Good value and performance for the price. 1080p display. Generous port selection. Spacious 1TB hard drive.
Modest 4GB of RAM. Non-touch screen. Mediocre battery life.
- Bottom Line
The Asus F556UA-AB32 is a capable 15-inch desktop-replacement laptop that offers respectable features and performance for its under-$400 price.
The Asus F556UA-AB32 ($364.99) is a budget 15-inch desktop-replacement laptop with a good feature set and above-average performance for its price. It packs a 1080p display, a spacious 1TB hard drive, and an abundance of ports, including USB-C, all impressive features for a laptop that costs less than $400. Its Intel Core i3 processor is a generation behind the Editors' Choice Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM), however, and its performance reflects it, if not to a deal-breaking degree. Still, the Asus AB32 is an impressive alternative and well worth considering.
//Compare Similar Products
Solid Design, Semi-Portable
At 1 by 15 by 10.1 inches (HWD) and 5.1 pounds, the AB32 is a typical size and weight for a 15-inch desktop-replacement laptop. It is a tad thinner than the Acer E 15, which measures 1.2 by 15 by 10.2 inches and also weighs 5.1 pounds. You can throw this laptop in a backpack to shuttle it across campus, or back and forth on the occasional commute, but you likely won't want to lug it around all the time. For greater portability in a budget laptop, you could go for a convertible hybrid like the Lenovo Yoga 710 (11"), which measures just 0.6 by 11.1 by 7.7 inches and weighs 2.3 pounds, though you'll take a hit on features (a smaller screen and keyboard and no optical drive, for instance), and to a lesser extent, performance.
The touchpad and areas surrounding the AB32's keyboard are silver, while the keyboard and the rest of the laptop are dark blue. The frame is plastic, but feels sturdy. The lid has a fine pattern of concentric circles, with scoring reminiscent of the grooves on a record album. The touchpad is quite responsive. The chiclet-style keyboard is positioned rather far back on the laptop from where my hands usually rest, but typing is smooth and easy. Like most budget laptops, the AB32's keyboard lacks backlighting.
All This and HD Too
The 15.6-inch display has full HD (1,920-by-1,080) resolution, and both text and images are crisp and clear. The Acer E 15 also has a full HD screen, but unlike the AB32's, it's LED-backlit. OPPOSED TO WHAT OTHER THAN LED? Many screens on systems of this size and at this price are a 720p resolution, so the full HD screen here is a nice perk. Unlike the Dell Inspiron 15 3000 Series (3558) but like the Acer E 15, the AB32's display does not support touch.
Audio quality is good, with minimal distortion from the built-in speakers, even with the volume turned all the way up. Not that the sound is particularly loud: Maximum volume is about average for a general-purpose laptop.
Connectivity options are abundant for a notebook at this price. On the left side of the laptop are the power jack, an Ethernet jack, a VGA port, a USB 3.0 port, a USB-C port, an HDMI port, and a slot for a Kensington lock. On the right side are an SD card reader (useful for expanding onboard storage), a headphone jack that doubles as an audio-in port, a USB 2.0 port, and an 8x DVD/RW drive. Connectivity is similar to the Dell and Acer models, but the Dell subtracts the USB-C port while the Acer replaces one of the USB 2.0 ports with a USB 3.0 port and lacks the optical drive. The system also features Bluetooth 4.1 and 802.11ac for wireless connectivity and comes installed with Windows 10 Home. Asus includes a one-year warranty.
Budget Laptop With Multimedia Chops
The system is powered by a 2.3GHz Intel Core i3-6100U processor with integrated Intel HD Graphics 520, which is a generation behind the Acer E 15's 2.4GHz Intel Core i3-7100U Kaby Lake processor. Like the Dell 3558 and the Acer E 15, the AB32 has a spacious 1TB hard drive that spins at 5,400rpm—on the slow side, though common in budget laptops. Also typical in this price range is the AB32's 4GB of memory, the same as the Acer E 15. Although the Dell 3558 has more memory (6GB) than the AB32, this advantage doesn't translate to its test scores.
The AB32 performed well across the board in our testing. It scored 2,429 points on the PCMark 8 Work Conventional productivity test, just short of both the Acer E 15 (2,491 points) and the Dell 3558 (2,472 points). Multimedia test results were also strong for a budget laptop. The AB32 completed the Handbrake video-encoding test in 2 minutes, 54 seconds and the Photoshop test in 5 minutes, 56 seconds, and it scored 249 points on Cinebench. In both the Handbrake and Cinebench tests it was edged by the Acer E 15 for the top score. In our Photoshop test, the AB32 was bested by the Dell Inspiron 11 3000 Series 2-in-1 (3179), which finished in 5:02, and edged by the Acer E 15 (5:46).
With its integrated graphics, I wouldn't expect the AB32 to be a strong gamer, so its scores on our gaming tests were no surprise. On both the Heaven and Valley 3D gaming tests, the AB32 scored 17 frames per second (fps) at medium-quality settings, and 10fps and 9fps respectively at Ultra-quality settings. 30fps is considered to be the threshold for smooth gaming, so you'll have to dial down the resolution and graphics settings to play any titles on this machine.
In our battery rundown test, the AB32 turned in an acceptable 7 hours, 31 minutes, although that's still more than two hours shorter than the Acer E 15 (9:49). For really long battery life (and enhanced portability) in a budget laptop, you may want to look to a smaller-screen laptop-tablet hybrid such as the 11-inch Asus Transformer Mini (14:14), although you may take a performance hit as well as losing some features
A Solid-Value Desktop-Replacement
Selling at less than $400, the AB32 provides excellent value in a desktop-replacement laptop, offering full 1080p HD resolution, a spacious hard drive, a generous selection of ports, and handy features like a DVD/RW drive that are absent from most of today's budget laptops. The AB32 did a fine job in our multimedia testing and is a good choice for light-duty photo and video editing. Its battery life, though acceptable, is unimpressive—the Editors' Choice Acer Aspire E 15 (E5-575-33BM) lasted more than two hours longer on a charge in our tests. Although the AB32 has nearly identical components as the E 15, its processor is one generation older and its performance scores slightly lower. Although the Acer E 15 is our Editors' Choice budget desktop-replacement laptop, the Asus F556UA-AB32 is also an excellent choice, offering a good feature set and solid performance at a modest price.
Other Asus Laptops & Notebooks
As Analyst for printers, scanners, and projectors, Tony Hoffman tests and reviews these products and provides news coverage for these categories. Tony has worked at PC Magazine since 2004, first as a Staff Editor, then as Reviews Editor, and more recently as Managing Editor for the printers, scanners, and projectors team. In addition to editing, Tony has written articles on digital photography and reviews of digital cameras, PCs, and iPhone apps Prior to joining the PCMag team, Tony worked for 17 years in magazine and journal… More »
More Stories by Tony
- HP Notebook 15 (ba009dx)
The HP Notebook 15 (ba009dx) is a highly affordable desktop-replacement laptop for budget-conscious … More »
- Mathway – Math Problem Solver (for iPad)
Mathway – Math Problem Solver is like 10 scientific calculators rolled into one iPad app. With a pai… More »
- Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy (for iPad)
Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomy is an iPad app that displays Leonardo's "lost" anatomical illustrations a… More »