Asus VivoBook X200CA review
Putting together a budget laptop is a tricky balancing act at the best of times, and the Asus VivoBook X200CA is one of the company's most ambitious attempts yet. Following in the footsteps of the excellent VivoBook S200E, the VivoBook X200CA slashes the price to a miniscule £290 by making some small yet noticeable compromises. See also: what's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?
The VivoBook X200CA's build is one area where Asus has made some savings. The chiselled metal chassis of its predecessor has been replaced with a textured, white plastic finish top and bottom. However, for a budget laptop the X200CA certainly doesn't disgrace itself. The all-white finish looks rather dashing by budget standards, and the rounded edges and smooth curves add a little more style than you'd expect from a sub-£300 laptop. Crucially, build quality is impressive as well, and there's very little flex or give anywhere in the laptop's base and lid.
Look past the redesigned exterior, and in many ways the VivoBook X200CA build is a dead ringer for the VivoBook S200. Its chassis is exactly the same size, measuring 303 x 200 x 21mm (WDH), and it has retained a well-spaced and responsive Scrabble-tile keyboard and a good-sized touchpad beneath. It also has an identical array of ports; along the left there's a single USB 3 port and full-sized HDMI and D-SUB outputs, and along the right there are a further two USB 2 ports, a 10/100 Ethernet socket, SD card reader, Kensington lock slot and a 3.5mm headset jack. Wireless connectivity is trimmed down to the bare essentials, and Asus has included single-band 802.11abgn Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.
As you'd expect, the hardware inside has seen some cost-cutting as well. Asus has opted for a 1.5GHz Intel Celeron 1007U CPU, supported by 4GB of DDR3 RAM and a 500GB HDD. It's by no means a high-end partnership, but we found it more than zippy enough in everyday use. The Celeron CPU also has the grunt to compete with its pricier predecessor and even our current A-list runner-up, the £600 Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite. In our Real World Benchmark suite, the X200CA managed an Overall score of 0.42, not far behind the VivoBook S200E's score of 0.48 and ahead of the Ativ's score of 0.35. And while gaming probably isn't going to be a priority on a budget laptop, the X200CA's average of 21fps in Crysis running at 1,366 x 768 and Low quality settings bodes well for less demanding titles.
Battery life is mediocre, however. In our light-use battery test, the X200CA lasted only 4hrs 2mins, even with the screen brightness dimmed to 75cd/m². As a point of comparison, the Ativ Book 9 Lite soldiered on for 7hrs 52mins under identical conditions and the S200E managed 5hrs 27mins.
Disappointingly, X200CA's 11.6in touchscreen is just as underwhelming as that of its predecessor. The glossy finish is highly reflective and, in tandem with the low maximum brightness of 168cd/m², this makes it difficult to use under bright overhead lights and almost unusable outdoors. The contrast ratio of 221:1 is uninspiring, too, and results in greyish, washed-out-looking images. It's a shame, since the touchscreen itself works well and we found that cycling between Windows 8's Metro apps and navigating the tile-based Start screen was a fluid experience.
At only £290, though, the Asus VivoBook X200CA is tremendously cheap, and as a result it's easy to cut it some slack. Only battery life has suffered significantly, and while the display is disappointing, it's no worse than we've encountered on many other budget laptops. Compared with our current A-List runner-up, the Samsung Ativ Book 9 Lite, the VivoBook X200CA can hold its head up high – it delivers a decent all-round performance at half the price. It's by no means exciting, but as a basic, everyday laptop, the VivoBook X200CA packs more punch than any £300 laptop we've seen to date.
Author: Bobby MacPherson
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