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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.

Audio that I recorded through the notebook's mic, using the Windows 8.1 default Camera or Sound Recorder apps, sounded clear with no buzzing or other interference. However, the mic seemed a little more attuned to picking up background sounds than my voice, like when I was in a busy coffeehouse, unless I leaned in closer toward it.

CAMERA: The user-facing camera has a low-resolution sensor. It captures still images and video at only 640-by-480 pixels. Using Windows 8.1's Camera app, the visual quality looked smudged -- certainly not sharp with defined edges. This gauzy effect was like a photo editor filter used to make a photograph look like an impressionistic painting.

PERFORMANCE: Because it was devised in part to challenge Chromebooks (which are meant to be primarily used online through the Chrome OS web browser), I mainly tested how capable the X204 was under this metric. The notebook performed reasonably quickly when I used Internet Explorer or Chrome with several (half a dozen or so) tabs open.

VIDEO: The X205 showed no issue with lower high-definition video: Videos on YouTube played flawlessly at 720p resolution. At 1080p, playback would stutter at varying points -- but this resolution is greater than this notebook's maximum number of pixel rows (768). So you'd probably want to stick with playing video at 720p on it anyway. (I nudged the X205's capabilities by installing a few traditional Windows desktop applications (Adobe Reader XI, LibreOffice, Paint.NET and VLC media player), each of which functioned decently enough on it. (Remember, though, there's less than 13GB of space on the onboard memory drive for the user.)

BATTERY: ASUS says this notebook can run up to 12 hours on a full charge. The bad news is that I found this to be possibly exaggerated under practical usage. By my estimates based on web browsing, and playing audio and video (either as media files or streaming), while putting the X205 into hibernation or shutting it down when I wasn't using it, its battery lasted slightly more than 8 hours. (Admittedly, I did keep its display brightness turned all the way up, because, as I said above, I felt it was most comfortable to look at it this way.) After I drained the battery completely, it appeared to take about 2 hours to recharge it back to its full capacity.

NO LINUX: If you're a Linux enthusiast, I know what you're probably thinking: The X205 would make a great Linux notebook. I thought so, too, until I discovered it may be difficult to install any other OS onto it. Settings under its BIOS do not include the option to boot from a USB flash memory stick or other external source. As of this writing, ASUS had not provided an update to the BIOS that would allow for this.


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