When ASUS introduced the first EeePC back in 2007, it became a huge hit and essentially ushered in the era of the netbook. Using Linux as the core OS and sporting low-end hardware in order to target a price of $200 (though it ended up shipping at $300 initially), the ultraportables world was forever changed. Google essentially revised and reinvigorated the netbook market with their Chromebook initiative, which brought us $200 laptops in 2011 that again used an alternative OS. Considering the $200 Chromebooks have been one of the highest volume laptops for the past year or two, others are looking to get a piece of that market. Now ASUS is teaming up with Microsoft to release a Windows 8.1 with Bing laptop that hopes to steal some of the thunder from budget Chromebooks.

As you'd expect from any full laptop selling for $200, the components are going to be relatively low-end. ASUS is using an 11.6" 1366x768 LCD – and no, it is not a touchscreen – the first sign of compromise. The processor comes courtesy of Intel's quad-core Atom platform (Bay Trail), and the X205 will ship with 2GB RAM and 32GB onboard storage (plus two years free of 500GB ASUS WebStorage). It also features two USB 2.0 ports, 802.11n WiFi, micro-HDMI, and microSD support. There will also be a version with 64GB of storage at a slightly higher price point. In other words, this is sort of like what would happen if you took a basic tablet and converted it back into a laptop, and then used Windows 8.1 instead of Android.

The overall quality of any $200 laptop is obviously going to be a concern, as that price point is far below what we usually see for Windows laptops. For those that want a higher performance computing device, this is obviously not going to fit their needs, but Windows 8.1 has taken steps to improving performance on low memory devices, and you still get a full keyboard and presumably decent battery life. You also get full compatibility with the existing library of Windows applications, which is going to be the real selling point. Is the market still interested in such a device, or have most people moved on to tablets and Chromebooks? We'll find out how well the X205 does at retail in the coming months.

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  • trivor - Wednesday, December 17, 2014 - link

    I bought the $99 Toshiba Encore - 16 GB eMMC, 1 GB Ram, 7" IPS LCD @ 1280x800. Windows runs fine - the biggest problem is lack of space to put anything on the built in storage as there was only 4-5 GB available (of the 16 GB total). That was a bigger problem than the 1 GB RAM - it runs fairly well on Modern (Metro) Apps. It's a little thick (hard plastic with texture for back) so not the best in hand feel, the screen is quite good since it's an IPS panel, and it's biggest problem as a tablet is the same problem as Windows Phone - lack of apps. You can't run Office or it's competitors (Libre/Open Office or WPS Office (my favorite)) very well on a 7" screen. The WiFi is a little finicky as it sometimes doesn't pick it up when being woken from sleep. It runs Office/Office competitors with minimal lag, the modern apps work fine and other things like Quicken, etc. also run just fine from an OS perspective. I would not buy another 16 GB tablet with Win 8.1 as I would consider 2 GB RAM/32 GB storage a much better choice - you are now in the $150 - $200 range in price. Better than I thought for $99 but a number of Asus Android tablets are better bets with 12-13 GB left on built in storage with a 16 GB device with a dual core Bay Trail Atom and micro SD expansion with an IPS panel.
  • harrymcback - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    I have one colleague who could use this for international travel so if something bad happens the cost isn't a big deal but he can still have his desktop version of Outlook he depends on.
  • Jambe - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    I'm not sure about 2 gigs of RAM on Windows, even W8. My dad just got a Dell Inspiron i3531-1200BK for $250 and it's snappy enough with an SSD in it. He plays his casual Steam games and Flash games on it, watches YT/Netflix/etc, that's about it.

    The one stupid thing about it is the 5400 RPM HDD it came with; blegh. It'd be better with one of the cheap SSDs this Asus has in it. Might also be better with the Chromebook-staple 2995U instead of the Bay Trail N2830 it has (not sure) but he likes it just fine.

    Oh, and it's fanless. That, too, is nice.
  • mkozakewich - Thursday, September 4, 2014 - link

    The obvious difference is that 10" tablets aren't $200. Actually tablets have a heavy screen focus, and this is neither a good screen not a touch screen.

    Atom worked pretty well in 2010, and could play the less-demanding games, so a modern Atom should be plenty fine if the graphics drivers have been ironed out. (I'm going to guess they haven't.)
    2 GB RAM is about the least you should have today, but it'll definitely work fine. I think 4 GB is the least you can have if you don't use a swap file, but SSDs have mostly fixed that whole issue anyway.

    In short, this compares in price to a netbook from 2011. For a bit more, you'd get a 1024x600 screen, no video out (or possibly VGA), 1 GB RAM, and a crappy 300 GB HDD. I'd say this is at the bottom end of what's acceptable today, rather than slightly below the bottom end. 600px was really hard to work with.

    This one also has a *very* nice keyboard, compared to what ASUS had been doing. The ASUS netbook I had back then was seriously mangled for no reason. The Ctrl button on the right side was to the right of the Shift button, or something weird like that.
  • icebox - Thursday, September 4, 2014 - link

    The number of free storage years is a clear statement of the life expectancy of such machines :)
  • hojnikb - Thursday, September 4, 2014 - link

    If this has a expandable ram and msata ssd, i might just buy it :)
  • Mr Perfect - Thursday, September 4, 2014 - link

    That would be cool, but I doubt they're being that generous. Soldered on components all around!
  • MikeMurphy - Sunday, May 3, 2015 - link

    4GB of RAM and 64GB of storage would make for a much more usable product.
  • bleh0 - Thursday, September 4, 2014 - link

    I hear it is quite difficult to get a *nix distro on these. Is that still true?
  • zodiacfml - Thursday, September 4, 2014 - link

    I would have lusted for this weren't for that 2GB RAM. My browsing style is to open all interesting links with multiple tabs. I'm currently on an Asus with 4GB RAM and it uses the swap file in my everyday use.
    Microsoft should relax the specs a bit for their free OS.

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