The Asus V550CA-CJ104H is a 15.6-inch notebook that tries to marry the slim, stylish aesthetics of the Ultrabook with the better value innards and screen estate of the notebook. Packing a dual core Intel Core i3 1.4GHZ processor and 6GB of RAM, it’s certainly no slouch but without a solid state drive, it comes in at just below the £500 mark, making it an attractive proposition to students or families on a budget.
How does it handle the day-to-day tasks, and is it good value at around £499? Let’s find out...
As we observed in the introduction, the Asus V550C does have a touch of the Ultrabook about it, and not just in its thinness, where it is less than an inch thick all around. When closed, it’s black all over: brushed aluminum on top with only a large ASUS logo breaking the minimalism, and a textured black plastic underside.
When opened up, the keyboard area switches to a chrome coloured aluminium. Its thinness is emphasised by the speaker bar, which actually sits a good quarter of an inch above the keyboard, fitting snuggly into a gap in the lid when closed. Of course, there’s no way you could confuse this with an Ultrabook - at 2.65kg and 15.6-inches across, it’s just too big for that - but the thinness and inherent portability should still be praised. It feels sturdy and like it could take the kind of knocks you’d need a notebook to absorb.
The connections on V550C are a little odd because although it’s got plenty of slots and ports (a quick tally reveals three USB ports, an HDMI slot, a VGA port, an ethernet slot, a Kensington lock and a shared microphone/headphone jack) it doesn’t seem to make great use of its space. While the left hand side has half the area taken up quite fairly with airvents, the right hand side is half sealed shut, leaving the ports and slots crammed in to the bottom right corner. As the sealed section is around the size of a DVD drive, we can only assume that other models using this shell have some kind of optical media, but that area can’t even be opened here.
At 1,366 x 768, the Asus V550C is at the low-end of modern laptop resolutions, especially on a screen this large. On the bright side, as it’s also a touch screen, this does mean that navigating Windows 8’s touch interfaces is nice and easy. On the flip side, it means that icons are nowhere near as sharp as you’d hope for.
Elsewhere, the screen is a pretty average for touchscreens in the sub £500 price-range. The brightness is decent, but the viewing angles are unspectacular and it has a tendency to reflect light in a way that can be distracting. Like many cheaper touchscreens, it also has a meshy gauze-like quality when observed up close, which makes edges even less sharp than they should be for the resolution. The temperature is perhaps a little on the cool side as well, with the colours a bit washed out.
This all sounds really negative, but it’s not a bad screen: it’s perfectly serviceable for the sub-£500 price bracket, and you shouldn’t expect impossibly high resolutions and perfect contrast at this end of the market.