The Bottom Line
Sep 6 2013 - The ASUS X550CA still remains as a solid value for those looking at a basic laptop computer. The problem is that it doesn't really distinguish itself from the competition in any real way. In fact, the laptop design really needs to be updated to address the limited number of USB ports which is as much as half as many as the competition. In addition to this, the battery life is still on the low side for the budget segment.
- Nice Audio From Speakers
- Above Average Keyboard and Trackpad
- Only Two USB Ports
- Below Average Battery Life
- Intel Core i3-3217U Dual Core Mobile Processor
- 4GB PC3-12800 DDR3 Memory
- 500GB 5400rpm SATA Hard Drive
- Dual Layer DVD Burner
- 15.6" WXGA (1366x768) Display With VGA Webcam
- Intel HD Graphics 4000 Integrated Graphics
- Gigabit Ethernet, 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- One USB 3.0, One USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, 3-in-1 Card Reader
- Windows 8
Review - ASUS X550CA-DB31 15.6-inch
Sep 6 2013 -
Sep 6 2013 - The ASUS X550CA is essentially a minor update of the previous ASUS X55C. The look of the system remains pretty much the same but with the use of silver instead of silver color for the keyboard deck rather than the graphite color of the previous.
The other big change to the ASUS X550CA is the processor. Now it has moved up to using a third generation Intel Core i3-3217U dual core processor over the previous 2nd generation processors. This provides it with very little change in the overall processing power of the system but it is a lower power consuming processor. While not a fast processor, it should be able to handle the basic computing tasks of the average user that browsing the web, streams media and uses productivity applications. The processor is matched up with 4GB of memory which is typical for the budget segment and provides a smooth enough experience thanks to Windows 8 improved memory management.
Storage remains complete unchanged with the X550CA-DB31. The storage is handled by a 500GB hard drive which is the standard amount of space provided in this price range. The downside is that many of the systems priced higher are either moving to solid state drives for primary storage or for performance caching. This means that the system fells very slow with boot times that take more than half a minute to boot into the operating system. If you do need additional space, there is a single USB 3.0 port for use with high speed external storage drives. The downside here is that the system still has just two USB ports total which is below most in this size that feature either three or four.
The display continues to use a 15.6-inch panel that features the 1366x768 resolution so common to low cost laptops. The color and brightness are decent but nothing that stands out at this price point as it uses a TN based panel which are very affordable but provide limited color and viewing angles. The graphics system did get an upgrade with a move to the 3rd generation Core i processors as it now features the Intel HD Graphics 4000 built into in. This provides improved 3D performance but it still isn't really suited for PC gaming unless you are playing older 3D games at low resolution levels. It does provide a significant boost over the Intel HD Graphics 2500 or 3000 when encoding media with Quick Sync compatible applications.
The battery pack for the ASUS X550CA did get reduced to a four cell battery pack with a 37WHr capacity rating compared to a six cell 47WHr capacity model found in the past model. While the third general Core i processors did improve power consumption, this is still a pretty significant decline. In digital video playback testing, the laptop was able to last for three and a half hours. This is a bit disappointing as it puts it at a lower running time than much of the competition at this price point which seems to average around four hours in this test.
Priced at $480, the ASUS X550CA is decently priced for its configuration. The primary competition in this size and price range seems to be from the Acer Aspire E1 and Dell Inspiron 15. Both feature very similar pricing and the same 15.6-inch display size and similar weights. The Acer differs primarily because it lacks a DVD drive but it makes up for this by including a faster Core i5 processor for some additional performance. The Dell is nearly identical in performance and features but has the advantage of more USB ports while still being slightly thinner than the ASUS laptop.