Asus X200MA review
Lots of storage, but shortcomings see the Asus trail the budget front-runners
Asus, one of the masters of the low-cost laptop, is attempting to strike again with the Asus X200MA. While more expensive than its stablemate which we reviewed recently, the EeeBook X205TA, the extra £20 spent on the Asus X200MA seems well worth it. It gets you a stronger specification and more local storage, albeit at the expense of portability and battery life.
Asus X200MA review: design
Our review sample arrived in a rather business-like black, but you can also find the X200MA in snazzy red, blue and white finishes. There’s a little flair in the dimpled texture on the keyboard surround and the lid, and the curvy, wedge-like profile leaves the hands in a good typing position. You can see signs of the X200MA’s price in the lightweight plastics, particularly underneath, but it still feels noticeably tougher than the EeeBook.
On the downside, it’s also noticeably larger: 16mm wider, 7mm deeper and over 25mm thick at the rear of the machine. That translates to a weight of 1.24kg – still light, but not as ultra-light as the X205TA.
Asus X200MA review: connectivity and display
Connectivity is better, too. You'll find VGA and full-sized HDMI video outputs on the left-hand side, along with a USB 3 port, while two USB 2 ports and an SD card slot sit on the right-hand side. Asus has also squeezed in an Ethernet port with an ingenious expanding opening, although it only supports the 10/100 standard.
The display is a bit of a mixed bag. On one hand, the X200MA does a better job of handling darker tones than the EeeBook or the Acer Aspire ES1-111M, and its 492:1 contrast is pretty good. On the other, it’s brightness levels max out at a relatively dim 200cd/m2. In practice, we didn’t find this a problem indoors, where it’s crisp, with lifelike colours, but in brighter conditions the screen soon washes out.
Audio is comparatively good, with Asus’s SonicMaster Speakers putting out a sound with richer tone, better clarity and more stereo width than the competition. It’s too brash, bass-light and mid-range heavy for any serious entertainment, though.
Asus scores points for the touchpad, which, at 104 x 60mm, is big for an 11.6in laptop. It's responsive, too. Asus loses some marks for the keyboard, which spoils a sensible layout and good-sized keys with a very light, shallow action that makes it hard to tell if you’ve hit a key or not.
Asus X200MA review: performance and battery life
The EeeBook impressed us with its battery life, but the X200MA’s non-removable, three-cell, 3,300mAh lithium-ion battery doesn’t hold up. It sputtered out short of six hours in our light-use test, and lasted less than five hours in our more demanding heavy-use battery test.
Whereas the EeeBook was let down by its Bay Trail-T Atom processor, the X200MA uses a faster Celeron N2830. Architecturally, they’re both based on Intel’s Silvermont micro-architecture, but the EeeBook’s quad-core Atom Z3735F is limited to 1.33Ghz, hitting 1.83Ghz in burst mode; the dual-core Celeron N2830 starts at 2.16GHz and can go up to 2.41GHz.
Unfortunately for Asus, its competitors are using the dual-core Celeron N2840 in their laptops, which boosts higher still, to 2.58Ghz, and has a faster graphics core. As a result, the X200MA still struggles to keep up with its rivals in our benchmarks. It isn't something you’ll notice every day, but it does make the X200MA a little less versatile.
Asus X200MA review: verdict
This is a decent laptop for the money, and, with 500GB of local storage, it’s a more flexible PC than the storage-constrained HP Stream 11. If you’re happy working in the cloud, however, the HP is the better choice.