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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  • Brett Howse - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    I might have to buy one of these for my kids - but it would be nice if it had a touch screen.
  • Tikcus9666 - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    Pretty much a bay trail tablet that swapped it's touch screen for a keyboard, if it ships with office home and student (like most bay trail tablets), I can see it doing well
  • Morganstans - Tuesday, November 25, 2014 - link

    There are a lot better laptops in my opinion (I recommend seeing http://consumerto.com/ and others), even from Asus...
  • jjj - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    Don't think it's right to see it as a Chromebook alternative since Chromebooks don't sell mainly on price. It seems that many Chromebooks are bought for kids and parents for their simplicity.
    What systems like this one can do is regain share from devices that sell without and OS or FreeDOS in developing markets and there are a lot of those. Ofc most of those end up running piratated copies of Windows anyway so not much of an upside for M$.
    And if push comes to shove Intel still can't enable BOMs comparable to ARM (that's why they pay to win tabs) so Google can easily respond ,if they would care to.
    It might harm Chromebooks in markets where it's not yet available, so far it's availability is very limited and it could become harder to gain share just because people are familiar with Chromebooks and there is no price advantage to steer them that way.So maybe Google should react but it remains to be seen if PC makers are willing or M$ and maybe Intel are supporting this initiative with "marketing dollars" that are too hard to say no to and cheaper Chromebooks are not good for them.
    W/e , we like lower prices so it's all good.
  • Bob Todd - Thursday, September 4, 2014 - link

    If you think price isn't a dominant factor in Chromebook sales I've got some ocean front property in Idaho to sell you. How many Chromebook Pixels have you seen in the wild? 'Easy' is important too, but at the end of the day the low risk of entry due to the cost is the biggest factor. Same applies here. In developed countries, this isn't something you are going to cry about if your kids/grandparents destroy it.
  • bryanb - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    Just let these low end Windows boxes die already. You can't even change your desktop wallpaper with Windows unless you upgrade it to a more expensive version.

  • Johnmcl7 - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    Windows 7 starter has no relevance to this article as the laptop featured has a fully functional copy of Windows 8.1 so you change the desktop background if you wish. Having used the bay trail platform on a Dell venue 8 pro I'd say it makes a lot more sense for low end windows machines as general use is quick and responsive despite the low end hardware, better than windows 7.
  • Alexvrb - Thursday, September 4, 2014 - link

    Agreed. These new low end Win8 machines are a huge step up from the old netbooks, and "Windows 8.1 with Bing" is full Windows 8.1 - just with Bing as default search engine. You can even change the search engine if you want, it's fully customizable and not limited in any way. I'm surprised there are people that still don't realize this.
  • schizoide - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    Not good enough. You can get a chromebook with a haswell celeron (much, much faster) for that same cost.

    Also, windows needs 4GB RAM to be actually usable.
  • kyuu - Wednesday, September 3, 2014 - link

    No, it doesn't. I would know, since my Dell Venue 8 Pro has no issues running Windows with 2GB of RAM.

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