Even though the average notebook costs just over $500, you usually can't get a touch screen for that price. Enter the ASUS Q200, a Best Buy exclusive Windows 8 notebook that gives you a responsive touch screen, plenty of ports and superior audio in a lightweight package. But is this $499, 11.6-inch notebook the right choice for you?
The 3-pound, 11.9 x 7.9 x 0.9-inch ASUS Q200 isn't thin enough to be considered an Ultrabook, but it's small enough to fit in any bag and light enough to carry comfortably. While the comparably priced Acer V5-171-6867 weighs the same 3 pounds, the $999 MacBook Air 11-inch weighs a bit less at 2.4 pounds.
Identical in look and feel to the ASUS VivoBook X202E, the Q200 has a dark brown, brushed-aluminum lid, MacBook-like silver aluminum deck and sides, and a pleasant, soft-touch black bottom. A chunky, glossy black bezel surrounds the 11.6-inch screen.
Keyboard and Touchpad
While the Q200's keyboard layout is spacious, the key travel is on the shallow side. The first time we took the Ten Thumbs Typing Tutor test, we scored a lousy 71 words per minute with a whopping 7 percent error rate. After being more deliberate on our second test, we managed a rate of 79 words per minute with a 2 percent error rate, still worse than the 86 wpm/1-percent error rate we get on most mainstream notebook keyboards.
The 4.1 x 2.4-inch clickpad provided extremely accurate navigation around the desktop, with no jumpiness at all. Pinch-to-zoom, two-finger scroll and two-finger rotate gestures worked flawlessly, as did swiping three fingers up to show a list of open tasks and swiping down to minimize all windows and show the desktop.
Windows 8 gestures, such as swiping in from the right to launch the charms bar or swiping in from the left to switch tasks, worked reliably, but trying to flip between images in Windows Photo viewer using two-finger swipe was an exercise in frustration.
The 1366 x 768, 11.6-inch glossy screen on the ASUS Q200 provided sharp, colorful images and reasonable viewing angles. When we played 1080p MP4 trailers for "The Avengers" and "Skyfall," fine details, such as the pores in Robert Downey Jr.'s face, were easy to distinguish while colors, such as the blue in Daniel Craig's eyes or the red in Iron Man's suit of armor, seemed particularly vibrant. Colors remained true at up to 45-degree viewing angles to the left and right, but began to wash out at wider angles.
However, the display isn't the brightest we've seen, measuring only 116 lux on our light meter. That's well below the 224 ultraportable notebook average, as well as the Acer Aspire V5-171-6867's mark of 223 and the Sony VAIO E Series 11's 165 lux.
The screen on the Q200 also supports 10-point touch. Whether we were drawing with 10 fingers at once in Windows Paint, flipping through tasks by swiping in from the left, launching the charms bar by swiping in from the right or zooming in and out on photos, the digitizer was always immediately responsive.
The hinge-mounted speakers and their SonicMaster Audio technology provide excellent music playback for a system this size. When we played both the bass-heavy "Forget Me Nots" and the guitar-laden "Sweet Child O' Mine" or "Kickstart My Heart," the audio was loud enough to fill a large living room and completely free from distortion or tinniness. The ASUS Audio Wizard software allowed us to switch among profiles for music, speech, gaming and movie playback. Sound became completely flat when we disabled Audio Wizard.
The ASUS Q200 stayed pleasantly cool throughout our testing. After streaming a video at full screen for 15 minutes, the touchpad measured a cool 79 degrees, the keyboard a reasonable 88 degrees and the underside a chilly 82 degrees Fahrenheit. We consider temperatures below 90 degrees extremely comfortable.
Ports and Webcam
For an 11.6-inch notebook, the ASUS Q200 has more ports than you'd expect. On the right side, there's an SD card reader, an audio in/out jack, a USB 2 port and a VGA-out connection. The left side houses an Ethernet port, HDMI out, a USB 2 port, a USB 3.0 port and a Kensington lock slot. Many notebooks today don't have Ethernet or VGA ports, giving Q200 owners a distinct advantage.
The Q200's 720P webcam took bright images with accurate color, even in low light. Despite our dark livingroom, an image of our face showed our true skin tone and hair color. However, images were a bit noisy, even under direct, overhead light.
