Solid screen; Slick, minimalist design; Loud speakers; Epic battery life
Chassis is fingerprint magnet; Inconsistent touchpad gesture recognition; Weak webcam
The Asus EeeBook X205TA offers excellent battery life, a solid display and strong everyday computing that puts it a notch above other budget laptops.
The recent influx of low-priced Chromebooks and budget Windows laptops is more than just the revival of the netbook craze. Asus, the company that started the netbook fad back in 2007, joins the HP Stream 11 and other budget machines in delivering a full Windows experience for a very aggressive price. The $199 EeeBook X205TA offers outstanding battery life, a solid 11-inch screen, a sleek design and the ability to tackle all your everyday computing needs. It has some flaws, but overall, this is the best laptop we've seen for such a low price.
Clad in a dark navy blue that shimmers with a faint purple hue under direct light, the Asus X205TA captures the simple, refined look of its more expensive siblings. The streamlined plastic body features soft, rounded edges with a smooth matte finish, and is available in red, white and gold. It's not as playful as the two-toned HP Stream 11, but some people may appreciate the Asus' toned-down looks.
My only issue with the X205TA's appearance is that it accumulates fingerprints at an alarming rate, and it takes more than just a casual wipe with a cleaning cloth to get rid of them.
MORE: Best Laptops
Ports are kept to a minimum: The X205TA features two USB 2.0 ports on the right side, and a microSD reader, micro HDMI port and combo headphone/mic jack on the left. There are also two stereo speakers hidden behind small mesh grilles on the bottom of the chassis that project audio to the front and center for an optimal listening experience.
The featherweight X205TA measures just 11.2 x 7.6 x 0.6 inches and weighs only 2.16 pounds, making it slimmer and lighter than the $200 HP Stream 11 (12 x 8.1 x 0.78 inches and 2.74 pounds) and the more expensive $300 Acer V3-111P (11.5 x 8.3 x 0.9 inches) and the Acer C720 Chromebook (11.3 x 8 x 0.78 inches and 2.98 pounds).
Keyboard and Touchpad
The X205TA features a familiar Chiclet-style keyboard with a fairly standard actuation weight of 58 grams.
While key travel was a little on the short side, at just 1.34 mm (1.5 to 1.6 mm is more common), I had little difficulty hitting my typical average typing speed of 75 words per minute on 10fastfingers.com once I adjusted to the slightly cramped layout.
At 4.1 x 2.45 inches, the X205TA's touchpad is generously sized for such a small system, and larger than the already ample touchpad on the HP Stream 11 (3.75 x 2.5 inches). Mousing around was generally smooth and precise, but when it came time to use gestures such as two-finger scrolling, it performed erratically. Even after resetting the touchpad to default settings, the response to multifinger gestures was random and unpredictable.
Sometimes, PC makers skimp on the displays for budget machines, but the Asus X205TA's screen is a tier above those on other notebooks in its price range. Compared to the HP Stream 11, the X205TA did a good job of showing off Ironman's shiny red Hulkbuster armor as he battled the suddenly undersize olive-green Hulk in The Avengers: Age of Ultron trailer. While I still prefer my desktop monitor's more vibrant display, I didn't really miss it when using the X205TA like I did on the Stream 11.
The X205TA produced 217 nits of brightness on our tests -- higher than the HP Stream 11's 165 nits and the Acer Chromebook C720P's 183 nits, but behind the ultraportable average of 260 nits. The X205TA has a limited color range but is still much better than the competition, with the Asus recreating 68.2 percent of the sRGB color gamut. That tops the HP Stream 11 (64.2 percent) and the Acer C720P (58 percent).
The only area where the X205TA faltered was on color accuracy, notching a Delta-E rating of 9.4 (closer to 0 is best). That's slightly behind the Stream 11's score of 7.9 but still ahead of the C720P's score of 10.1.
The small stereo speakers on the bottom of the X205TA put out a surprising amount of volume. When I listened to Mark Ronson's "Uptown Funk" featuring Bruno Mars, the Asus easily filled our 15-foot x 15-foot audio testing room with sound, letting me enjoy the bright brass hooks and Mars' trademark vocals. The only thing I wanted was a little more bass, although that's not uncommon on laptops of this size.
On our audio test, the X205TA produced 89 decibels of sound from 23 inches away, which is just barely behind the HP Stream 11's 90 dB and the Acer Chromebook C720P's 91 dB.
