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article imageReview: Asus Eeebook X205TA – the £180 laptop with a 12-hour battery

By James Walker     Jul 24, 2015 in Technology
The Asus Eeebook X205TA is an 11.6-inch Windows laptop that costs less than £180. Despite the ultra-low price, it is a surprisingly capable machine that sports a 12hr battery, solid build quality, and enough power to manage any general computing tasks.
Introduction
The X205TA has been on sale for some time now. It remains one of the best-value Windows laptops available though and will be eligible for Windows 10. It should be on the shortlist of anybody who is looking for a cheap, portable laptop that doesn't skimp on build quality.
It is possible to buy the X205TA as a Microsoft Signature Edition from the Microsoft Store online in the UK and US for just £179.99 and $179.99 respectively. This gives you a clean install of Windows as if you had just installed it yourself, eliminating the usual preinstalled programs that come with laptops and only take up space and slow down performance. Although enthusiasts are likely to enjoy this benefit, you may want to consider that the standard, non-Signature Edition version sold at every other retailer costs about £20 less.
The X205TA is available in four colours: white, gold, red and Asus' trademark dark blue colour. Mine is a blue Microsoft Signature Edition version which I bought from the Microsoft Store in the UK about a week ago. The laptop has been bought entirely from my own funds and for personal long-term usage, which this review will reflect.
I have purchased the Asus with the intention of taking it to school with me every day from September. I wanted to acquire a new ultra-portable device that can endure an entire day's usage on a battery charge whilst still being small and light enough to carry around with me. It will be used primarily for note-taking and writing news articles on. The X205TA immediately attracted my attention when I found it, for reasons that will be explained throughout this review.
Design, construction and display
The laptop is built entirely from plastic, something that is to be expected at this price point. Build quality has always been a strong point for Asus and it still holds up here, even on something costing only £180. There is no noticeable flex or weakness in the chassis. The display is held up on strong hinges and doesn't wobble when typing. However, the keyboard is lifted slightly off the surface of a desk or table by two small feet on the back of the lid.
It’s a strange feature because it only lifts the laptop by a few millimetres but has the awkward side effect of scratching some surfaces, as other reviewers have noted. I'd have preferred it if Asus had left the feet off as they stick out from the edge of the lid and could damage other things if the laptop was placed into a bag with other easily scratched items.
Another design weakness is around the touchpad, which feels as though it recedes too far into the chassis when pressed, leading the surface to then slightly bounce up again. The touchpad also seems to have slightly more resistance to a press at the centre than at the edges, giving the impression that it rises towards a peak in the middle. It’s a minor hindrance but it lets down the rest of the construction which generally feels of a much higher standard than the price tag would suggest.
Despite the budget price, Asus has managed to create something that is genuinely thin and light. The X205TA weighs just 0.95kg and is only 1.75cm thick. This makes it very easy to carry around and perfect if, like me, you are a student requiring something to take on the go with you all the time. Of course it can't match the standards of flagship laptops bearing Intel's Ultrabook branding but at this price it does well. The thin chassis helps with styling and practicality so it is good to see such a competent offering at this price point.
This image shows just how reflective the X205TA s display is. Don t expect it to be easy to use in d...
This image shows just how reflective the X205TA's display is. Don't expect it to be easy to use in direct sunlight or bright environments.
The 11.6-inch display has a 1366x768 resolution which looks clear and sharp at this size. It has good levels of brightness adjustment, going from so dim that it won't strain your eyes at night to an adequate level for some outdoors usage. It's not great when used under direct sunlight though and the lack of a matte finish makes it very reflective in any environment.
Colours and viewing angles aren't so strong either. This is typical of ultra-low budget laptops but it does restrict the Asus to inside usage or outside away from the sun.
A stronger display would be the one feature I'd like to see on a Windows 10 follow-up to the X205TA later this year, if one were to arrive. The 11.6-inch 1366x768 size is fine but the panel could do with a higher maximum brightness level and a less reflective coating to make it more usable outdoors.
