The budget laptop market has gone crazy for Chromebooks, but they are certainly not your only choice. Also Windows-based small notebooks exist and one might very well have a good reason to go for such a laptop over a Chrome-based one. One example of such subnotebook running on Windows is ASUS X205TA-DH01, a October 2014 release, to which we’re taking a closer look in this review. Could it be a real contender for Chromebook? Read on to find out more!
First things first
ASUS X205TA-DH01 has Intel Atom Z3735, a new processor aimed for tablets and other mobile devices. Vital stats for this Atom are four cores, 1.33GHz base speed and 1.83GHz burst speed. There are hardly any benchmarks yet, but these processors being low-power, tablet-friendly models mean they don’t deal out much performance. Using this notebook for simple stuff like web, email and video browsing works well, but I wouldn’t count on it for gaming. Minecraft might work with acceptable FPS, but latest games certainly not.
The tablet-like specs continue with RAM as well. There’s 2GB memory installed in ASUS X205TA-DH01. That memory is soldered on board and can’t be upgraded. Again, two gigabytes is alright for the intended use of such a budget subnotebook, but doing heavier and complex tasks on it would be just too slow.
The ASUS sports a solid-state drive, which is the only choice for such physically small laptop chassis. The local storage is just 32GB, but what it loses in size it gains in speed. SSD works surprisingly fast and this can be seen, among other things, in booting times. Also, the manufacturer promises a 2-second resume from standby of any duration. Furthermore, the manufacturer gives you free 500GB storage in the cloud for two years, so all in all the storage is over half a terabyte. If you need more local storage, you can also stick in microSD card and expand it from 32GB up to 64GB.
Display & Graphics
ASUS X205TA-DH01 has a 11.6″ screen with 1366×768 resolution. That kind of displays are usually seen in similar budget subnotebooks. The small screen contributes to the extremely compact size of this laptop. At the same time, there’s not much of space to work with on the screen, but that’s the obvious sacrifice you have to make if you’re after a small and lightweight laptop like this ASUS.
Not surprisingly at all, the graphics side isn’t top notch. The CPU integrates an old Intel HD Graphics, a chip known for its lack of performance. Once again, it can probably run older titles just fine, but is definitely an obstacle to serious gaming.
The small physical size of ASUS X205TA-DH01 also takes its toll in connectivity. There are just two USB ports 2.0 ports available. Not much for somebody who has lot of peripherals. Luckily, one can use a cheap USB hub to create more USB ports. Such a device can be bit inconvenient at the side of small laptop, but the tiniest ones are just couple of inches big.
For multimedia there is one micro-HDMI output. You can use that (along with micro-HDMI to HDMI cable) to connect this laptop to an external display, like HDTV.
There is no Ethernet available on ASUS X205TA-DH01, but WiFi is installed along with Bluetooth 4.0 support. The WiFi is dual-band which means a stronger signal and greater range, provided you’re using it with other dual-band supporting equipment (like compatible router). If your router doesn’t support dual-band, then the regular single-band will be used between the router and laptop.
Something else to remember?
Yeah! This is actually one of the selling points of this laptop: the size. The ASUS weighs just 2.2 pounds and is 0.7 inches thick. Add the duration of battery 12 hours and you get an extremely portable and traveler friendly laptop. Chromebooks have quite similar stats, though, so it’s nothing new but still excellent news for people on-the-go who are after a Windows-based notebook.
Due to the small size, there’s no DVD drive installed. You can however use an external one. Actually this is an important difference between this laptop and Chromebook: a Windows-based laptop can read and write DVDs no problem (provided you have a drive, internal or external). However, a Chromebook has serious limitations on what it can do with optical media. Burning and watching movies from DVDs, for example, are not supported by Chromebooks. As such, if CDs and DVDs are important for you, a Windows-based laptop like this ASUS X205TA-DH01 is definitely a better pick.
Also because of the size limitations, the keyboard doesn’t have 10-key numeric pad on the right hand side. This can be advantage or disadvantage depending on your preferences.
A microphone and front-facing webcam are installed. Having video calls in Skype is thus possible.
Compared to Chromebooks, the specifications of these laptops are quite similar. Neither of the 200 bucks notebooks offer spectacular performance and they can be used well only for basic tasks. Serious gaming is off-limits for both because of the budget components, although this ASUS would do bit better with games due to wide array of titles being available for Windows.
Indeed, the biggest difference is not the hardware, but the operating system: ASUS X205TA-DH01 has Windows 8, while Chromebooks offer, eh, Chrome. If you’re Internet-oriented and want to try something new a Chromebook can offer this for you. On the other hand, a Windows subnotebook like this ASUS is more like a traditional laptop minus hefty price tag. If you’re unsure what to pick, I’d lean towards recommending this ASUS. You’d get Windows and all of its benefits like familiar user interface and software without the worry for compatibility issues.