Asus VivoBook X202E touchscreen notebook review

Asus has been offering affordable portable notebooks for a while. The company practically invented the netbook by introducing the first Eee PC mini-laptop in 2007.

Now that netbooks are out of fashion, Asus is taking a few different approaches to the affordable portable space. Asus is one of the biggest players in the Android tablet space. The company recently introduced a line of Windows 8 and Windows RT tablets. And then there’s the VivoBook line of notebooks.

Asus VivoBook X202E touchscreen

Asus VivBook X202E is an 11.6 inch, 3 pound notebook that sells for as little as $499. It’s not quite thin enough to be called an ultrabook — and it doesn’t have a solid state disk, which is another ultrabook requirement. But with an Intel Core i3 Ivy Bridge processor it’s a pretty zippy little notebook.

It also has a built-in touchscreen display, which comes in handy when using the new touch-friendly Windows 8 user interface. The X202E also happens to be one of the cheapest touchscreen notebooks on the market.

That’s a bit of a mixed blessing. The screen has an unusually large bezel… and wobbles a bit when you touch it. If Asus skimped on anything else, it might have been the battery. The notebook gets lackluster battery life, and the battery isn’t user replaceable.

Still, if you’re looking for an inexpensive (and portable) Windows 8 notebook with a touchscreen, the Asus VivoBook X202E may be one of the best options around.

Overview

Asus loaned me a VivoBook X202E for the purposes of this review. It features an 11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 pixel touchscreen display, an Intel Core i3-3217U Ivy Bridge processor, Intel HD 4000 graphics, 4GB of RAM, and a 500GB hard drive which, for some reason, is divided into two 250GB partitions.

The notebook features 802.11b/g/n WiFi, 10/100 Ethernet, Bluetooth 4.0, an SDHC card slot, 2 USB 2.0 ports, and 1 USB 3.0 port. There’s a front-facing VGA camera, a headset jack, and VGA and HDMI ports.

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The VivoBook X202E measures 11.9″ x 7.9″ x 0.9″ and weighs about 2.9 pounds. It has a 38Whr battery, which Asus says should last for about 4 hours, which is about what I managed to eke out in my tests — although you’ll probably run down the battery more quickly by watching videos or playing 3D games.

Asus ships the laptop with Windows 8 64-bit, and you can use the touchpad, touchscreen or an external pointing device to navigate the Windows 8 user interface.

Design

While the Asus VivoBook X202E has some premium features such as a touchscreen display, a light-weight case (made of metal and plastic), and an Ivy Bridge CPU, this notebook clearly isn’t in the same class as a high-end ultrabook.

At nearly an inch thick, it’s a bit too chunky to be called an ultrabook. You don’t get a backlit keyboard. And while premium touchscreen devices tend to have edge-to-edge glass to support Windows 8 gestures that involve swiping from the edge, the VivoBook X202E does not.

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Instead the display is surrounded by a plastic rim — and there’s an extra-wide bezel around the display area, which gives you room to swipe from the edges of the screen.

The result is that while the VivoBook X202E has an 11.6 inch display, it’s a little larger than some other notebooks with similar screen sizes. In fact, the laptop is a little wider than the 12.1 inch Asus UL20A notebook I bought in 2009.

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Front: Asus VivoBook X202E / Back: Asus UL20A

That’s not to say that the X202E is extraordinarily large or unwieldy. Its just a tad wider than you might expect an 11.6 inch notebook to be thanks to that extra-large bezel.

Asus also made sure to include an extra-large touchpad below the keyboard, giving you plenty of room to perform Windows 8 gestures including two-finger scrolling, 4-finger app switching, and swiping-from the edge (much the same way you would with the touchscreen).

touchpad

Unfortunately I found the touchpad sensitivity to be a bit hit-or-miss. It’s certainly not the worst touchpad I’ve ever used, but I sometimes found myself placing two fingers on the touchpad in order to “right-click,” but instead initiating a left-click. From time to time I’ve also found myself swiping the touchpad with my palm while typing, and unintentionally moving the cursor so that I end up typing on a different line of text.

