The X500 range from Asus is designed to provide affordable laptops at 'everyday' prices. The cheaper pricing is probably helped by using cheaper chips – most of the models currently listed on Asus' website are using last-generation Intel Ivy Bridge processors from 2012.
The X550LDV wasn't listed on the company's site at the time of this review, but is one of the first to step up to the newer Haswell processor line. It's a little more expensive than some of its predecessors at £599, but the X550LDV provides very solid performance for a laptop in this price range.
The X550LDV is housed in the same chassis as its predecessors, with a 15.6-inch screen and a built-in DVD drive that bulks it out to 31.7 mm thick and a weight of 2.3 kg.
The plastic casing is reasonably sturdy, and the stenciled black-and-grey panels look smart enough, but it does have a bit of a cheap-and-cheerful feel to it – most notably when you press the trackpad buttons and you can see the plastic surface of the trackpad bending down at the corners.
The keyboard feels a bit lifeless too, with little travel on the keys, but it's spacious and firm enough to let you type at speed when you need to.
Asus X550LDV-XO610H: discrete GPU, performance
One reason it's a little more expensive than previous models in the range is that the X550LDV includes a discrete nVidia GeForce 820M graphics processor. That joins a dual-core Intel Core i5 processor running at 1.7GHz, and a healthy 8 GB of memory and 1 TB hard disk.
That combination produced a score of 3036 points when running the general-purpose PCMark 7 benchtests, which is about as good as you're likely to get from a laptop equipped with a hard drive rather than a high-speed solid-state drive.
Performance in the PCMark 8 Home and Work suites was equally solid, at 2419 and 2760 points respectively, so the X550LDV will be perfectly capable of acting as a workhorse desktop replacement system at home or in the office.
That hard drive is definitely a little sluggish while it's warming up – even with the fast-start option in Windows 8 the laptop took 20 seconds to boot, followed by another 20 seconds of cursor-spinning before we could really start launching programs to get down to work.
But once it's up and running the X550LDV responded quickly and smoothly, and really does wake from sleep in just two seconds as Asus claims.
It can even handle some casual gaming action too, thanks to those GeForce graphics. The 820M is very much a budget option, but it still manages a smooth 57 fps when running Stalker: Call Of Pripyat at 1280 x 720 resolution.
For a more demanding test we fired up Batman: Arkham City and saw a speed of 21 fps when running at the laptop's maximum resolution of 1366 x 768 and High graphics settings. However, turning DirectX 11 off and dropping to Medium graphics at 1280 x 720 did allow it to hit a more playable 32 fps.
That sort of performance won't impress gamers, but it's not bad for £599 and means that the X550LDV can cope with some casual gaming as long as you don't need nice rendering.
Asus X550LDV-XO610H: battery life
Battery life wasn't bad either, giving us 5 hours 15 mins (315 minutes) of streaming video with its integrated graphics.
The size and weight of the X550LDV means that it's probably not going to spend much time on the road or in a backpack, but it will let you watch a couple of films at home or on a plane without needing to recharge.
Our only real complaint is that the screen is fairly lacklustre. The 1366 x 768 resolution is acceptable at this price, and the glare-reducing matt finish is a welcome feature. However, viewing angles are quite limited – about 90-degrees both horizontally and vertically – and poor contrast means that colours lack crispness.
It's adequate for web browsing and streaming video, but if you're not interested in gaming then you might want to opt for a laptop that just uses integrated graphics and spends a bit more on a better display. (See also: What's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?)
The dull screen is a bit of a let-down, but the X550LDV does provide better performance than most laptops in the sub-£600 category. It's not the most portable of laptops either, but respectable battery life ensures that the X550LDV makes a good desktop replacement system that will earn its keep without breaking the bank.