The Asus’ X501A is a laptop very much aimed at those on a tight budget, with this Core i3-based version available for £339. This is a modern dual-core processor, running at a respectable 2.2GHz, and it’s paired with 4GB of memory and a small 320GB hard drive. See also: Group test: what's the best budget laptop?
The Core i3 can’t overclock like pricier Core i5 chips, and it produced a relatively modest score of 1,389 points in PCMark 7. The lack of pace is most noticeable when the laptop is first starting up – the X501A seems to pause and gather its thoughts for about 10- to 15 seconds even after the main Start screen has appeared. Take a look at out review of the Asus X501A-XX277H too.
The X501A is otherwise responsive, and more than up to the job of browsing the web or running productivity apps. It’s no gaming rig, though, and managed just 10fps in Stalker at 720p, Low detail.
We’re not complaining at this price and, in other respects, the X501A is impressive. It’s very well built, for example: the casing has an attractive half-tone effect, and it feels sturdy.
The 1366x768-pixel screen isn’t the brightest we’ve seen, but it’s fine for browsing the web or watching online video. Colours are vibrant and accurate enough for editing your snaps. The viewing angles aren’t great, and the glossy screen makes it hard to avoid reflections, but it’s surprisingly good for the price.
Build quality is better than you might expect, and the overall sturdiness of the unit ensures that the keyboard and trackpad feel firm and comfortable in use. The trackpad is flush with the casing, allowing the use of gesture-based navigation in Windows 8.
The Altec Lansing speakers are a pleasant surprise, and lack the harsh, tinny edge we’ve come to expect from low-cost laptops. You also get a USB 3.0 port, plus HDMI and VGA outputs.
There’s no optical drive, so you might need to budget a little extra for an external drive if you want to watch DVDs, rip CDs or simply install some software.
On the plus side, the Asus weighs a portable 2.1kg, which is well below average for a 15.6in laptop. It’s no ultraportable, but the X501A can easily be carried around. With a battery that provides a good 4.5 hours of video streaming over Wi-Fi, it’s a real bargain.