There is a touchpad settings app that lets you enable and disable features and adjust the touchpad speed. But I didn’t see any options for adjusting sensitivity.

vivobook mouse

The keyboard includes all the usual keys — but some seem a little small. The tab key, for instance, is a bit smaller than I’m used to, which can make finding it a little difficult — but that’s something you get used to the more you use the laptop. For the most part, I’m able to type just fine on this notebook, and I didn’t notice much flex in the center of the keyboard.

I’m not a huge fan of the incredibly tiny arrow keys in the lower right corner, which also function as PgUp, PgDn, Home, and End keys when you hold down the Fn key. They’re so small that even after using the laptop for a few days, I found myself having to look down at the keyboard to make sure I was pressing the correct key.

keyboard

The glossy display does reflect a fair bit of glare — especially when used in sunlight or directly in front of a lamp. Viewing angles are decent when you look at the notebook from the left or right side. But they’re pretty bad when you tilt the screen back — colors start to wash out pretty quickly, especially when you’re viewing photos or videos.

The most perplexing thing about the display, though, is that it wobbles when you touch it. On a typical notebook this wouldn’t be much of a problem. But on a touchscreen notebook it can be very disconcerting.

Every single time you tap, swipe, or perform another touch-based gesture on the screen, it will bounce a little.

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At least part of the problem is that the based of the 2.9 laptop just isn’t heavy enough. If you tap the screen hard enough, you’ll notice the front of the laptop wobbles a bit too. But even if you hold down the front of the laptop with one hand, the screen will shake a bit when you tap it with the other.

This isn’t necessarily a fatal flaw — especially if the touchscreen is something you plan to use occasionally rather than constantly. It’s a bit disappointing — but I can’t say it’s unexpected. After all, the VivoBook X202E is one of the cheapest touchscreen notebooks you can buy.

Now that I’m done nitpicking, let’s talk about the overall design. The VivoBook X202E doesn’t look cheap. It has dark brushed aluminum lid and a silver/gray aluminum body.

While it’s not as thin as an ultrabook, at 2.9 pounds it’s awfully light and portable — and Asus even includes a rather small charging cable instead of a two-piece power brick.

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The base of the laptop appears to be covered with plastic, but that keeps it from getting excessively warm or cold. There’s a vent in the center of the base which helps keep the laptop from overheating. It also means you’ll hear a bit of fan noise when the notebook is in use — although the VivoBook X202E fan is far from the loudest notebook fan I’ve heard. (That honor would go to the jet engine-like fans on the Acer Aspire S7 ultrabook).

bottom

Unfortunately there’s no access panel on the bottom of the laptop, so if you want to perform any repairs or upgrades, you’ll need to remove a series of screws and then pry off the bottom panel which is held in place by plastic clips.

The 4GB of RAM is soldered to the motherboard, so there’s no way to upgrade the memory. But you should be able to replace the 7mm hard drive with a different hard drive or solid state disk.

You could also theoretically remove the battery once the case is open, but since this laptop isn’t designed to be opened up you’ll probably have a hard time finding anyone selling spare batteries.

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The sides of the laptop are just thick enough to accommodate a full-sized VGA port along with USB, HDMI, headset, and SDHC card ports. There’s also an Ethernet jack, but you’ll need to lower a little plastic door in order to fit a full-sized Ethernet cable into that slot.

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Performance

I’ve been a bit spoiled by the ultrabooks and Chromebooks I’ve reviewed recently. At this point, I kind of expect a computer to boot in 20 seconds or less. The Asus VivoBook X202E takes closer to a minute.

You can largely blame the 5400RPM hard drive for that. Notebooks with speedier solid state disks tend to boot much more quickly, especially if they’re running an operating system optimized for quick booting, such as Chrome OS or Windows 8.

