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Thinner Lighter Better

Asus X555 / K555 series review – 15 inch laptop for the average consumer

By Andrei Girbea - @ andreigirbea , updated on October 20, 2014

In this review we’re going to analyses the Asus X555 series.

We actually have two X555 models here, as Asus will offer the laptops in this family in a couple of different configurations and either with a plastic case available in a few different colors, or a Dark Blue metallic option.

Based on that and the exact hardware specs, there will be a few different X555 variants, like the X555LA (without dedicated graphics) and the X555LD (with Nvidia graphics). And in some regions the metallic model will be sold as the K555LN, as a higher end configuration of the X555 models.

And yes, that sounds incredibly complicated and confusing, but in reality all these laptops are built on mostly the same barebone, with a few configuration aspects and small features varying between them, that’s why I’ve treated the two models in the same article.

Asus X555 series Video Review

The specs – Asus X555 series

Before we get in deep, let’s have a look at the specs, so you’ll know what we’re dealing with here. We have two devices for this review, an Asus X555LD with a Core i5-4210U processor, 6 GB of RAM, Nividia GT 820M graphics and a 500 GB 7200 rpm HDD, and an Asus K555LN model, with a Core i3-4030U processor, 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia GT 820M graphics and a 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD.


Asus X555LD / K555LN series
Screen 15.6 inch, 1366 x 768 px resolution, TN, glossy, non-touch
Processor Intel Haswell Core i5-4210U / Core i3-4030U
Chipset Intel HM86
Video integrated Intel 4400 HD and dedicated Nvidia 820M graphics
Memory 6/8 GB DDR3
Hard-disk 2.5″ HDDs
Connectivity Wireless N, Gigabit Lan, Bluetooth 4.0
Ports 2 x USB 3.0, 1 x USB 2.0, HDMI, VGA, LAN, card-reader, webcam, Kensington lock
Baterry 37 Wh, removable
Operating system Windows 8.1
Size 38.2 x 25.6 x 2.58 cm
Weight about 2.3 kg (5.1 pounds)

Choosing one over the other is mostly a matter a personal taste and somewhat a matter of budget, as the aluminum covered models will be slightly more expensive and only bundle higher end hardware, but except for a few configuration differences, the two variants share most of their features and traits.

These X555 laptops start at about 500 Euros over here, or $500 USD in the US, and that puts them in the affordable notebooks category. They do pack Intel Haswell hardware, but some corners were cut in order to meet the lower price point. For example, there are only HD screens with TN panels on these computers, there’s no backlit keyboard and there’s only a an average sized battery. But even so, the overall package isn’t bad at all.

Two very similar laptops: the Asus X555 (plastic case) and K555 (metallic body)

Two very similar laptops: the Asus X555 (plastic case) and K555 (metallic body)

Design and build quality

Both laptops look alright and are fairly well made. The plastic version comes with a textured lid cover and a Silver interior visually cut in two distinct halves, the palm-rest with a brushed finishing and the area around the keyboard, with a slightly different texture. We have the Dark Blue version in here, but the X555 line will also be available with a Red, Yellow or White case.

The metallic version feels more premium and stronger, as it won’t flex as easily as the plastic model, but at the same time the aluminum hood shows smudges and finger oil easily. The interior is cast from a single piece of smooth metal which also stretches around the edges.

These aside, the two X555s share the same hinge design, the same matte plastic bezel around the display and the same underbellies. Unlike the previous X550 laptops though, these ones only offer quick access to the memory module and not the HDD, while the battery is no longer removable and the cooling solution no longer blows hot air towards the left side, but through the grills hidden behind the display’s hinge, as we’ve seen on some higher end Asus laptop before. We’ll talk about that a bit later.

For now, let’s have a look at the IO: there’s the PSU, the Lan adapter, VGA and HDMI outputs, two USB 3.0 ports and a Kensington lock on the left edge, plus an optical drive, an USB 2.0 slot, the microphone/headphone jack and a card-reader on the right. Or in other words, pretty much everything you should expect from a mainstream 15 inch laptop. You also get a few discrete status LEDs on the front lip and a webcam on top of the displays.

Screens

Speaking of those, I was definitely not expecting much from these laptops in terms of screen quality, but even so, I was a bit disappointed with Asus’s choice of panels.

They’re not very bright and they also suffer from very poor contrast, on top of the narrow viewing angles associated with cheap TN panels. In everyday use, as long as you’re not picky and look at these screens heads-on, you’ll probably find them them well, alright. And they are, but could have been better, especially since most other manufacturers offer higher end panels on their affordable 15 inchers.

