The ASUS F556UA-AB54 is an excellent budget desktop-replacement laptop with a strong Kaby Lake Intel Core i5 processor, ample 8GB system memory, a fast SSD and strong overall performance, and it is quite affordable than much of its direct competitors.
PROS: Strong productivity performance. Full HD-resolution display. Good connectivity options.
CONS: Keyboard is non-backlit.
The ASUS F556UA-AB54 is an excellent desktop-replacement laptop that looks virtually identical to the well-reviewed ASUS F556UA-AS54. But on the inside, it’s a different story. At first glance, I was convinced that it was an AS54, but the AB54 an upgraded processor from the other model that yields better performance. The highlights here include a seventh-generation ‘Kaby Lake’ Intel Core i5 processor, while the earlier model was outfitted with a Core i5 Skylake processor; as well as 8GB DDR4 memory, up from 8GB DDR3 memory on the AS54, though both have the same 256GB SSD. See why I call it an upgrade? It doesn’t quite beat more premium ultraportables like the Asus ZenBook 3, our current Top Pick for high-end desktop-replacement laptops, on overall performance and build quality, but it still remains affordable, making it certainly worth considering.
Design and Features
The Asus AB54 mirrors mid-this year’s model in both design and weight with a sleek, attractive slim profile that is easy to tot around and fits easily into a backpack. It’s clad in a timeless icicle-gold metallic frame that gives it a luxurious appeal. The laptop measures 1 by 15 by 10.1 inches (HWD) inches (HWD) and weighs just 5.1 pounds. The metallic construction gives a bit of a heft, but the result is a solid and sturdy system, which we somehow expected.
Other laptops in the same category opt for thin designs to keep the systems light and slim as possible, while ultraportable are even slender, but the build quality can sometimes suffer as a result. For instance, the HP 15-ay013nr and the HP 15-ay011nr which bear almost the same specifications measure 0.95 by 15.12 by 10.02 inches (HWD), and are actually a little thinner and lighter at just over four pounds (4.73 pounds).
You get a generous set of ports on the ASUS AB54. Here we’re talking of three types of USB ports: one USB 2.0 port, one USB 3.0 port and the latest USB 3.1 Type-C port, which was conspicuously missing in the competing HP 15-ay013nr or even its other iteration the HP 15-Ay011nr. If you need to connect it to your external display, a VGA and HDMI output comes handy, while 802.11 AC-type WiFi+Bluetooth 4.1 card will sort your wireless needs. For media, a DVD burner and an SD card reader are available to access your older movies and files.
The keyboard isn’t backlit, but the chiclet style keys are quite comfortable and there is even room on the right side of the deck for a 10-key number pad. Although the keys are narrow. The key travel isn’t close to the experience you’d get from high-end laptops, but they are ultimately comfortable to type on, the fairly shallow travel notwithstanding. The one-piece touchpad located right beneath the keyboard has integrated left-and right-click buttons, which are smooth and responsive.
The ASUS F556UA-AB54 is well equipped with a 2.5GHz Intel ‘Kaby Lake’ Core i5 processor, and 8GB system memory with Intel HD 620 graphics card. For the day-to-day notebook user, a seventh-generation processor that can clock 3.1GHz is more than enough for enthusiast-level media editing on Photoshop among other programs. Apparently, 8GB (seemingly upgradable, swapped it with a pair of 4GB and 8GB to get 12GB) will let you keep dozens of browser tabs open simultaneously.
The 256GB solid-state-drive (SSD) is double the 128GB on the HP 15-ay013nr, while the HP 15-ay011nr comes with a roomier 1TB hard drive. While the 256GB SSD makes the system snappier, the 1TB is ideal if you like to store most family snapshots and music files.
The integrated Intel HD 620 graphics card (the earlier iteration the AS54 has HD 520), is typical for the entry-level desktop replacement, and it doesn’t provide much room for heavy gaming. During testing, I managed 30FPS on GTA at low settings (1366-by-768), but you can expect better playability on casual games such as Starcraft 2, Minecraft and League of Legends among other lighter titles.
If you need to play some recent game titles but on a budget, the Dell Inspiron I7559-763BLK offers smooth playability and good frames per second (FPS) scores even on modern game titles. The system comes pre-installed with Windows 10 Home (64-bit) which is quite standard for most recent laptops in the same category, lately.
The ASUS F556UA-AS54’s 38 polymer battery (not-replaceable) lasted 5 hour 47 minutes in our rundown test, which is commendable, given its FHD display. The HP 15-ay013nr stayed slightly behind with 5 hours 37 minutes, while the Dell Inspiron I7559-763BLK offers 7 hours 16 minutes on a single charge.
The ASUS F556UA-AB54 has enough features and performance to shine among the above-average budget desktop-replacement laptops. It boasts the latest seventh-generation ‘Kaby Lake’ processor, good build quality and design, a decent array of connectivity ports and a full HD screen that’s easy on the eyes. Competitors like the HP 15-ay013nr and the HP 15-ay011nr either have half the storage or lack a FHD screen, thus remain slightly behind in terms of performance.
However, its earlier sibling the ASUS F556UA-AS54 holds it ground, but upgrades such as a jump from Skylake to Kaby Lake, better battery life as well as the Intel HD graphics make the newer model worth considering. For all these reasons, the ASUS F556UA-AB54 is an easy choice to recommend for anyone in the market for an affordable, yet powerful, laptop for day-to-day use.