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ASUS EeeBook X205TA Review: $199 Windows Laptop

Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Screen, Keyboard, and Trackpad

Considering the likely use of a notebook with very modest specs (productivity), I will focus primarily on the quality of the screen and input here. I call these aspects of a notebook the "big 3", and have outlined my experience with the ASUS X205TA below. (I will briefly cover the Atom CPU and performance on the next page.)

Screen

The 11.6-inch display offers a WXGA resolution of 1366x768, which is pretty standard with notebooks of this size (including the ubiquitous 11.6-inch MacBook Air). The panel is made by AUO and is quite honestly one of the worst-looking out of the box that I’ve seen in recent memory. This is an area where sacrifices clearly had to be made to hit such an aggressive price target, but the washed-out color and instant off-angle shift made using the notebook a challenge - at least for someone used to IPS displays. I really can’t fault ASUS for using a low-end TN panel here and color shift is expected with TN displays, but I would like to at least see better color results out of the box. Here's a look at the default color as measured by a Spyder4Pro colorimeter:

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The uncalibrated screen isn't even close to CIE standard (black outline)

A calibration would be required for even remotely accurate color, and considering the associated cost (the inexpensive Spyder4Express colorimeter is still $59 on Amazon) this would likely be out of the question for a $199 laptop.

Another issue with the display is actually in the design of the lid behind it. The hinge design causes the lower edge of the display to support the laptop when opened beyond 90°, and this was not handled well here.

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There are two small tabs on the bottom edge that serve as "feet" when this laptop is opened past 90°, and these are hardly an adequate replacement for the actual feet on the base of the laptop.

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These very small tabs (there is one on each side) are made from what seems to be hard plastic, and given their thin profile they could easily scratch up the surface of a table or desk. I didn't have issues here, but it is dependent on what type of surface you place your notebook on. Perhaps these tabs were meant to have rubber tips to act as cushion? If so they weren't included.

Keyboard

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While the screen leaves much to be desired the keyboard is as good as I could have expected for a laptop of this kind. Think of a really good keyboard case for a tablet. The chiclet style keycaps are completely flat, and though I prefer a slightly concave surface the typing experience was very good with the X205 thanks to a pleasant amount of key travel and surprisingly solid feel. The keys themselves are made from what is obviously a thinner plastic, but the keys still felt sturdy and the overall experience was very good.

Trackpad

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Here ASUS really got it right, creating a better track pad in this $199 laptop than those found in many laptops at higher price points. A glass surface is still my preference, and I have a bias toward Apple and recent Lenovo ThinkPad track pads for this reason, but this was a smooth and accurate trackpad in spite of a plastic construction. ASUS has combined a smartphone-style digitizer with a multi-touch aware driver that was more than a little similar to the OS X trackpad settings screen.

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There are many gestures available with full customization in the control panel applet, and these worked really well - except for those times when gestures would not work at all when resuming from sleep. A restart always fixed this and I imagine this is an OS/driver issue that could be corrected with a future update.

Video News


April 20, 2015 | 01:07 PM - Posted by collie

Great article, i want one at $200...... BUTTTTTT I just did a quick search and ever where O look it's closer to $300, even the amazon.com link from the article is $299 on sale 36% off, did the price rise since you started the article?

April 20, 2015 | 01:11 PM - Posted by collie

FORGET THAT, just found it for $199 NOT bundled with 365, every page I was looking at was a bundle, my mistake.

April 20, 2015 | 02:12 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Yeah I had that problem too initially. They REALLY want you to bundle 365.

April 20, 2015 | 09:40 PM - Posted by -- (not verified)

how does this stack up vs HPs 199.00 stream?

April 20, 2015 | 10:17 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

The Stream 11 has the same 1366x768 screen resolution and 32GB eMMC storage, but has a faster processor @ 2.16 GHz - though only a dual-core CPU (X205TA is quad-core Atom). Both machines offer 2GB of RAM.

One interesting difference is OS edition, as the Stream's Windows 8.1 with Bing is 64-bit (X205TA is 32-bit).

The Stream 11 is pretty compelling at $199 since it has a year of Office 365 bundled at that price. I suspect the battery life would be a little shorter with the Stream given the more power hungry Celeron CPU in the HP.

April 21, 2015 | 02:05 AM - Posted by dragosmp (not verified)

On a side note, I think the 32 bit may be a good idea on the 205TA due to the 2GB of RAM and availability of connected standby only on X86

April 21, 2015 | 06:00 PM - Posted by -- (not verified)

HM would have thought the atom would have out powered the celeron by a little bit.

November 29, 2015 | 10:46 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

it is 169.99 on newegg right now, and for only a short time (black friday weekend). get it now if u plan to.