Despite the lack of any obvious vents or fans, the X205TA manages its heat with ease. On the Laptop Mag Heat Test (15 minutes of streaming HD video from Hulu), the X205TA's touchpad reached just 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The area between the G and H keys and the underside measured just a few degrees warmer, at 81 and 82 degrees, respectively; that's still well below our 95-degree comfort threshold.
The one component I wish were a little better was the X205TA's 420p camera.
A selfie taken in the Laptop Mag office lost most of the detail in my hair and created some splotchy textures on my skin throughout the generally pixelated photo.
The X205TA's specs don't look like much on paper, but in the real world, its 1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z3735 quad-core CPU, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of flash storage can easily handle your typical computing needs. I streamed 1080p videos from YouTube without a hitch, and browsing the Web with more than six tabs open in Internet Explorer or Chrome was also hassle-free.
On Geekbench 3, which measures overall system performance, the X250 scored 2,212, which is better than the HP Stream 11's mark of 1,804 (2.16-GHz Intel N2840 CPU) but behind the Acer V3-111P's score of 3,026 (2.6-GHz Intel N3530 CPU).
MORE: Best Gaming Laptops
Copying 4.97GB of mixed media files for our File Transfer Test took 2 minutes and 3 seconds -- barely behind the HP Stream 11 (1:56), which also has 32GB of flash storage, and ahead of the Acer V3-111P (2:39) and its 500GB 5400-rpm hard drive.
The only time the X205TA really struggled was when we used OpenOffice to match 20,000 names and addresses. The X205TA completed the test in 21 minutes and 36 seconds, which was significantly longer than the HP Stream 11 (15:31) and the Acer V3-111P (15:45).
Equipped with Intel HD Graphics, the X205TA is better suited to playing casual titles such as Plants vs. Zombies than more recent graphics-heavy games like Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor. When I played a few rounds of Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft, the game ran smoothly, both when I switched a few cards out in the deck editor and while playing opponents online. There were a few instances of stuttering, though.
MORE: Best ASUS Laptops
We also ran the 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark, and the X205TA scored 15,111 on that test. That's just a bit behind both the HP Stream's mark of 16,128 and the more expensive $300 Acer V3-111P's score of 20,500.
Even though the X205TA has a low-power CPU and a small screen, I did not expect it to jump near the top of our list of longest-lasting laptops. But the X205TA crushed its competition on the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits), with a runtime of 12 hours and 5 minutes on a single charge.
This runtime is nearly double the battery life of the HP Stream 11 (6:34), the Acer V3-111p (6:22) and the Acer Chromebook C720 (6:18). The only systems that matched the X205TA's battery life were Asus' own C200M Chromebook (12:27) and the much more expensive $1,000 2014 13-inch MacBook Air (12:20). The ultraportable average pales in comparison, at just 7:57.
Software and Warranty
To make up for the lack of onboard storage, the X205TA comes with a one-year subscription for 1TB of cloud storage on OneDrive, and if that's not enough, Asus supplies another 500GB of storage via its WebStorage service.
You also get a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365, which includes online and offline versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint and more.
As with all Windows machines, you also have access to the Windows Store and thousands of third-party apps, including Photoshop and VLC Media Player.
The X205TA also comes with a standard Asus one-year warranty.
With the X205TA, Asus has set the bar for what a budget laptop should be. With a solid display, category-leading battery life and stereo speakers all packed in a slim, attractive body, the X205TA feels like a premium device -- without the premium price tag. Hopefully, Asus can sort out the touchpad irregularities with a drive update, but even without that update, the EeeBook X205TA is still the $200 laptop to get. More low-priced laptops are coming soon, but it's going to take a concerted effort from other manufacturers to unseat this system.
|CPU||1.33-GHz Intel Atom Z3735 CPU|
|Operating System||Windows 8.1|
|RAM Upgradable to|
|Hard Drive Size||32GB|
|Hard Drive Speed|
|Hard Drive Type||eMMC|
|Secondary Hard Drive Size|
|Secondary Hard Drive Speed|
|Secondary Hard Drive Type|
|Optical Drive Speed|
|Graphics Card||Intel HD Graphics|
|Touchpad Size||4.1 x 2.45-inches|
|Ports (excluding USB)||USB 2.0|
|Ports (excluding USB)||Headphone/Mic|
|Ports (excluding USB)||micro HDMI|
|Size||11.2 x 7.6 x 0.6|