15.6 in 1,366x768 display, 2.4kg, 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3337U, 6.00GB RAM, 750GB disk, Windows 8
Laptops don’t necessarily need to have the latest components to be good value, as the Asus X552CL costs just £500 and comes with an Ivy Bridge Core i5 processor and a 1GB dedicated graphics chip.
Its 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U processor is slightly older than the newer Haswell chips, but paired with 6GB of RAM, it scored a respectable 45 in our multimedia benchmarks. This is roughly ten points ahead of most other £500 laptops, and not far behind some more expensive models, either. This means the X552CL should be able to handle a range of tasks with no problem at all.
Usually, the main disadvantage of having an Ivy Bridge processor over a Haswell model is its weaker integrated graphics performance, but the X552CL solves this dilemma nicely with its 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 710M chip. This is one of Nvidia’s lower-end models, but it certainly packs an impressive punch for its price.
When we ran our Dirt Showdown test on High quality at a 1,280x720 resolution, we saw a smooth 32.4fps, which is almost double what an Ivy Bridge laptop can normally manage on its integrated Intel HD Graphics 4000 chip. This is excellent for a £500 laptop, so it should be able to play most 3D games at a comfortable speed. We didn’t have to lower the settings too much to get even faster frame rates either, as Medium quality produced an outstanding 45.2fps while Low maxed out at a perfect 64.6fps at the same resolution, making the X552CL one of the most capable budget gaming laptops we’ve ever seen.
We were big fans of the X552CL’s keyboard. Its bouncy keys gave a great level of tactile feedback and all the keys were sensibly spaced next to its numeric keypad. We did notice a very slight amount of flex in the keyboard tray, but it didn’t affect our accuracy. The large all-in-one touchpad was very responsive. Multi-touch gestures such as pinch-zooming and two finger scrolling didn’t pose any problems either, and we were liked the amount of feedback it gave in the lower half of the touchpad when we clicked on files in our desktop.
The X552CL isn’t particularly portable, 15.6in laptops are pretty chunky to heft about by modern standards and at 31mm thick the Asus isn't a svelte example. It also lasted a measly 3h 2m in our light use battery test with the screen set to half brightness, so you'll have to charge it regularly if you're working on it all day. It’s an attractive laptop, though, as its slightly textured lid and keyboard tray give it a bit more character than other budget laptops and we didn’t see any signs of flex in the chassis either.
There’s a good range of ports along the sides of the laptop, too, including one USB2 and two USB3 ports, VGA and HDMI video outputs for connecting the laptop to an external display, an SD card reader, a Fast Ethernet port, a DVD rewriter and a combined headphone and microphone jack. There’s also a 750GB hard disk for storing your files.