 

The plastic Asus X555LD came with a Philips LGD045C panel, while the metallic K555LN model tested here cam with an AU Optronics AUO42EC panel, but both are just as… meh. Check out the numbers below for details:

Asus X555LD – plastic Asus K555LN – metal
Panel HardwareID Philips LGD045C AU Optronics AUO42EC
Coverage 65% sRGB, 46% NTSC, 48% AdobeRGB 61% sRGB, 43% NTSC, 45% AdobeRGB
Measured gamma 2.2 2.2
Max brightness middle 189 cd/m2 on power 181 cd/m2 on power
Contrast at Max brightness 90:1 80:1
White point 7300K 7300k
Black at Max brightness 2.15 cd/m2 2.26 cd/m2
Average DeltaE 9.20 uncalibrated, 5.54 calibrated 8.93 uncalibrated, 6.08 calibrated

Keyboard and trackpad

Anyway, let’s move on. There’s not a lot to complain about the keyboard and the trackpad. Both models feature the same key layout and design, with a Numpad Area and rather cramped directional keys, a layout we’ve seen on many other Asus laptops before. There’s no back-lightning system and the actual keys do feel somewhat cheap, plasticky, but overall I’d say the typing experience on these X555s is OK.

It’s worth noting though that the plastic model does flex a lot more than the metallic version, which can steer you towards this side and which can actually make the keys feel jumpy and bother some users. So beware.

The trackpads are identical in size, but actually feel different. The one on the metallic K555 is smoother and is surrounded by a nice beveled edge, but is quite noisy when it comes to registering taps and physical clicks, while the one of the plastic model feels somewhat harsher, but is quieter. Both performed well in everyday use though, responding fast and accurate to my swipes, gestures and taps, so I’d say you should be happy with either variant.

Hardware and everyday use experience

Hardware wise, Asus plans to offer this laptop in more than a dozen different configurations, with either Core i3, i5 and even i7 Haswell processors, 4 to 8 GB of RAM, 500 GB or 1 TB hard-drives and options for Nvidia GT 820 or 840M graphics, or no dedicated graphics at all. They’ll range from about $500 for the cheapest configurations up to roughly 800 to 850 for the top options and I’ll tell you all about the available configurations further down in this post.

We do have two different models here, as mentioned in the beginning

    1. the X555LD model (plastic case), with a Core i5-4210U processor, 6 GB of RAM, Nvidia 820M graphics and a 500 GB HDD (Hitachi HTS725050A , 7200 rpm, 32 MB buffer)
    2. and the K555LN model (metallic case), with a Core i3-4030U processor, 8 GB of RAM, Nvidia 820M graphics and a 1 TB HDD (Hitachi HTS541010A, 5400 rpm, 8 MB buffer)

There a few things I should note here. First, there’s a 7 mm drive on the X555LD and a 9.5 mm one of the K555LN, but both units can take 7 and 9.5 mm drives. The storage bay is not easily accessible, you’d have to take apart the entire plastic cover to get to it and that might void warranty. The RAM is accessible on these two though and both come with a 4 GB DDR3 module . That means that the X555LD gets 2 GB of RAM soldered on the motherboard (and can take a total of up to 10 GB), while the K555LN gets 4 GB on the motherboard (and a total of 12).

Anyway, I’ve put the two configurations to test, in order to see how they fare with everyday tasks, how well they score in benchmarks, how well they handle video content and how well they can run some modern games. Check out the results below.

Asus X555LD – plastic Asus K555LN – metal
3DMark Ice Storm – 52439, Cloud Gate – 4599, Sky Driver – 2967, Fire Strike – 840 Ice Storm – 47689, Cloud Gate – 4186, Sky Driver – 2918, Fire Strike – 832
PCMark 07 3133 2669
CineBench R11.5 OpenGL 26.20 fps, CPU 2.60 pts OpenGL 46.52 fps, CPU 2.07 pts
CineBench R15 OpenGL 32.15 fps, CPU 240 cb OpenGL 36.66 fps, CPU 191 cb

As expected the Core i5 unit gets higher scores in any CPU test and only slightly better results in Graphics benchmarks. Thus, it should come to no surprise that these two devices offer similar performance in games. The titles below are all running on 1366 x 768 px with medium/normal details, with the power plug connected or on battery when specified.

Asus X555LD – plastic
Asus K555LN – metal
Bioshock Infinite
32 fps 31 fps
Bioshock Infinite on battery 25 fps 24 fps
Tomb Raider
38 fps
NFS Most Wanted 28 fps 29 fps
Metro Last Light 22 fps 23 fps
Metro Last Light on batttery
14 fps 15 fps
Dirt 3
49 fps 49 fps

I also ran stress tests with Prime 95 and Furmark for 1 hour. On the X555 configuration, the CPU settles to a 2294 Mhz frequency after about 10 minutes (ran slightly higher before that), while the graphics run at 950 Mhz for the entire duration of this test. In other words, there’s no throttling, although the internal temps do get a bit high, as you can see below.

On the metallic K555 model, the CPU runs at the default 1.9 Ghz freque3ncy for the entire test, with the graphics running at 950 Mhz. On top of these, the hardware barely hits 70 C under stress.

Temperatures, Noise, Wi-Fi and others

I will add that these two run fairly cool and quiet, even under load. Hot air is blown out through the grills behind the hinge, towards the screen, and even if the Core i5 model does reach somewhat higher body temperatures, there’s nothing to worry about in daily use. Check out the pictures below for stress-testing temperatures, which is basically the hottest you should expect these things to run.

