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Is the ASUS X205 Microsoft's Chromebook killer?

Howard Wen | Jan. 27, 2015
Low-priced, lightweight Windows 8.1 device challenges Chromebooks in low-end notebook market.

OPERATING SYSTEM: Windows 8.1 worked as expected when the X205 was first booted up, and the OS took me through the steps of setting itself up on the notebook. Afterward, I manually checked for any updates that were available, going through Windows Update, and there were almost 700MB of patches to install. After letting them download and install, I checked again and there were more official updates (around 200MB).

APPS: A few third-party Windows apps are pre-installed: Flipboard, Line (a social-networking chat service), Netflix and Twitter. ASUS provides desktop programs to adjust the audio and display of the X205. They also include Windows app and desktop versions of front-end software to access your files stored on WebStorage. This notebook comes with a free one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365.

SCREEN: Images on the 11.6-inch,1366-by-768 pixel display look good -- not razor sharp, but still very suitable. Colors are subdued. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, but I have the display's backlight cranked up all the way whenever I use this notebook. ASUS includes a desktop application that lets you choose among display presets to tweak the vibrancy of colors. Indoors, so long as you are sitting directly in front of this notebook, its display lighting is mostly even throughout its screen, with broad side-to-side and up-and-down viewing angles. Outdoors in sunlight, the most comfortable viewing angle narrows; it can still be viewable with the backlight turned up to maximum, but the surface of the display becomes more distractingly reflective.

KEYBOARD: Although the keys of the keyboard are obviously spaced apart from one another, once I started typing, they seemed to feel more tightly placed near one another. I was able to adjust my fingers to them, but these keys also may feel as though they recede into the panel a bit too much for some people's preference. In particular, the spacebar appears to have been intentionally set barely a tad lower than the other keys.

Because it's positioned right below the spacebar, it can be easy to accidentally tap the touchpad with your thumbs if you tend to type with your palms rested on the keyboard panel. Your listless palms will also come into contact with this large, wide touchpad. These possibilities explain why there's a hot key on the keyboard to switch off the touchpad.

SOUND: Two speakers are set toward the front corners on the bottom of the X205's casing. When they're turned up to full volume, they manage to blast out sound that feels surprisingly powerful from such a small notebook. The sounds, which are amplified with an impression of bassy fullness, come out toward the user as well as seem to erupt from this notebook's sides. Likewise, listening with a good pair of earbuds (not included with this notebook), I found that the sound output from most sources (e.g. streaming music and video) was sufficiently loud enough that it was most comfortable to set the volume from 40 to 70 percent.

 

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