Performance

3D Mark: 2375
Cinebench: 1612 (CPU render test) 1799 (OpenGL)
Battery eater: 3 hours 11 minutes

The Asus V550CA-CJ106H weighs 2.6kg, which isn't the lightest laptop we've held, but with the 15.6-inch screen and slim design, it's still a perfectly portable laptop. Its brushed aluminium case looks great, and you wouldn't feel ashamed taking this laptop out to public places. The 15.6-inch screen is clear and bright, and its touchscreen is smooth and responsive. It's helped by Windows 8's touch-orientated design, which makes navigating through the operating system using your fingers easy and intuitive.

Due to the relatively low resolution of the screen (1366 x 768), buttons and menus are comfortable to select and touch, which compares favourably to our experience with a number of laptops that have small screens but high resolutions. Of course the lower resolution of the screen does have its drawbacks – pictures and movies don't look as sharp, and the screen gets crowded pretty easily when lots of windows are open on the desktop. Windows 8 looks great on a full 1080p screen, so it's a bit of a shame that the Asus V550CA-CJ106H misses out on that.

Still, it boasts a good-sized keyboard that's very comfortable to work on. The keys are a decent size and are spaced well enough to make typing a pleasurable experience.

Asus laptop keyboard
Slap-happy keys make typing a joy

With the slim design (helped by a lack of optical drive), it seems the Asus is aiming for an Ultrabook aesthetic but at a reduced price. Kosher Ultrabooks such as the Gigabyte X11 and the Dell Latitude 6430u must conform to a certain set of specifications to be able to call themselves Ultrabooks. So while the Asus V550CA-CJ106H's slim design, processor and USB 3.0 ports would get it through some of the checkpoints, the lack of a fast SSD and battery life means it can't be classed as one.

Speaking of battery life, in benchmark tests we managed to get 3 hours 11 minutes of life while performing medium to intense work. This included word processing, web browsing, photo editing and watching video. It's not a great score and we'd have liked to see it somewhere over the five-hour mark for a laptop of this price, but it's not the worst score we've seen. With a few tweaks to Windows 8's power settings and some careful use, you may be able to eke out another 30 minutes to an hour.

Side-on look
The slim profile keeps things light

Given the integrated graphics (Intel HD Graphics 4000) included with the Asus V550CA-CJ106H, we weren't expecting gaming to be a flawless experience, and we were right. Newer games became choppy even on lower graphics settings. If you want to play games on your laptop as well as work, you're better off getting a gaming laptop such as the Razer Blade – although expect to pay a lot more. Our 3DMark benchmarks produced a rather underwhelming 2375 score. The Asus V550CA-CJ106H's impressive processor provided much better scores, but that's to be expected of an Intel Ivy Bridge chip.

The overall result is a laptop that's quick and smooth when doing day to day tasks, but which lacks an extra bit of oomph when you're working on more demanding applications. Sometimes it just feels like it's being held back by some of the cost cutting choices Asus went for.