Users on the market for a low-budget computing solution are often forced to make a Hobbesian decision between laptops with mediocre performance or Chromebooks that can’t support Windows applications. While tablets are now very popular, netbooks continue to hold a place on store shelves as they offer affordability and portability that full-sized laptops can’t match.
The newest ASUS X551MA enters the crowded netbook market, as an upgrade to last year’s Asus X553SA-BHCLN10, offering a basic feature set at an affordable price. Basic, in this case, means not so powerful performance, a slower but somewhat hard drive (500GB), but compensates for a full size screen and screen. But while more expensive models offer the benefit of better performance or comfort, Full HD resolutions, that budget price can be hard to pass up.
The ASUS X551MA being a budget class laptop, never do you get premium components like metal finishes but instead you here you have a bald, glossy black cover. As with most 15-inch notebooks, it sports a big chassis and fairly heavy, measuring 1.20 by 15 by 9.90 inches (HWD) and weighing 4.7 pounds. It can easily fit into a backpack, just like Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK, which also weighs 4.7 pounds and measures 1 by 15 by 10.20 inches, but battery life is better at 6.5 hours on a single charge.
The ASUS X551MA laptop has a 101 key US non-backlit keyboard with a built-in multitouch trackpad. The 34WHrs 3-cell lithium ion battery offers approximately 5 hours of battery life on a single charge- this makes it quite energy efficient for its class. Available connectivity ports include: IEEE 802.11 b/g/n for wireless LAN, RJ-45 Ethernet Connector, 1 x USB 2.0 port, 1 x USB 3.0 port, a Combo Headphone/Microphone jack, a VGA port, an HDMI port, a Media Card Reader (SD, MMC) and a webcam with built-in microphone.
The ASUS X551MA laptop comes with Windows 8.1 installed, with less bloat except for the proprietary Windows 8.1 apps. This notebook is backed by the industry’s most comprehensive coverage: One Year Accidental Damage protection, One-year International Warranty and Thirty Days Zero Bright Dot Guarantee. This means that if your LCD display starts to show broken pixels within the first thirty days of purchase, ASUS will cover it. It lacks an optical drive-after all most modern day laptops don’t have them- and Bluetooth is also missing. With all fairness, this is a slight drawback, you can easily get a Bluetooth dongle such as the Kinivo BTD-400 Bluetooth 4.0 USB adapter for a few dollars.
The ASUS X551MA is equipped with a 2.16GHz Intel Celeron N2830 processor, 4GB DDR3 SDRAM (just a single slot with maximum capacity 4GB) at 1600MHz, 500GB SATA hard drive (5400rpm) and Intel’s HD Graphics. Although this configuration is not what you would call powerful, it does provide ample horsepower for running multimedia and everyday home office tasks. It does compete strongly against the Dell Inspiron i3531-3225BK and the Acer Aspire E 15 ES1-512-C88M, both of which cost slightly more. The Asus 15.6’s HD Graphics solution fared a little better on my gaming tests and whipped even pricier laptops, but it still doesn’t have the graphics horsepower required for smooth game play. If you need a gaming rig, the Toshiba Satellite C55-A5245 is a better inexpensive option.
The ASUS X551MA‘s 15.6-inch non-touch HD quality display with a maximum resolution of 1366 by 768 pixels and widescreen capability is quite decent for the price. Its Graphics Card is the integrated Intel UMA (Unified Memory Architecture) that shares memory with the system RAM as its base memory. This is quite OK for home office use but for gaming or any video intensive situations, you will have to look a bit higher and pay slightly more. With AudioWizard technology, you’ll hear the world differently with optimized sound on five different preset modes. This is further enhanced by Asus SonicMaster technology for immersive sound output.
The Bottom line
For students and other home/office users on a budget, the 15-inch ASUS X551MA gives a lot of laptop for far less than most competitors. However, you must make some few concessions here and there such as a 15.6-inch screen that won’t fire up high-definition content at 1080p, but it does deliver 720p with aplomb and delivers vibrant colors. At is price we didn’t expect to see high-end processors and blazing HD graphics, but the dual core Intel Celeron processor is quite decent for home office computing needs.
As a bonus, you get a modern-looking laptop with decent speakers, and a webcam. You also get over 5 hours of battery life. As such, the ASUS 15-Inch X551MA deserves a long look as you shop around for a budget desktop-replacement laptop. That said and done, our Editors’ Choice for budget desktop replacement laptops, the ASUS F555LA-AB31 offers better performance thanks to a Core i3 processor, Full HD (1920-by-1080) resolution, and a decent collection of ports among other niceties at an affordable price.
For students and other home/office users on a budget, the newest 15-inch ASUS X551MA gives a lot of laptop for far less than most competitors.
- Great design
- Great connectivity
- No Bluetooth
- No optical drive