I do believe the Core i7 metallic configurations will reach both inner and external higher temperatures though when severely pushed, but even those models shouldn’t really pose a problem.

You’ll also hear the fan inside these laptops pretty much all of the time, and the HDD’s as well. The cooler does become noisier when running games, my apps measuring roughly 46 dB for the Core i5 model at 50 cm, where a user’s head would normally reside.

k555-highload-temperatures X555-highload-temperatures

The speakers, which are placed on the belly, but towards the laptops’ front lift, are actually loud enough to cover the noise easily. In fact, they are really punchy (running the Pharell- Happy clip from Youtube at max volume resulted in peaks of up to 95 dB, again, 50 cm away), although the sound coming out of them is average at best.

You get punchy speakers on both these laptops

You get punchy speakers on both these laptops

The two laptops also bundled Bluetooth, Gigabit Ethernet (a Realtek RTL8168 chip) and Wi-Fi N (Atheros AR9485). Both units can maximize my connection when next to the router and both perform alright even at 30 feet with 3 walls in between. But the metallic model does get somewhat slower than its plastic kin in this particular case, which is normal and expected.

Battery Life

There is however one more thing I don’t like about these laptops: Asus put a small 37 Wh battery on them, which only translates in about 4 hours of daily use, which is… meh.The K555 configuration with the Core i3 processor does last an average of about 30 minutes longer in everyday use.

On top of that, the battery is no longer removable, like on the older X550 and X552 versions, and I believe that’s going to bother a fair share of potential buyers.

There are small batteries on both these laptops

There are small batteries on both these laptops

Prices and availability

There are countless configurations available for these laptops, with different code names in different regions. I will only some of them here.

  • Asus X555LA-DB51 – $649 – Core i5-4210U CPU, Intel HD 4400 graphics, 4 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD
  • Asus X555LA-DB71 – $749 – Core i7-4510U CPU, Intel HD 4400 graphics, 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD

A Core i3-4030U version of the X555LA is also available, selling for around $500.

The Asus X555LD will offer Nvidia GT 820M graphics (or Nvidia 840M chips in some regions), paired with Core i3, i5 and i7 Haswell processors, 4 or 8 GB of RAM and either 500 GB or 1 TB HDDs, starting at about $550 for the basic models and going up to $800 for the top versions.

The K555LN models will be available with the metallic design present in this review, as well as an 1920 x 1080 px display. Can’t say how good that’s going to be, but from what I can tell right now, it’s still a TN panel. See the configurations below:

  • $749 – Core i3-4030U CPU, Nvidia 840M graphics, 4 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD
  • $849 – Core i5-4210U CPU, Nvidia 840M graphics, 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD
  • $949 – Core i7-4510U CPU, Nvidia 840M graphics, 8 GB of RAM, 1 TB HDD

Wrap up

At the end of the day, I’m having a hard time drawing the line on these laptops. I could probably summarize Asus’s X555 line as “average”. They are not the cheapest out there or the fastest and they don’t even pack the most or the best features. But they mostly check the right boxes, again, as long as we’re fare and keep the price in mind.

Even so, I still don’t think these would be my first choice of an affordable 15 incher. On one side there’s the metallic option, which is a novelty in the X500 line (albeit it’s called the K555 in some regions), but at the same time closely priced to the slimmer and lighter Vivobook V551/S551 or the more versatile Transformer Book Flip TP500 series, which has a touchscreen and a convertible form-factor.

On the other there are the plastic X555 models, whose only major selling point are the colorful cases. They are more expensive than some of the other similarly configured Asus laptops, like a few of the X550 or the X552 models, they lack the removable batteries and actually pack poorer displays.

While not bad, the X555 and K555 lines have very little that could set them apart from their competitors. For the right price though, these might be worth buying.

While not bad, the X555 and K555 lines have very little that could set them apart from their competitors. For the right price though, these might be worth buying.

And then there are also the competitors to consider. Acer, Lenovo, HP, Dell are just some of the other manufacturers who offer good laptops for around $500.

So in conclusion, these Asus X555 models aren’t bad, but they’re not very good either. I wasn’t expecting much, and even so, I ended up disappointed with the screens and the battery life. Even so, if you can find them cheap (and I mean significantly cheaper than they are right now, at launch), they might be worth buying. But I’d check out the competitors closely, there are plenty of better 15 inchers out there and they don’t sell for a lot more than these X555S.

Anyway, that’s about it for now, these were my impressions on the Asus X555 and K555 lines. The comments section is open, so if you have anything to add or any questions, make sure to post them below, I’ll be around to reply.

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Andrei Girbea, aka "Mike", Editor-in-Chief at TLBHD.com. I absolutely hate carrying around heavy stuff, that's why I'm fond of mini-laptops and portable computers. I'm primarily using such devices and have been testing them for many years now. Get in touch in the comments section below.

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