Introduction and First Impressions
The full Windows experience for the price of a Chromebook
The ASUS X205 offers the full Windows 8.1 notebook experience for the cost of a Chromebook, and the design offers a surprising amount of polish for the price. Is this $199 Atom-powered notebook a viable solution as a daily driver? We're about to find out.
What do you use a laptop for? A thoughtful answer to this question can be the most important part of the process when selecting your next notebook PC, and if your needs are modest there are a growing number of very low-cost options on the market. For example, I personally do not play games on a laptop, typically alternating between web, email, and Microsoft Office. Thus for myself the most important aspects of a notebook PC become screen quality, keyboard, trackpad, and battery life. High performance is not of utmost importance, and I assure myself of at least speedy load times by always choosing (or installing) a solid-state hard drive. For those reasons when I first read the description and specifications of the ASUS X205 notebook, I took notice.
The X205 is a small notebook with an 11.6” display and 1366×768 resolution, essentially matching the form-factor of Apple's 11.6" MacBook Air. It is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom processor with 2GB of RAM, and onboard storage is solid-state – though limited to 32GB and of the slower eMMC variety (which is in keeping with many Chromebooks). There is adequate connectivity as well, with the expected wireless card and two USB 2.0 ports. One aspect of this design that intrigued me was the trackpad, which ASUS claims is using "smartphone technology", indicating a touchscreen digitizer implementation. Smoothness and accuracy are the biggest problems I find with most inexpensive notebook trackpads, and if this turns out to be a strong performer it would be a major boon to the X205's overall usability. I opted for the Microsoft Signature Edition of the X205TA, which carries the same $199 retail price but does not come preloaded with any trialware or other junk software.
At the outset this feels like a compelling product simply because it retails for the same price as an average Chromebook, but offers the flexibility of a full Windows 8.1 installation. Granted this is the “Windows 8.1 with Bing” version found on low-cost, low-power devices like this, but it offers the functionality of the standard version. While Chrome OS and Google's productivity apps are great for many people, the ability to install and run Windows applications made this highly preferable to a Chromebook for me. Of course beyond the operating system the overall experience of using the laptop will ultimately decide the viability of this inexpensive product, so without further preamble let's dive right into the X205TA notebook!
First we will check out the full specifications from ASUS:
Processor: Intel® Bay Trail-T Quad Core Z3735 1.33 GHz Processor
Operating System: Windows 8.1
Memory: DDR3L 1333 MHz SDRAM, 2 GB
Display: 11.6" 16:9 HD (1366×768)
Graphics: Integrated Intel® HD Graphics
Storage: 32GB eMMC
Card Reader: Micro SD
Camera: VGA Web Camera
Networking: 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0
Interface: 2x USB 2.0 ports, 1x micro HDMI, 1x Microphone-in/Headphone-out jack
Audio: Built-in Speakers And Mic
Battery: 38 Whrs Polymer Battery
Power Adapter: 19 V DC, 1.75 A, 33 W
Input : 100 -240 V AC, 50/60 Hz universal
Dimensions (WxDxH): 286 x 193.3 x 17.5 mm
Weight 2.16 lbs
The X205TA arrives in a box barely bigger than that of a large tablet, and inside the contents are secured simply but effectively.
And here those contents are – all three of them. The X205TA is as simple as can be with only the notebook itself, a very small charger, and some paperwork in the box.
The notebook is fairly thin and quite light, and it is finished in a soft-touch plastic that makes it easy to grip (and also collects finger oils like crazy).
On the left side we have power, micro SD card slot, micro HDMI output, and audio in/out via a 3.5 mm combo jack. This card reader is SDXC compatible for micro SD cards 32 GB and over, and considering the very small 32 GB of onboard storage this would be an easy way to expand on that.
On the right side we just have the two USB 2.0 ports.
Finally there is the included charger, which is quite small and could easily belong to a tablet. The connector is very small as well, and appears to based on micro-USB (although it is using a proprietary plug).
Fans of macro photography will appreciate this photo
Next we'll take a closer look at three of most important hardware components on the laptop: screen, keyboard, and trackpad.