The display is surrounded by surprisingly thin bezels and the panel itself is mounted roughly in line with the edges of the keyboard tray. This creates a nice sense of symmetry and looks better than the Asus' main rival, the HP Stream 11, which has significantly wider display bezels that make the screen feel smaller.
I am impressed with the Eeebook's build quality overall. I hadn't expected it to feel as good as it does and was prepared to accept some chassis flex at this price. As it turns out, the X205TA is a very solidly built, thin, light laptop which also looks smart and professional, helped in part by the dark blue colour which is a good alternative to conventional black whilst still remaining very unobtrusive.
These indicator lights could have been much better placed. The left-most (power) light is currently ...
These indicator lights could have been much better placed. The left-most (power) light is currently illuminated green but it is still so dim that it is hardly visible
Features, connectivity and controls
The X205TA has Bluetooth 4.0 and Wi-Fi 802.11ac/b/g/n. I don't have an 802.11ac router but its 802.11n performance is very good. Its signal strength in my house is actually the best of any of my devices in several areas, which is unexpected but only positive.
The laptop's speakers are mounted to the bottom and fire downwards. The sound quality is surprisingly good and I've happily watched a few YouTube videos without plugging in headphones or hooking the Asus up to a stereo. I wasn't expecting anything at all from them but they are remarkably good for general usage.
There aren't many other standout features as the thin chassis does mean you lose out on connectivity. The left side houses the power jack, a micro SD port, micro HDMI port and a combined 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack.
The right side is little better with just two USB 2.0 ports. It's disappointing that there aren't three or more but the lack of USB 3.0 is most conspicuous. It's an odd decision to say the least as using the much faster USB 3.0 wouldn't have added much — if anything — to the cost but would have increased the appeal.
The front edge contains indicator LEDs for power, battery and caps lock. This is one of few areas of the design that I disagree with. The LEDs are very dim and hard to see. More significantly, you often won't notice that they are on because they are hidden on the front of the laptop, wedged into your lap. I would have preferred the power button to be illuminated and a small LED added to the caps lock key instead of this frustrating arrangement which prevents you from easily seeing the status of the laptop.
The connectivity is definitely a little scant, even on a laptop this thin and at this price. Although it will get Windows 10 for free this month, the X205TA is far from futureproof. It doesn't have USB 3.0 and none of the internals are user accessible for future upgrades. The only consolation is that the Wi-Fi performance should remain top-notch for some time to come.
Keyboard & Touchpad
The keyboard is a good size and pleasant to type on. The keyboard tray uses the vast majority of the laptop's body, very nearly stretching from edge to edge. The keys seem a little shallow at first but there is sufficient travel that you always know when a key has registered. The keyboard initially seemed a little cramped but I adapted to it very quickly.
The keys have good spacing and allow you to type quickly after a little practice. I have written most of this review on the laptop in one session and have found the experience comfortable and quick enough. After a few paragraphs of familiarising myself with the layout, I actually became as quick as I am when using my above-average sized SteelSeries keyboard on my desktop computer.
Having all of the keys available beneath your fingertips quickly becomes an advantage once you know where they are as you never have to move your hands whilst typing. The keyboard is much better than I was expecting and I've come to enjoy writing things on it in the short time that I've owned it.
The touchpad is large and dominates the laptop's chassis. Its smooth surface is very responsive to taps, swipes and gestures. Several other reviews online note that gesture support is intermittent or almost unusable but I have had none such issues. Because I'm reviewing the device such a long time after launch, it's possible that Asus has fixed the issues that pained other reviewers, and indeed the touchpad drivers appear to be a significantly higher version today.
Whatever the reason, the touchpad works well for me. You can use the standard Windows 8.1 gesture commands, such as swiping from the right side to get to charms and swiping from the left to switch apps, but also custom Asus ones provided with the included Asus Smart Gesture software.
These include functions like rotating and zooming but also more obscure actions, such as a three-fingered swipe down to return to the desktop. This is one of my personal favourites and again I have had no issues in triggering it, despite it requiring three fingers to activate.
The touchpad acts as one large button so you can left-click by pressing or tapping anywhere on its surface. Right-click is activated by either a press in the bottom-right corner or a two-fingered tap. It consistently activates well, regardless of the method used.