Once the OS is up and running though, the VivoBook X202E feels pretty zippy. It resumes from sleep just about as quickly as any notebook with a solid state disk. And while it has a Core i3 processor (which is the cheapest Core family chip Intel offers), it’s still an Ivy Bridge processor (which means it’s a 3rd-generation Intel chip). As such, this laptop performs almost as well in many tests as fast as one with an Intel Core i5 Sandy Bridge (second generation) chip.

lilbench

While it trailed the Samsung Series 9 and Asus Zenbook UX31 ultrabooks (Core i5 Sandy Bridge) and HP Envy 4 TouchSmart (Core i5 Ivy Bridge) ultrabooks in most of my tests, the VivoBook X202E ran circles around the HP Pavilion DM1 (AMD E2-1800) in most CPU tests and performed significantly faster than any Intel Atom-powered netbook I’ve ever tested.

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Asus also includes a Power4Gear utility which lets you optimize the laptop’s settings for high performance or longer battery life.

The notebook’s stereo speakers are located on the bottom of the laptop — but they’re positioned near the front of the chassis where the body curves up. That means they’re probably never going to be completely covered by your lap or a tablet, and for this reason they sound a little louder and more clear than the speakers on most portable notebooks.

Just don’t expect a lot of bass. You won’t get it — and when I tried playing some bass-heavy songs, the speakers started to distort a bit.

While I’ve only tested the laptop using Windows 8, there is an option in the pre-boot settings to disable UEFI Secure Boot, which means that you should be able to install Linux, Windows 7, or other operating systems on this notebook.

Verdict

If you’re in the market for a portable notebook with Windows 8 and a touchscreen display, the Asus VivoBook X202E is one of the cheapest options available, at $499 and up. But despite the relatively low price, it’s a pretty decent laptop which offers acceptable performance, a decent keyboard, and a rather attractive case design.

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Just don’t go expecting too much from a notebook in this price range. The touchscreen wobbles, the touchpad isn’t quite as reliable as it could be, and the notebook doesn’t exactly offer all-day battery life.

Now that Asus has pretty much pulled out of the netbook market, the company is positioning the VivBook X202E as a sort of successor to the Asus Eee PC line of mini-laptops. It’s a bit bigger than a netbook, and a bit more expensive. But it offers the kind of user experience you’d expect from a full-fledged laptop (albeit an inexpensive one) in a 2.9 pound package.

  • Guest008

    Why is there no info on the battery life?

    This is a VERY important point.

    Why didn’t you test it?

    At least, can you tell us if 3.5 hours max are to be expected (from what I read)?

    If so, it’s really bad.

    Knowing that you can’t remove the battery when plugged (for sedantary use), it means the battery will last about half a year before seriously degrading to the point a change is needed.

    So, not only the battery cycle is short but the battery won’t last long at all.

    So, I’d like to buy one but the battery life, if confirmed at 2-3 hours in normal use coupled with the non-removable battery, makes it totally impossible.

    Everything else is good enough (design, cpu/gpu, OS, touchscreen, size/ weight…), that’s a shame, really.

    Those who bought or will buy this are gonna be disappointed for sure (at least when the battery pretty much dies after 6 months, a year max because of too many cycles).

    • guy

      The artilce does say: “It has a 38Whr battery, which Asus says should last for about 4 hours, which is about what I managed to eke out in my tests — although you’ll probably run down the battery more quickly by watching videos or playing 3D games.”

      Not exhaustive but should be enough information especially since you’re given the battery capacity.

      • Guest008

        Ok…
        Thanks, don’t know how I missed that.

  • Matt

    Just wanted to mention that the X202E is available from the Microsoft Store for $499. Buying it directly from MS means you’ll get their ‘Signature’ – no pre-installed junk software.

    • http://www.liliputing.com/ Brad Linder

      Nice find! I’ve updated the post to say $499 and up rather than $529 and up.

      It still astonishes me that you can find some stores selling this item for $499 while others charge $599 for exactly the same product.

    • Joe

      When you buy from the Microsoft Store, do they provide a recovery disc? Do you have to install Windows yourself and download the drivers from Acer or Microsoft?

