Asus K55VD review
Windows 8's fancy new interface may work brilliantly on touchscreen devices, with many manufacturers releasing new laptops that support this, but that's not to say that you should ignore traditional laptops, such as the Asus K55VD. With its low price and dedicated graphics card, this could offer some serious value compared to the flashier more expensive models elsewhere.
The laptop's budget leanings are shown immediately, as the Core i3-2350M is one of the last-generation Sandy Bridge models, rather than the more powerful current range of Ivy Bridge processors. Fortunately, the Core i3 used here is one of the faster older-generation models, running at 2.3GHz. Combined with the 4GB of RAM, it led to the K55VD getting a respectable 39 overall in our benchmarks. This means that you'll be able to run Windows 8 smoothly and even indulge in some more complicated tasks, such as video and image editing.
Unusually for a laptop at this price, the K55VD has a dedicated Nvidia GeForce 610M graphics chipset, rather than relying on the processor's integrated graphics. This is no graphics powerhouse, but it does mean that you'll be able to play some modern games, if you're prepared to make some tweaks.
Running our Dirt Showdown test at 1,280x720 at High Quality settings, we managed 20.6fps, which is considerably better than most other laptops at this price. We only had to lower the quality settings to Medium to get our desired 30fps. It means that if you're prepared to sacrifice a bit of detail and, potentially, resolution, most modern 3D games should be able to run at lower quality settings smoothly.
The laptop's battery life was pretty average, with 5 hours and 43 minutes in our light-use battery life test, but this is fairly standard for a budget laptop. It's enough power to comfortably use this laptop on your lap for an entire evening and will even mean you could use it for most of a working day away from a power socket.
We were impressed with the K55VD’s 15.6in screen. Its glossy finish suffered from reflections from overhead light sources, but it's a bright screen with impressive contrast; our test photos were full of detail in both the light and dark areas of the image. It has a resolution of 1,366x768, which is fairly common for budget laptops. This resolution is absolutely fine, though, and supports all of Windows 8 features, including the side-by-side mode for the new Start Screen apps.
The K55VD isn't the most stylish laptop we’ve ever seen, with a black matt plastic bezel and keyboard and brushed silver aluminium wrist rest, but its textured lid gives it an air of sophistication compared to other budget laptops.
Its Chiclet-style keyboard has well-spaced keys, and its keys give plenty of tactile feedback so are comfortable to type on. However, the hard edge of the wrist rest did tend to dig into our palms slightly, which made typing on it for longer periods of time slightly uncomfortable, but this is a fairly minor complaint.
The K55VD’s large all-in-one touchpad supports multi-touch gestures, and a quick swipe from right to left will bring up the Windows 8 Charms bar to let you search for programs, share files and manage your devices and settings all without leaving the desktop. The touchpad is very responsive; pinching to zoom in on web pages caused us no trouble at all, and swiping left to right to change windows was completely effortless. Having a decent touchpad like this makes a lot of difference in Windows 8, which was designed to work well with touch devices.
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