April 20, 2015 | 01:34 PM - Posted by Chuck (not verified)

I first noticed this laptop around Christmas time as it was the subject of a couple of crazy specials, an Amazon for around 100 dollars, Staples black Friday for 89, and Best Buy for 129 and 149 dollars.

I snagged one at Best Buy for 149 and tried it out for a week but I found it a smidge too slow for regular use.

Writer is right, a couple of upgrades in proc, memory and HD speed would do wonders for this otherwise nice form factor.

April 20, 2015 | 02:14 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

No gigabit Ethernet, and only USB 2.0(2 ports). I would pay a little extra for USB 3.0, and have found some older model core i3 (New and On sale) based systems in the $200+ dollar price range. This will have to compete with a load of older unsold core i3 based systems sitting on the special clearance shelves, that offer much more value for the dollar. There are so many Intel last years i3 based SKUs on the bargain shelves that run circles around this netbook redux, that most buyers will go for the i3 based product, new and on sale, with USB 3.0, and gigabit Ethernet, and 500GB hard drive. It's what you are getting for the money that makes this product unattractive.

Intel really has a problem with competing with itself on this one, and they don't even list the graphics version number for this SKU on the Intel ARK website quick reference specifications.

I'll gladly spend the $250 and get a core i3 last years model, that most definitely has this beat on performance.

April 20, 2015 | 02:23 PM - Posted by dragosmp (not verified)

Great review, I was waiting for this sorry of review for a while. I to am looking to buy a 2-400$ notebook and the 205TA seemed one of the options along with its transformer siblings. I agree 100% on what is important on such a PC and I too think the 305 is desirable if a bit overkill. Back to the 205TA, a shame about the screen. Any idea how it would compare to a 1000HE? That Eee PC has poor viewing angles and poor calibration, but somehiw it looks acceptable even compared to an IPS in my view.

April 20, 2015 | 02:30 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I would say if you found the screen on the 1000HE acceptable then you'd probably be just fine with the X205. I was being really hard on the display quality, but I'm persoanlly very critical of poor color. It's certainly an improvement on any 1024x600 netbook screen I ever saw.

April 21, 2015 | 02:18 AM - Posted by dragosmp (not verified)

Ideally the screen would be as you say around a 720p IPS, but for 200$ it's not possible. Quite a few people would pay 100 more for a good screen and 100 more for a 256GB mSATA SSD, I just hope Asus (because honestly who else) would have the courage to release a 400$ good ultraportable that would probably undercut their 305 and be at the same price as more BestBuy appealing 14 inchers costing about the same.

April 20, 2015 | 02:31 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Could you report on performance with Word & a few tabs open in Chrome or FF? If it can handle that well / more or less enough it could be a really compelling option for students.

April 20, 2015 | 03:02 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

https://communities.intel.com/thread/63148

Intel 10.18.10.4176 driver for Bay Trail.

April 20, 2015 | 03:34 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Does it use PWM to regulate brightness? I am trying to find a flicker-free notebook.

April 20, 2015 | 04:13 PM - Posted by Hashim K Barem (not verified)

can you upgrade with a 2.5" hard drive or a solid state drive?

April 20, 2015 | 05:05 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

2.5" drives are not supported, and I don't believe internal expansion is possible. There is a teardown of the X205TA here that shows the full internals: http://www.laptopultra.com/guide/asus-eeebook-x205ta-disassembly/

April 20, 2015 | 04:20 PM - Posted by Patrick3D (not verified)

I purchased an Asus X200CA last year, 1.5GHz Celeron, 4GB RAM, standard 2.5" HDD, touch screen, 2x USB 2.0, 1x USB 3.0, full-size HDMI and VGA ports, SD reader, Ethernet, Bluetooth, and so on. Only cost $217 (on sale). Also, mine came with Win8.1 Standard (not Bing).

Since it wasn't using soldered in SSD memory, I replaced the HDD with a much larger SSD. It boots to login screen in 3 seconds and has a usable desktop within 5 seconds. Perfect machine for web access, 720P Youtube videos, and Kongregate games. It even runs Hearthstone fine on Low quality settings.

April 21, 2015 | 08:48 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

"However, I’m happy to report that streaming HD video was smooth with the X205 using the latest version of Google Chrome and Adobe Flash Player."

Very misleading. Quite frankly, that is far too subjective to be considered an adequate review of its video capabilities. What videos did you test? What bit rates? What percentage of frames were dropped?

I have the EXACT same setup (Z3735, 2GB, 8.1) in two different devices and the best it can do is 720p YouTube at 30fps and Netflix 720p. While technically "HD", there is so much that it can NOT do. It drops frames on any 60fps content (including 720p60), any streaming 1080p content, Amazon Prime HD, and most Vimeo content.