  • http://webloggerz.com/ Webloggerz

    its awesome…will try to buy some day

  • Brian Bedford

    I picked one of these up about a month ago. I swapped in a Samsung 830 128gb SSD and installed a fresh copy of windows 8 pro. Overall I’m really impressed with it. Cold boot is about 8 seconds and it resumes from sleep pretty much instantantly. I consistently get about 4 hours on a charge. The touchpad was terrible at first but I downloaded Samsung’s Elan touchpad driver and it made a big difference (recommended in an Amazon review). I don’t use the touchscreen all that much but there are a few instances where it’s very convenient. Using it to swipe in from the side to change brightness and volume is much easier than the function keys, especially in the dark. The touchscreen is also nice when you’re laying in bed with the laptop on your chest, no more cocking the wrists to use the touchpad and keyboard. The i3 supports VTx and Win8 Pro has hyper-v built in so I can have Ubuntu as well without dual booting. For $580 with the SSD (got the laptop for $499), this thing is fantastic.

    • RC

      Did you have any problems with the clean boot from windows 8 PRO? Trouble finding any drivers, etc? I am getting ready to install a Samsung 840 250gb ssd into mine and was going to clone the drive but would rather do a clean install if there was no problems. Thx

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shawne-Beeson/100000728451467 Shawne Beeson

      Does it take a standard SSD drive? or does it require a 7mm

  • chowbiz

    What I find amazing is that as I look at my current $299 netbook and thinking about replacing it (a recent scare led to a quick repair), there is only this and the Acer V5 in the sub-$600 space that I could find. And so I find that this might just fill the nitch i am in–someone looking for a device to sit on the couch with and sometimes work on an MS Office document. I would love to go with, say, the Surface Pro, but at $1000+ with they keyboard, that seems crazy. Am I alone in needing such a device?

  • Clay

    I bought mine for $499, it was a great buy. I immediately added a Samsung 250G SSD drive. What a huge performance improvement! One PC benchmark showed a 3X improvement. The benchmark thought I had a i5 CPU. To add the SSD I had to install Win 8 pro from DVD and add all the Asus drivers, which was a long process. My only disappointment was I could not figure out how to dual boot Linux. Hope the Open Systems developers figure out a simple way where Linux and Win 8 will dual boot in a “Secure Boot Environment PC”.
    Meanwhile I’m beginning to get used to Win 8 and find I like it better than any of the older OS’s from Microsoft.

    • usercard

      You may install Hyper-V in services and you will got the virtual Linux environment with very good performance!!!

    • Coenraad Loubser

      This laptop is screaming fast on Gentoo. But installing Gentoo might take you a few days if you’re not too Linux-savvy. The last few x64 Ubuntu’s should support it out-of-the-box though… I’ll try them and report back. 12.04 Didn’t work with the touch-screen and 12.10 had some issues with the touchpad, but 13.04, 13.10 and 14.04 holds some promise…

  • http://www.facebook.com/scott.yarosh Scott Yarosh

    cpu throttles down to 800mhz and gpu down to 300/350 MHz if you try to play any games… I owned one for 2 days and returned it. Run prime 95 or run 3dmark 06 and watch. There is a reason this only scored 2700 on 3dmark 06 instead of 4000. Mine would only score 2400. CPU temps will hit 90 C +. If you never max out the cpu/gpu it is a perfectly good little computer and feels very well made, other than its anemic heatsink and fan.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Shawne-Beeson/100000728451467 Shawne Beeson

      Maybe if you get a laptop cooler pad, and have you tried to reapply thermal paste to get it a bit better

      • Scott Yarosh

        I was thinking about it but just returned it and got a system that works. This wasnt an issue of let me take this apart and “fix it” to make it better than it should be. This system is broken, flat out broken. 90C and throtting after 1 min at full load is a problem, system should have never made it past QC who the f at asus even let this computer go to market?

    • Jody Lee Bruchon

      I wrote up a detailed article (complete with photos) on how I fixed my Asus Vivobook S200E (an X202E with slightly different features) overheating in the same way as what you’re describing. See https://nctritech.wordpress.com/2014/01/14/fix-for-asus-vivobook-x202e-q200e-or-s200e-laptop-cpu-overheating-and-thermal-throttling/

      • Scott Yarosh

        It’s great you fixed yours. But its absurd this is even an issue. I when i got that laptop a year ago i e-mailed asus support, who responded promptly. After i told them my issue i never got any responses back even after e-mailing back again. Bottom line this is a bad system, too bad there is no one to implement recalls on computers. I ended up with a lenovo twist it never throttles.

