Asus EeeBook X205TA-SH41-CB Review

Rating:

A new range of low-cost Windows-based laptops, like HP’s Stream 11 and Acer’s Aspire E 11 have cropped up in the last several months, in an attempt to sway buyers away from similarly priced portables running Google’s Chrome OS.

While Chrome OS has come a long way, and is capable of accomplishing most basic computing tasks, it’s still essentially a Web browser, and mostly reliant on an Internet connection to accomplish most tasks. Windows 8.1 is a more traditional operating system with millions of available programs, most of which work without WiFi. If you want to run Office, Photoshop, or any number of other Windows-based programs, and especially if you’re not almost always in range of WiFi when you’re doing your computing, a Windows-based machine is a better choice—especially now that there are a few Windows laptops that are priced the same or even lower than most Chromebooks.

Asus’ EeeBook X205TA is another entrant in the recent low-cost Windows laptop realm, priced at a reasonable $250. Asus has a long history of making inexpensive portable PCS, having started the Netbook segment with the Eee PC 700 back in 2007.

But the EeeBook X205 takes a different track than the HP Stream 11 or Acer’s Aspire E 11. Like those machines, it has an 11.6-inch 1,366×768 display. But Asus has opted for a low-power Intel Atom processor, rather than the more powerful (but less efficient) Intel Celeron processors in the other two low-cost laptops.

In a nutshell, that means the HP and Acer systems have more processing power, so they’re a better choice if you want to run demanding software like Photoshop or video editors. Nevertheless, the Atom processor here is still speedy enough to handle Web browsing, document creation, media playback, and other common computing tasks. Subsequently the more efficient CPU in this Asus system helps deliver better battery life than many other laptops, as well as a shell that’s very thin and light for a low-cost PC, at an even one kilogram and less than 18mm thick.

EeeBook Open

Design

EeeBook Top

As I’d expect, given the EeeBook’s price, it’s clad entirely in plastic, which comes in a dark-blue hue that sets it apart from other black-or-silver laptops, without going so far as to look like a child’s PC. The plastic Asus uses is soft to the touch and matte. So it doesn’t pick up many fingerprints, but it does tend to accumulate finger grease, as you’ll likely notice in some of my photos.

I’ve already mentioned that the laptop is quite thin and light. But if you’re used to using an older, boxy, 15-inch laptop, you’ll find the EeeBook much more travel-friendly, and a nice size for casual computing either on the couch or your favorite coffee shop.

The laptop has no fans, so the only sound you’ll hear when using it will come from the speakers, which get reasonably loud for a compact laptop, but don’t offer much in the way of low-end. Like many thin laptops these days, the bottom EeeBook also lacks a removable battery, which means you’ll likely have to replace the device a few years down the road when it stops holding a charge. Of course, how soon that happens generally depends on how often you charge and drain the battery. Modern laptop batteries tend to last longer than they did a few years ago, but every battery will lose its ability to hold a full charge over time.

Low-cost laptops are often saddled with low-quality screens with very narrow viewing angles and low maximum brightness. The 1,366×769 LCD here isn’t as nice as those you’ll find in high-end notebooks, but for a budget display, it’s not bad. Image quality remains fairly steady from side to side. Although, looking from an extreme angle above or below results in a washed-out or darkened screen. This isn’t much of a problem, because you can of course adjust the vertical angle thanks to the hinge.

EeeBook Keyboard

The keyboard is also quite good for a laptop that’s compact and low-priced. You don’t get anything fancy like keyboard backlighting, and the keys are slightly squished vertically, but they’re well-spaced, and there’s enough key travel for comfortable typing. The left Shift key and the four arrow keys are smaller than they are in larger laptops. But after a couple days of use, I found this fairly easy to get used to.

The touchpad is large for a system this small, at about 11.5cm diagonally, and it’s nearly flush with the wrist area. This makes for easy multi-finger gesture control in Windows 8.1, like swiping in from the sides, or using two fingers to scroll through documents and Web pages. In use, the touchpad wasn’t flawless, occasionally missing my intended gestures or jerking the cursor somewhere I didn’t intend. But as Windows touchpads go, it’s not bad—especially in a low-priced laptop. I’ve used worse touchpads in notebooks that cost hundreds more.

Wireless connectivity is also solid, with both Bluetooth and 802.11ac WiFi connectivity. The latter should deliver faster file transfers between devices if you have a recent AC-equipped router.

