A touchy feely display
After a year and a half of spending a lot of time with various tablets, I've become thoroughly spoiled by quality IPS panels. It probably doesn't hurt that, for many more years than that, I've splurged on true 24-bit monitors for my desktop rigs. Coming from those screens, the X202E's display is a bit of a letdown.
Contrary to what you might think, the 1366x768 display resolution isn't really an issue. Text and images aren't as crisp as those on a Retina-equipped iDevice, but jagged edges and blocky pixels are hard to see when the X202E is sitting on your lap or at arm's reach on a table. The one-megapixel resolution is a good fit for the 11.6" screen. As an added bonus, you won't run into any of the annoying scaling issues associated with Windows 8 on high-PPI displays.
Win8's touch-friendly Modern UI will be at your fingertips, though. The VivoBook's screen supports 10-finger multitouch input, and it seems to be pretty responsive. To be honest, it's hard to tell how well the notebook's touchscreen works because reaching up to use it feels inherently awkward. The touchpad supports all the same core OS gestures and sits much closer to the natural position of one's hands. Plus, the tip of the mouse cursor is much more precise than the business end of one of your digits.
While the screen's touch capability fails to add truly valuable utility, at least it doesn't detract from the experience. Unfortunately, the mediocre quality of the underlying LCD does. The screen has the telltale poor viewing angles of a TN panel, as you can see in the images below. The pictures were shot at the same distance, exposure settings, and lens height with the display at 100% brightness. On the right, from top to bottom, are straight-on shots of the screen angled back at 110°, standing vertical at 90°, and angled forward at 70°. The picture on the left has the screen vertical but the notebook rotated 30° counter-clockwise.
In the picture on the left, you can see that the horizontal viewing angles aren't too bad. The on-screen image is only a little darker than the dead-on view immediately to the right. However, the vertical viewing angles are atrocious. Even with the screen deviating only 20° in each direction, the image is either washed out or substantially darker. Thankfully, the screen has enough tilt adjustment to accommodate a perfect view in most positions, at least for one person. Just be prepared to change the angle every time you change positions.
While I was taking the forward angle shot, I noticed a lot of light shining out of the bottom edge of the screen. Here's what it looks like with an all-black image on the screen standing upright at 90°.
There are no sharp points of backlight seepage, but the bottom third of the screen is awash in the pale glow of what looks like the first stage of moonrise over a cold, bleak desert. The backlight bleed isn't something I noticed when testing the system in Windows, but it is visible when watching fullscreen movies in a dark room.
We can also quantify the unevenness of the backlighting with our colorimeter. The table below illustrates the screen's luminosity across a grid. Measurements were taken at full brightness in the center of each region. Luminance readings are presented both as cd/m² figures, which we read using our colorimeter, and as percentages of the most luminous point we measured. Note that luminance and perceived brightness follow different scales, so the display appears more uniform than the chart below might suggest.
To no one's surprise, the brightest section is the bottom middle. The top of the display is up to 20% dimmer, and the right is a little stronger than the left. Smack in the middle, the screen pumps out only 209 cd/m². That may be sufficiently powerful for most indoor environments, but you don't want to be using the X202E in anything close to direct sunlight.
Our colorimeter has one more trick up its sleeve: the ability to measure color reproduction. We can use the data it collects to map the screen's color gamut. Click the buttons under the image to switch between the X202E and Asus' pricier UX31A ultrabook, which has an IPS display.
The VivoBook X202E covers a much narrower range of colors than its ultrabook relative. The UX31A costs much more, of course, but the IPS displays on modern tablets like Asus' own VivoTab RT also offer better color reproduction than X202E. Those systems are in the same price range as the X202E, too.
You don't need a fancy colorimeter to notice the screen's pale colors, which have a certain lifelessness when viewed next to a true IPS panel like the one on VivoTab RT. The difference is stark. That said, the X202E's panel doesn't appear to be substantially worse than other TN displays I've used in the past. If you don't have frequent exposure to higher quality screens on other devices, you can probably enjoy X202E in blissful ignorance of the lushness you're missing.
One more thing: we can also use our colorimeter data to depict the color temperature of the screen, which we've again compared to the UX31A. Click the buttons below the image to switch between the two notebooks.
By just looking at the screen, you wouldn't think the X202E's color temperature was so far off the 6500K illuminant that represents typical daylight. That's probably because the screen comes close to a neutral temperature with pure whites, which is where warmer or cooler tinges are most visible. Things go off the rails as white fades to gray and eventually black, making me wonder if the screen's backlight bleed might be tainting the results. The UX31A certainly doesn't have any problems maintaining a neutral color temperature across a wide range of gray levels.
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