For the fairly low price of $375, most people will only expect the basics from a mainstream computer, but the Asus F555LA offers some important extras. This notebook features a slick design, relatively powerful speakers and a full 1080p screen, where most manufacturers settle for a lesser 1366 x 768 display. The keyboard is a little too bouncy for our tastes, but frugal consumers looking for a 15-inch laptop will get good bang for their buck.
The Asus F555LA looks more premium than its price tag would suggest. The laptop's bottom is plain black plastic, but the "smoky brown" lid features Asus' logo and signature concentric circles, which look great when the light hits them just right. Inside, the deck is silver and the palm rest's brushed faux metal texture is nice. You'll also find a keyboard and a number pad with black chiclet keys and a 15.6-inch display surrounded by a chunky black bezel.
The F555LA is an average size for a budget 15-inch laptop, with a footprint of 15 x 10.1 x 1 inches. At 4.6 pounds, this Asus is among the lightest machines in its class, including the 5.3-pound Dell Inspiron 15 3000 and the 4.8-pound Toshiba Satellite L55-C5340.
Keyboard and Touchpad
Typing on the F555LA is a bit like bouncing your fingers on a mini trampoline. The keys have 1.5mm of travel and require 50g of force, which makes them feel a bit more bouncy than I'd like. The bigger issue is that the plastic around the keyboard has a lot of flex, and I noticed it while I typed at my average rate of 100 words per minute on the 10fastfingers.com typing test (albeit with a 4 percent error rate, twice my normal average). Those who do a lot of work in Excel will be happy to know that the keyboard features a number pad.
The touchpad is a very different story -- it's spacious, fairly accurate and has just the right amount of clickiness. My only issue is that gestures like two-finger scrolling and pinch-to-zoom sometimes lagged behind my movements.
The 1080p screen on the F555LA is a great value --- you almost never find a laptop under $500 with this screen resolution. In fact, most laptops under $800 have lesser 1366 x 768 resolutions. With 1920 x 1080 pixels, you can see significantly more content on the screen, without scrolling. In a New York Times article I lost a paragraph and a half, and I had to scroll down 11 extra lines in a Google Doc I was working on.
When watching videos or surfing the Web, I noticed that the display was a little cool with white backgrounds appearing slightly blue. I streamed the latest trailer for Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice on YouTube and found it hard to make out what was going on in a scene where Batman takes out a building full of bad guys, as the colors blended together. Brighter colors, such as those on Superman's suit as the Batmobile's headlights illuminated it, were more vivid and accurate.
Unfortunately, the display isn't all that bright. When I first put the laptop on my desk, I went to brighten the dim-looking screen and found that it was already at its maximum brightness of 198 nits. Dell's Inspiron 15 3000 reached 221, though the Toshiba Satellite L55 did worse at 151 nits. Viewing angles are sufficient at 45 degrees, but the screen is totally washed out at 90 degrees.
The Asus panel covers 70.4 percent of the color gamut, more than others in the price range (all in the low 60s), but has a less accurate screen with a Delta-E score of 6.34 (closer to zero is better). The Inspiron scored 3.2, while the L55-C Satellite was worse than the Asus at 4.6.
I was truly surprised by the quality of sound that came out of a laptop this inexpensive. When I played Mark Ronson and Kevin Parker's "Summer Breaking / Daffodils," the audio emanating from Asus' SonicMaster speakers was fairly well-rounded. The highs, mids and bass were all noticeable, even if they weren't top of their class.
The computer comes with the ICEpower AudioWizard program and Realtek HD Audio Manager. AudioWizard is set to Music Mode by default, and you should leave it there, while Realtek's software will be better for those who want some fine-tuning (but in that case you'd be better off using nice headphones).
The F555LA's Core i3-5010 processor and 4GB of RAM aren't made for serious processing power, but this laptop can handle a mix of light multimedia usage, Web browsing and productivity without an issue.
I multitasked by browsing the Web in Chrome, streaming 1080p with YouTube and typing a document in OpenOffice Writer. Once I hit eight tabs in Chrome, I started to notice some serious lag as I switched between the open websites, but I was still able to type in OpenOffice without a problem.
The F555LA couldn't keep up with more expensive competitors on the Geekbench performance benchmark. The laptop's score of 2,080 was beat handily by the $600 Satellite L55 i5 processor (5,564) and the $400 Inspiron 15 3000's AMD A6-6310 APU (3,577).
Asus' notebook fared a little better in our OpenOffice test, taking 6 minutes and 31 seconds to match 20,000 names and addresses. It was surpassed by the Satellite L55 (5:10), but the Inspiron 15 3000 took its sweet time at 12:55.
The F555LA's 500GB hard drive fell just short of the competition, copying 4.97GB of mixed media files in 32.2 seconds. The Satellite took 28.4 seconds and the Inspiron, 22.9 seconds.
Ports and Webcam
The real estate on the sides of the F555LA is put to good use with plenty of ports. The left side of the computer is home to the power port, an Ethernet jack, a VGA port, an HDMI port, two USB 3.0 ports and a lock slot. On the right side is the SD card reader, a headphone and mic combo jack, a USB 2.0 port and a CD/DVD drive.
When I opened the camera app to test the webcam, I saw a blurry version of myself staring back at me. A selfie that I took with the webcam lacked a lot of detail in my face and had quite a bit of distortion while the highlights were completely blown out.
The Asus F555LA performed admirably for its price on the Laptop Mag Battery test, lasting 5 hours and 44 minutes of Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits of brightness. The Toshiba Satellite L55 ran for 5:14 and the Dell Inspiron hit 5:13. The F555LA's time is just a minute short of the category average for mainstream notebooks, including many that are significantly more expensive.
I hope you like Solitaire -- the integrated Intel HD Graphics 5500 will be fine for some Facebook and Flash games, but you shouldn't expect to be playing intensive titles from Steam.
On 3DMark, a synthetic graphics benchmark, the F555LA notched a score of 46,285. The Inspiron's score of 31,541 was worse, while the Satellite topped it at 54,638.
This Asus notebook stayed cool under pressure during our heat test. When we streamed 15 minutes of HD video from Hulu, the underside reached 81 degrees, the spot between the G and H keys reached 84 degrees, and the touchpad was nice and frosty at 77 degrees -- all below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
Software and Warranty
The extra software that comes with the Asus F555LA is welcome for its sparseness and includes the WinFlash BIOS update tool, the Splendid display adjustment utility and the aforementioned audio software. The only cases of bloatware are Twitter and Candy Crush Soda Saga, which come pre-installed, though there is a big link to download Flipboard in the Start menu.
Like the majority of Windows laptops, the F555LA also comes with a 1-month trial of Microsoft Office. Asus offers a 1-year warranty with accidental damage protection.
Our review unit, which retails for $374.99, came with a Core i3-5010U, 500GB hard drive and 4GB of RAM and is exclusive to Amazon.
Another version of the F555LA is available at Best Buy with a Core i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and 1TB HDD and 1366 x 768 display for $499. The similar F555UA at Amazon comes with the same specs and price as the Best Buy version, or with a Skylake Core i7 processor for $683.99.
The Asus F555LA is a solid value, offering good speakers, a sleek design and a full 1080p display for a fraction of the price of competitors' machines (some of which pack a lesser 1366 x 768 display). There are some trade-offs, notably a bouncy keyboard and a somewhat dim screen. But if you're on a budget and are looking for a 15-inch notebook for some light browsing, checking Facebook and text editing, the Asus F555LA offers a lot for the money.