ASUS EeeBook X205TA Review: $199 Windows Laptop
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.)
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.