EeeBook Right Ports

Port selection is decent for a compact and thin laptop. You get two USB 2.0 ports on the right edge, housed somewhat oddly near the front of the laptop. The left edge sports a headphone/mic jack, Micro HDMI for connecting to a TV or monitor, the power jack near the rear corner, and a MicroSD card slot near the center.

EeeBook Left Ports

You’ll almost definitely want to spring for an expansion card if you want to install more than a few programs or you have a media library that you’d like to store on the laptop. Like most Chromebooks, the EeeBook X205TA uses solid-state storage rather than a slower hard drive. And with the hidden restore partition and Windows 8.1 taking up most of the space, there is less than 17 gigabytes of free space available out of the box. For about $20, though, you can add a 32GB MicroSD card to make more room for your files.

The laptop also comes with 100GB of OneDrive cloud storage from Microsoft free for two years. But you’ll of course need an Internet connection to access files stored there.

Performance
The quad-core Intel Atom Z3735F processor in the EeeBook X205TA is similar to those found more often in tablets than laptops. And paired as it is- with 2GB of RAM, you’ll definitely want to stick to basic tasks with this PC. When browsing the Web, you’ll want to keep your open tabs to around five or less—especially if you also have other programs open while multitasking.

I had no problems, though, playing back an HD video file, watching YouTube videos, and writing documents on the laptop. You can also do some light image editing. But anything more than that is much better suited to a device with a more powerful processor and more RAM. If you do more intensive computing tasks more than just very occasionally, this laptop isn’t the best fit for your needs.

I ran a handful of benchmarks, including PCMark 8 (to test overall performance) and 3DMark (which measures gaming performance). Normally, I’d also run Cinebench R15 (which tests CPU ability), but that program only supports 64-bit operating systems, and the EeeBook X205TA runs a 32-bit version of Windows 8.1.

In both PCMark 8 and 3DMark, the Asus EeeBook X205TA scored much lower than the last laptop I tested, the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500LA-SB31-CB, which runs on a Core i3 processor with 6GB of RAM. The EeeBook’s PCMark score was roughly 40 percent lower than the Core i3-based Transformer Book Flip, and the Transformer Book Flip tripled the EeeBook X205TA’s score in 3DMark. I’d call the Transformer Book Flip a low-end mid-range laptop. The EeeBook’s CPU and graphics performance pegs it on the low-end of low-end laptops in 2015.

Still, as I mentioned, basic computing tasks still work quite well, so long as you don’t try doing too many at once. And the real benefit of this system’s Atom chip is power efficiency, which translates to long battery life. Asus rates the X205TA at 12 hours of Web browsing. When looping a 1080p video file, with the screen at 50 percent brightness, the EeeBook X205TA lasted just two minutes shy of eight hours. That’s close to twice as long as the aforementioned Transformer Book, which lasted just four hours and 26 minutes on the same test. The Lenovo Flip 2 15D conked out after just three hours and 22 minutes on the same test.

Conclusion

While you don’t get a whole lot of CPU power with this thin and light laptop, it’s powerful enough to surf the Web and social media sites without feeling sluggish. Light productivity is also possible with this thin and light laptop, and you won’t suffer because of serious issues with the screen, keyboard, or touchpad, either.

Battery life is the Asus EeeBook X205TA’s best feature, though. You should be able to get a full day of use out of it before needing to reach for the AC adapter. The same can’t be said for most laptops around this size, unless you spend a whole lot more on an 11-inch MacBook Air or Dell’s recently revamped XPS 13. And unlike those systems that cost several hundred dollars more, there’s no fan here to annoy you with its intermittent whir. It will always run dead silent, unless you unplug your headphones and crank up the speakers.

Bottom Line:
Asus’ budget Windows laptop isn’t up to demanding computing tasks, but it’s thin, light, silent, and affordable, making it a good second PC or a primary laptop for those who stick to basic tasks.

This product is perfect for:
People who prefer Windows rather than a Chromebook, but don’t do much more with their laptops than basic productivity, media playback, and Web browsing.

Key things to be aware of:
Low-power processor isn’t up to gaming or CPU-intensive tasks like serious media creation. Very little storage space available on the laptop itself. Add a MicroSD card for storing media and programs

Final review score: 4/5

Long battery life, silent operation and a decent screen and keyboard help this compact PC stand out from a fresh crop of low-cost Windows laptops.

Summary
Review Date
Reviewed Item
Asus EeeBook X205TA-SH41-CB
Author Rating
4
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Matt Safford

Matt Safford spends his days testing gadgets and writing about technology. He has written for Popular Science, Smithsonian, Consumer Reports, and Wired.

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