Viewing page 1 of 5 pages. 1 2 3 4 5 NextASUS X200MA: A Portable Bay Trail Notebook
July 31, 2014 by Lawrence Lee
Recently I was tasked with helping my cousin choose a compact and lightweight computer with one caveat: she couldn't afford anything more than about $350 (Canadian). It would be used for surfing the web, doing homework, chatting, listening to music (a collection of about 100GB and growing), and watching videos (both local and online). With this criteria there seemed to be four possible options: an Android tablet, a Windows 8 tablet, a Chromebook, or a full-fledged Windows 8 notebook.
Android doesn't have much in the way of productivity software and multi-tasking is somewhat clumsy even on the larger tablets that support windowed apps. Windows 8 is much better in this regard, and some models have a home/student variant of Office thrown in. With all tablets, the lack of internal storage would be the biggest hurdle, even with the option to add a memory card on most models. A keyboard dock would be a necessity rather than an accessory, tacking on some added cost as well. Without a budget increase, the screen size would also be limited to 10 inches or less which is usable but not ideal.
Chromebooks are bigger but have similar storage limitations though they make up for this somewhat with varying amounts of free cloud storage. The downside is once you lose your internet connection, access to most of your files is cut. As ChromeOS is essentially a browser with add-ons, Windows 8 notebook can perform the same tasks, while also supporting a vast library of Windows software both new and old, and allows for a high capacity mechanical hard drive. The only problem would be finding something affordable that wasn't a complete piece of junk. I figured a decent ultraportable notebook would run at least $400, until I came across the ASUS X200MA.
||Intel® Bay Trail-M Quad Core Pentium N3520 Processor
Intel® Bay Trail-M Quad Core Celeron N2920 Processor
Intel® Bay Trail-M Dual Core Celeron N2815 Processor
||Windows 8.1 Pro
||DDR3 1333 MHz SDRAM, OnBoard Memory 2 GB / 4 GB
||11.6" 16:9 HD (1366x768) LED Backlight
||Integrated Intel® HD Graphics
1TB 5400 RPM
750GB 5400 RPM
500GB 5400 RPM
||2 -in-1 card reader ( SD/ SDHC/ SDXC/ MMC)
||HD Web Camera
||Integrated 802.11 b/g/n or 802.11 a/b/g/n (Optional)
Built-in Bluetooth V4.0 (not included)
10/100 Base T
||1 x COMBO audio jack
1 x VGA port/Mini D-sub 15-pin for external monitor
1 x USB 3.0 port(s)
2 x USB 2.0 port(s)
1 x RJ45 LAN Jack for LAN insert
1 x HDMI
||Built-in Speakers And Microphone
||3Cells 3300 mAh 33 Whrs
19 V DC, 1.75 A, 33 W
100 -240 V AC, 50/60 Hz universal
||30.2 x 20.0 x 2.56 cm (WxDxH)
||1.24 kg (with 3 cell battery)
||2-year limited International hardware warranty. *different by country
1-year battery pack warranty
On-line problem resolution through web interface (BIOS, Driver update)
OS (Windows® 8.1 ) install/uninstall consultation
Bundled software install/uninstall consultation
ASUS software supporting
Note: Specifications specific to the ASUS X200MA-US01T in bold.
A quick look at the specifications confirmed it had everything I was looking for. The X200MA is a Windows 8 notebook with an 11.6 inch touchscreen, a thickness of 2.6 cm (a hair over an inch), and a weight of 1.24 kg (actually about 1.35 kg or just under 3 lb according to our digital scale). As per usual, it's equipped with a card reader, a basic webcam, WiFi 802.11n, as well a good set of connectivity options. Video output is offered with both HDMI and VGA, a USB 3.0 port is included, and there's an ethernet jack as well (though not gigabit).
The model available at the Microsoft Store is powered by a Celeron N2815 belonging to the Bay Trail-M family of Atom processors which is found in many Windows 8 tablets. The N2815 is only a dual core model but strong multi-threaded performance wasn't a priority. Rounding out the specs is 4GB of RAM and a 500GB hard drive, a standard configuration for a cheap notebook. Best of all is the price, just $300 (same in Canada as in the US).
A quick jaunt to the physical store provided an opportunity for some hands-on testing. The form factor was nice and the performance seemed decent enough, at least running the default software. It was an American model too, which meant the keyboard had a standard US English layout, something rare and coveted in Canada these days. A bilingual layout is the norm north of the border and hated by just about all touch typists. After five minutes of playing with it, it was purchased and stowed away in a comically large Microsoft Store bag.
A front view of the ASUS X200MA.
From the back.
The ASUS X200MA is available in four color combinations: all black, red back with black body, blue back with black body, and white back/body but with a black screen bezel. The black model was too plain, while the red/blue variants seemed to scream for attention, so the white version got the nod. I'm not crazy about the black bezel but it still seemed like the most attractive choice. Obviously at this price-point, the chassis is made of plastic, but exterior feels solid throughout. If you squeeze every inch of the machine (as I did in the store, drawing some funny glances) you won't feel any soft spots or creaking. The back cover and area around the keyboard has a pleasant surface as well. It's thatched, wicker-like composition gives it some texture and complete immunity to fingerprints.
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