With its 1.4-GHz 2nd Generation Intel Core i3-2365M CPU, Intel integrated HD 3000 graphics and 5,400 rpm hard drive, the ASUS Q200 offers modest, budget-notebook-level performance, which is good enough for simple, everyday tasks such as watching HD videos, surfing the Web and word processing, but not serious gaming or video editing. On PCMark 7, a synthetic benchmark which measures overall system performance, the Q200 scored a mediocre 1,567, which is less than half the 3,436 ultraportable notebook category average and far behind the Core i5-powered Acer Aspire V5-171-6867's score of 2,427 and the 1.8-GHz Core i3-powered ASUS VivoBook X202E's mark of 2,040.
The ASUS Q200's 500GB, 5,400 rpm hard drive booted Windows 8 in a solid 23 seconds, much quicker than the 30-second category average and about on par with the 21 seconds needed by the Vivobook X202E. However, the drive took a sluggish 3 minutes and 58 seconds to complete the LAPTOP File Transfer test, which involves copying 4.97GB of mixed media files. At a rate of 21.4 MBps, the Q200 scores only a quarter of the 82.9 MBps category average, but way ahead of the Acer Aspire V5-171-6867's rate of 14.9 MBps and about on par with the VivoBook X202's rate of 25 MBps.
The notebook's relatively slow 1.4-Ghz Core i3-2567M CPU makes it a bit underpowered for heavy computational tasks. The Q200 took an unimpressive 11 minutes and 29 seconds to complete the Open Office Spreadsheet Macro test, which matches 20,000 names with their addresses. That's about 50 percent slower than the 7:08 ultraportable category average and almost double the time it took the Core i5-powered Acer Aspire V5-171-6867. The 1.8-GHz Core i3-powered ASUS VivoBook X202 took only 8 minutes and 21 seconds to complete this test.
The ASUS also scored mediocre time of 1 minute when transcoding a 5-minute HD video into iPod touch format using Cyberlink Media Espresso. The average ultraportable takes 41.1 seconds to complete the same test, while the Acer Aspire V5-171-6878 took just 18 seconds.
The ASUS Q200 has no problem playing 1080p videos and can handle any game in the Windows Store, but don't expect to play serious games on this machine. The 3DMark11 benchmark that we normally use to test notebooks' video prowess wouldn't run on the ASUS Q200, and when we tried to play "World of Warcraft," the notebook managed an unplayable frame rate of 11.5 fps at autodetect settings and an even-more-unplayable frame rate of 6.5 fps with the special effects turned up.
Though the ASUS Q200 is extremely light, its weak battery life limits its portability. The notebook lasted just 4 hours and 19 minutes on the LAPTOP Battery Test, which involves continuous surfing over Wi-Fi. That time is 1 hour and 43 minutes behind the ultraportable category average (6:02), but on a par with the Acer Aspire V5-171-6867 (4:05) and the ASUS VivoBook X202 (4:20).
The ASUS Q200 is a Best Buy exclusive and is sold in just one configuration, which includes the 1.4-GHz Core i3-2567M, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB 5,400 rpm hard drive. However, the notebook is also sold as the ASUS Vivobook X202 with a slightly-faster 1.8-GHz Core i3-3217U processor for the same $499.
Software and Warranty
ASUS includes a handful of useful utilities with the Q200. ASUS calculator is a Windows 8-style app that replaces the traditional Windows calculator. ASUS converter lets you change units of measurement and temperature from English to metric systems. The ASUS VivoBook utility provides an attractive, tile-based interface that shows how much memory and storage you have left, while linking you to the Windows control panel, Audio Wizard and other settings. ASUS Tutor provides a series of animated tutorials that show you how to use the core functions of Windows 8, such as the charms.
For a sub-$500 ultraportable laptop, the ASUS Q200 has a lot of premium features, from its 10-point touch screen to its superior Sonic Master audio. However, we wish the notebook provided more endurance and a more comfortable typing experience. If you need longer battery life and a larger keyboard in this price range and don't need touch, consider the $549 Toshiba Satellite P845-S4200. However, if you want an inexpensive, lightweight touch-screen notebook, the ASUS Q200 is a solid choice.