I am conscious that my experience does seem to be much more positive than that of others. This may be down to newer drivers or a behind-the-scenes hardware revision but for whatever reason mine doesn't seem to have any of the issues that others have complained of. It may be worth spending some more time checking this out if you intend to buy this laptop and want to be sure that touchpad gestures will work predictably.
The Asus Eeebook X205TA
The Asus Eeebook X205TA
Performance
The Eeebook X205TA is powered by an Intel Atom Z3735F quad-core processor running at 1.33GHz. This is actually the same processor that powers the Linx 7 tablet that I reviewed a while ago. Performance is, as expected, essentially identical between the two. The Asus is always responsive and handles Office, web browsing and video playing with ease.
Anything more intensive, such as photo editing, video editing or gaming, is likely to more severely tax it but this laptop isn't designed for any of those usage scenarios. It's built for web browsing and Office work and when sticking to those tasks you won't notice any performance issues.
The processor is paired with 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. After Windows Update has completed, only around 17GB is free. This will be even less on the standard, non-Microsoft Signature Edition version so bear this in mind when considering a purchase.
The best solution is to get a large micro SD card to keep your files on. I keep my files on an SD and a handful of programs on the internal storage and have been left with 11.5GB of internal storage free.
The X205TA's specifications are nothing to marvel at. This entire configuration is designed to run in a tablet - as indeed it does in the Linx 7 and many recent Windows offerings - but there is a reason why Asus made a laptop around it all. Because the Atom processor is a mobile chip, it produces very little heat. As such, no fan is required. This is what has allowed for the Eeebook to be so thin and light. The removal of the fan also leads to another bonus: the laptop is completely silent.
It is the Atom processor that allows for the Eeebook's other remarkable characteristic too. In what is perhaps the single best aspect of the entire hardware - and indeed the attribute that eventually led to my purchase - the X205TA boasts a 12-hour battery life.
In line with what other reviewers have found, I have been seeing 10-12 hour charges in real usage this week. During that time, the laptop has been downloading files, installing programs, and used to watch videos and write articles with. There's no doubt that the Asus will last an entire day's usage - or more - without a charge and this is what has ultimately led me - and probably many others - to purchase it for use at school.
The Asus Eeebook X205TA
The Asus Eeebook X205TA
Conclusion
The Asus Eeebook X205TA isn't for everybody. It has very limited internal storage that cannot be upgraded and is only really suitable for light work or anything that you would use a tablet for. However, if this suits you, the Asus is likely to be a purchase that you won't regret. Just be aware that you won't be able to replace any of its hardware components in the future and that you won't be able to experience the benefits of the much faster USB 3.0 standard.
The X205TA has few rivals, the closest being the HP Stream 11. That laptop has marginally more power but less than half the battery life. It is also only available in some questionable shades of blue or pink.
For just £20 more, you can buy the X205TA as a Microsoft Signature Edition. You lose the slightly more powerful Intel Celeron processor of the HP but in reality the user who will buy either of these devices probably isn't going to notice. What you gain is something anybody would notice: a battery life that gives flagship laptops a run for their money and an incredibly well-built, light-weight, silent computer finished, in this instance, in a sleek shade of dark blue.
The Asus Eeebook X205TA
The Asus Eeebook X205TA
Asus
The X205TA is perfect for students like me but I'd also recommend it to anybody looking for an ultra-portable Windows laptop costing less than £200 and with a true all-day battery life. It's not going to set any performance benchmarks but it is going to perform for hours and hours.
If you spend over £200, you will undoubtedly find yourself using something with a better display than the Asus but that isn't really the point of this device. The crux of this review is that you no longer need to spend even £200 to get a machine which will run just about anything and for longer than many other flagship laptops costing £800 or more.
The Asus Eeebook X205TA doesn't often feel like a £180 machine to use and barely looks it either. I'm looking forward to becoming more accustomed with mine as it enters daily usage. If you want one, you'd be well advised to buy soon because it's likely that this remarkable laptop will be disappearing as soon as Windows 10 devices land on the shelves in the next couple of weeks.
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