Despite some clear flaws, the Asus EeeBook X205TA is the best budget notebook on the market for business users. The machine transcends its budget price tag with a good 11-inch display; an attractive, lightweight design; and nearly unbeatable battery life. Those qualities make it a productivity powerhouse for mobile business users on a budget. You'll have to deal with a fickle touchpad and a subpar webcam, but at $199, the X205TA still feels like a steal.
The X205TA is one of the sleekest budget notebooks on the market. Our review unit came with a matte navy-blue finish that's sharp and classy; it also comes in gold and white. The body's soft-plastic finish also makes it easy to grip when you're carrying it on the go. It's much more sophisticated than its closest competitor, the HP Stream 11, which has a more toylike appearance, with bright blue and pink variations, making the Asus the better pick for serious business users.
My only issue with the notebook's design is that its top is an absolute fingerprint magnet. After just one day of use, it was totally covered in smudged prints, which took more than a casual wiping to be removed.
The X205TA is also particularly small and light for a budget system. It measures 11.2 x 7.6 x 0.6 inches and weighs just 2.6 lbs., so it's both thinner and lighter than the Stream 11. It's also more portable than the $300 Acer V3-11P. In other words, Asus' notebook won't weigh you down on your daily commute, and it will fit neatly on your tray table during your next business trip.
Keyboard and touchpad
Buying a budget notebook usually means sacrificing a quality keyboard. Thankfully, the X205TA's keyboard is actually pretty good. The individual keys are well spaced, with a nice matte finish.
The biggest downside is that the keys are a bit shallow, with about 1.34 mm of travel (1.6 mm is roughly average in the ultraportable category.) That makes extended typing sessions a bit less comfortable, especially for touch typists. And like the keyboards on other 11-inch laptops, this one is a bit smaller than a full-size keyboard in terms of length and width, so people with big hands might find it cramped.
On the bright side, the keyboard doesn't feel cheap. Keys presses deliver a good amount of feedback, with a fairly standard actuation weight of 58 grams, helping to compensate for the keyboard's shallow design. Overall, it's one of the better budget keyboards out there.
Plus, you get a generously sized touchpad that offers responsive pointer control. On the other hand, multifinger gestures — particularly the two-finger scrolling — felt unreliable. Sometimes, when I tried to scroll down a document or Web page, it didn't detect my second finger and moved the mouse instead. And scrolling detection isn't as sensitive as I would have liked, making precise navigation iffy. It's not a terrible touchpad, especially compared to pads on competing budget notebooks, but it is one of the X205TA's weaker points.
Ports and connectivity
You'll find a good variety of ports on the X205TA, including two USB 2.0 ports on the right side, as well as a microSD card slot and a micro HDMI port. The latter is handy for hooking the notebook up to a large display or monitor for business presentations.
A good webcam is a perk on a business notebook, especially if you plan to use it to join conference calls remotely. Unfortunately, the X205TA's webcam is probably its worst component. Even in a brightly lit office, images appeared extremely dark and grainy.
In this photo I snapped, the details of my green plaid shirt are almost entirely lost, and colors are generally dark and washed out. It's not a great look for remotely meeting with colleagues or clients.
On the bright side, the small stereo speaker on the bottom of the machine is surprisingly loud, so you won't have to worry about hearing the person on the other end of your call.
Its specs sheet isn't too impressive, but the X205TA manages to deliver pretty good performance anyway. Outfitted with a 1.33-GHz Intel Atom processor and 2GB of RAM, it was pretty zippy for everyday tasks like checking email, browsing the Web and running Microsoft Office.
The notebook had some trouble with more intensive tasks, though. The HP Stream 11, which has the same 32GB of internal flash storage, copied 5GB of mixed media files in 1 minute and 56 seconds, slightly outpacing the Asus by just a few seconds. The X205TA also took 21 minutes and 36 seconds to match 20,000 names and addresses in our OpenOffice test; that task was completed more quickly by the Stream 11 (15:31) and the Acer V3-111P (15:45).
In the beginning of this review, I mentioned that the X205TA boasts nearly unbeatable battery life, and I meant it. The laptop ran for 12 hours and 5 minutes on one charge during our battery test, which involves continuous Web browsing over Wi-Fi.
You also get a pretty good display for your $200. The X205TA's 11-inch, 1,366 x 768-pixel screen shows more vibrant, colorful images than competing notebooks like the Stream 11. But while the screen is sharp, it might not offer enough real estate for serious productivity. It's a fair tradeoff for a notebook this portable, however.
The X205TA comes with a nearly pristine version of Windows 8.1, without many useless extra apps. Some of the preinstalled programs, such as Skype and Microsoft Office, will come in handy for business users.
Asus is packing in some extra goodies for business users, including a one-year subscription to Microsoft Office 365, which includes Word, Excel and PowerPoint. Office 365 is the online version of Microsoft's productivity suite, which keeps your files synced and updated across all your devices — a big plus if you want to switch between the X205TA and a desktop computer.
Also included is 1TB of storage with a free one-year subscription to OneDrive, Microsoft's cloud storage platform. If that's not enough, buyers also get another 500GB of storage via Asus' own WebStorage platform.
Budget notebooks don't currently get better than this. The X205TA combines a bright display, a solid keyboard and good performance into a sleek, portable package. The touchpad and webcam aren't perfect, but that's the price you'll pay for a laptop this affordable. We anticipate seeing a number of similar machines this year from other manufacturers, but for now, this is the best notebook for business users on a budget.