display and so-so keyboard detract from the user experience.
If you want a big-screen notebook that's better for entertainment, you'll want to check out the full-HD screen on the HP Notebook 15, though its shallow keyboard isn't great, either. Even with its deficiencies, the Asus F555UA is worth the consideration of power users who need multitasking might on a budget.