ASUS, being a quality brand, always gets my attention. They’re a respectable manufacturer, known to many, and should deliver durable and first-rate laptops. Even to the budget laptop market. One of their latest models is ASUS X551CA-BI30804C, a 15.6″ notebook hovering at the $300 mark. Because it can be categorized as an affordable laptop, we here at Tech For Pennies felt compelled to take the computer under a closer examination…
The processor of ASUS X551CA-BI30804C is probably familiar to many. It’s Intel Core i3-3217U, an ultra low voltage CPU of 1.8GHz clock speed and two cores. It was already released in 2012, but still holds strong in performance tests, at least if your primary use is web browsing, YouTube streaming and other lighter stuff. The processor also integrates Intel HD Graphics 4000 for rudimentary gaming.
The memory is decent 4GB DDR3, but it’s non-expandable type, so adding more is not possible. However, with a such budget laptop I deem four gigabytes RAM just the perfect amount.
For storage, the ASUS X551CA-BI30804C offers a regular 5400RPM hard drive with 500GB space. That’s enough storage for 10,000s of photos and music files, although a solid-state drive would beat such a hard drive in speed with flying colors. Again, for an affordable laptop big but slow HDD is fine – especially if you value storage over speed.
Display and graphics
The screen of this laptop is advertised as high-definition display. That it indeed is, but not a Full HD: the resolution is basic 1366×768 on a 15.6″ screen. For most people that’s fine, but I can hear some techies longing for 1920×1080 for sure. Too bad, on these cheap laptops Full HD rarely happens.
So, there’s the Intel HD Graphics 4000 responsible for enjoyable gaming experience. However, as you might know, it’s not a fast graphics engine and gaming experience wouldn’t be that enjoyable on many occasions. For games like Assassin’s Creed 4 and Thief the frame rates will probably drop below 20, even when settings are low. If you mostly play older titles you might however be fine: expect games like Minecraft, World of Warcraft and Dirt 3 have FPS far more than 20 on low to medium settings.
ASUS X551CA-BI30804C has just two USB ports, which might or might not be enough for all of your peripherals. One of them is USB 3.0, so you’ll at least get acceptable speeds.
A connection to HDTV or other modern external monitor is possible with the laptop’s HDMI output.
Networking is possible through wired and wireless means. The notebook has both 10/100Mbps Ethernet and 802.11 b/g/n WiFi adapters. Bluetooth isn’t supported by default.
The HD webcam and microphone can be used, among other things, for video calls on Skype.
A DVD burner and SD/MMC media card reader are available on the laptop.
What other things to keep in mind?
Operating system being Windows 8.1 (64-bit) you might want a touchscreen, but after using that OS for some time I can say touch display isn’t really needed at all. All the essential features can be accessed just fine with keyboard and mouse, or in this case, a trackpad.
ASUS X551CA-BI30804C weighs 4.7 pounds. In my opinion, that’s alright for carrying the laptop in, say, backpack. Bigger problem for travelers would probably be the big screen. Battery life isn’t officially available, but some merchant page listed 3 hours for a similar ASUS X551CA model. If that’s true, battery life of this laptop is indeed below average and hardly enough for students, travelers and others that don’t have access to power sockets that often.
There’s a 10-key numeric pad included on the keyboard. That allows for a quick number key access, but also pushes the trackpad inconveniently to left.
ASUS X551CA-BI30804C is a typical budget laptop: entry level performance with basic features. There’s nothing it couldn’t do for a home or small office user, or even an occasional gamer, but as a full-time workhorse or gaming rig the ASUS doesn’t work. The lack of many USB ports might annoy some, although it’s not a huge deal. A bigger worry would be the battery life – if it’s indeed only 3 hours I can hardly recommend this laptop. However, should the duration be longer, going for this laptop might work – especially if you can catch it for a bargain.