April 21, 2015 | 09:11 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

It's not misleading if it's true, and selecting different videos (Vimeo channel, various recent music videos) resulted in smooth playback with no noted stuttering or dropped frames. I didn't change any of the default settings, as I wouldn't expect a typical user to do so.

All reviews are subjective to some extent, and my approach to this was as more of an overview. It would have been a little over the top to do a full technical review replete with benchmark data for a $199 Atom-powered notebook. This product is meant for productivity and entertainment, and it worked just fine for both.

April 21, 2015 | 10:30 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I don't disagree regarding subjectivity, but the phrasing could be misconstrued. This chipset it not powerful enough to reliably playback all 720p/1080p video sources, especially popular game streams at 60fps. Typical users - especially budget users that can't afford more elaborate systems - should be aware of the limitations and not lulled into assuming it will work in common situations based upon a limited subset of un-sourced videos.

April 21, 2015 | 01:06 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Fair enough. I agree that I should have mentioned the source - namely the items on top of the Vimeo chart on YouTube - so I can update that. I didn't attempt any high bitrate video, and I have no doubt that it can't handle 60 FPS at HD res. I would stick to the default 720/30 out there, and I will clarify that.

April 21, 2015 | 02:12 PM - Posted by Mark M. (not verified)

I bought one of these last year when Staples had them as a Thanksgiving Day doorbuster for $99.00. So, after about six months of use, here's my opinion:

If you need a small, lightweight budget laptop for occasional use, or to use primarily for office applications/email/light web browsing, this is just fine. If you want something for gaming and watching videos, spend more money on something more powerful and with a better screen.

It's a bit slow. That translates into a noticeable pause when launching web browsers, opening new tabs, or saving a document. It is impressively lightweight, so it's great for taking with you when you travel or have meetings.

I haven't bothered with Office 365. Instead I have Libre Office running off portable apps on a tiny thumb drive. I've got a 64GB micro-sd card for additional storage. I use this pc for note-taking and document writing at meetings, and for that it is first rate. I'd pay $150 or under for it; if it's priced higher, wait, because it seems to regularly go on sale for about $150, and once you cross that price point, you might want to consider a Chromebook or even a small tablet/bluetooth keyboard combo.

April 22, 2015 | 03:48 AM - Posted by Cataclysm_ZA

I don't see any battery life numbers anywhere?

April 22, 2015 | 08:21 AM - Posted by Mark M. (not verified)

Battery life is up to eleven hours, depending on performance settings and what you're doing with it. I can attest that it has truly impressive battery life. I've been in very lengthy meetings where everyone else has eventually had to plug in their laptops while my X205 still has hours of life left in its battery.

April 22, 2015 | 10:02 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Sorry, that was a big oversight. I will add in numbers from our battery test.

April 23, 2015 | 07:10 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Why cant anyone of these companies make a 15-17" IPS screen laptop with the worst possible current 2core cpu inside?

Oh, right, that would go against the criminal market segmentation they have going on now... where you have to pay upwards of 1000$ for all kinds of components you dont need, just to get IPS screen.

April 23, 2015 | 09:45 AM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

I like this idea. Why not offer a $299 laptop similar to this one with an IPS display, but take it a step further and offer it in 11, 13, (and possibly 15)-inch sizes - for the same price?! We wouldn't get really high screen resolution, but I wouldn't expect that for $299 anyway.

April 26, 2015 | 01:42 PM - Posted by Israel (not verified)

Ive read your article a few times now and im really interested but there is a 14" dell laptop thats also $200 and it looks really good too.Take a look. To me it seems better than the asus one but im not sure.

http://www.dell.com/us/p/inspiron-14-3451-laptop/pd?oc=fncwf003s&model_i...

April 28, 2015 | 08:47 PM - Posted by Sebastian Peak

Thanks for reading! I looked at the Dell you linked to, and while the price is right I don't like the sounds of it from the specs. The advantage seems to be in total storage (it has a 500GB hard drive), nothing else exceptional though it sounds really bulky at nearly 4 lbs. The 14" screen is still only 1366x768... Overall I'd love to see something better than the X205TA for the same price (for a Windows laptop), but I haven't encountered it yet.

May 28, 2015 | 07:19 AM - Posted by Voddo (not verified)

Thanks for your review! I'm reading a lot of review about this x205. I care just to view movies in HD, 1080p files without problems. I had a 1015p with nvidia ion2 and it was really good with HD movies. Can I have some problems with this x205?

And about storage, can I install a 128gb SD?

July 1, 2016 | 12:33 PM - Posted by aston (not verified)

i wanted to know if i can play games on it and right now i have dell inspiron.1525 so please compare my laptop with this one and tell me which is better

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