      • Jody Lee Bruchon

        I feel that this is a fabulous laptop, particularly after the fix, but I definitely agree that this issue should not exist in the first place. You have to understand that the majority of users will never push an i3 chip to maximum load for more than occasional brief load spikes since most people only use a browser, office suite, and various forms of video playback (YouTube, Netflix, etc.) none of which generally keep the CPU at a high enough load to reach throttling temperatures. I think this unit is engineered to effectively be a high-quality giant netbook, and it fits that description.

        Crazy people like us who actually want to encode video, run image processing filters, play 3D games, and compile programs are pushing the system past what they engineered it for, but there will never be a good excuse for engineering a consumer-targeted system that uses thermal throttling as a cooling paradigm. There are lower TDP CPU/GPU packages than an i3-3217U available, after all!

        Personally, I don’t understand why they didn’t use the bottom of the case as a heatsink as I have done. One really fat thermal pad and a glued-on piece of thick foil across the bottom and they’d have a better cooling system than what I made at a minimal extra cost.

        Fortunately, my repair only requires thermal pads and foil, and it works better than necessary to prevent throttling completely, so for anyone who has or wishes to get one of these things, there is hope. Ignoring the thermal aspect, it’s a very well-built machine and I sold off most of my other laptops because of it. I suppose we’ll never know what the engineers were thinking with this cooling system though, and I don’t think we’d accept an explanation for it even if one came about.

  • http://twitter.com/KoenMiseur koen miseur

    Question, would u buy it with the Intel Celeron 847 and 2gb RAM at €375 OR an Acer 756 with the Intel Celeron 756 and 4gb RAM at €369? I just want a cheap netbook but that can run lightroom (and a bit of photoshop) that i can take with me on trips or on a wedding (as a photographer) to back-up my sd-cards to my harddrives.

  • Brad Penwell

    I seem to be having a much different experience than most of the rest of you. I got one of these and it is okay if you don’t use the trackpad. My
    trackpad is extremely buggy and often does things like switch you back
    to the start screen or change the size of your icons to switch windows/apps when you aren’t trying to. The article mentions this thing as zippy and so do some comments, but mine is extremely slow especially launching/saving anything. Unless you are getting one of these for your kids you should bypass it. (Of course I may be biased because my normal machine is a MacBook pro – however it is over 5 years old, but doesn’t give me any troubles like this asus does – really disappointing. :(

    • Coenraad Loubser

      If you install the proper driver, it disable the touchpad for a few milliseconds after you typed a key – you can also set the sensitivity. Without this driver, it picks up movement from your fingers if you just move your hands too close to it.

  • Dariann Dela Cruz

    Is there anyone here who could tell me where is the PRODUCT KEY of this notebook? I really need it for me to install again my Microsoft office, too sad I lost the receipt of purchase and my only hope is to find the product key of it :(

    • Coenraad Loubser

      The newest MS Office’s you pay for just one install, or monthly. Try LibreOffice or Google Drive.

  • John

    Can anybody help me restore the functionality of the touchscreen?

    • Coenraad Loubser

      Did you perhaps play around in the BIOS? You can disable it there if I’m not mistaken.

  • Don n tw

    Mine is a headache. Software is limited and hard to download through their store. Had to go to their service center to buy cords. Not readily available. Currently, having problems charging. Frankly, wish I hadn’t bought it. Service staff is friendly though.

  • penguinx64

    I got one of these with Ubuntu Linux instead of Windows 8, but no touch screen. The non-touch version probably gets better battery life. It was very easy to replace the 320gb hard drive with a 128gb Samsung 830 SSD. The SSD improves battery life too. Works great with Linux Mint MATE. Now I have a nice, thin, light Linux Ultrabook without Windows 8 Metro Tiles.

    • Coenraad Loubser

      What version of Mint? Does right-click on the touchpad work? How about two-finger scrolling? How is the touchscreen support?

  • jhaiven

    do you have available LCD screen for vivobook X202E? please reply.thank you:)