Keyboard and touchpad
If you're not interested in touchscreen input, you can take some comfort from the fact that the X202E has a full complement of traditional inputs sitting just below the display. They're quite good, too, but there are a few quirks to note.
The first is more of a question: why leave such a wide border around the keyboard and touchpad in an 11.6" system with a relatively small footprint? It looks to me like Asus could've made the keyboard and touchpad larger without increasing the size of the chassis. Maybe the tapered front edge and the port hardware along the left and right sides make expanding the input area more difficult than it might appear.
|Total keyboard area||Alpha keys|
|Size||265 mm||93 mm||31,570 mm²||163 mm||47 mm||9,804 mm²|
|Versus full size||92%||84%||77%||95%||82%||78%|
To be fair, the keyboard and touchpad aren't exactly small. The tracking area measures a generous 4.1" x 2.4", and the keyboard is nearly the width of our full-size reference. The alpha keys are a little wider than they are tall, at 16 x 14 mm. They're certainly large enough—and the gaps between them wide enough—to prevent my stubby fingers from drifting off target during spirited typing sessions.
Asus sticks with a conventional layout for the keyboard, which means everything is in the right places—and the right size. The only concessions are the half-height keys that make up the directional pad. At least those stick to the traditional inverted-T layout.
In part thanks to the rigid chassis, the keyboard feels excellent. Flex is almost nonexistent; I certainly can't detect any during normal typing, and there's barely any visible deflection if you exert pressure on the center of the keyboard.
The underlying key switches provide a decent amount of travel and good tactile feedback, making it easy to type quickly with confidence—and without bottoming out each key stroke. There is a catch, although it's really more of a squeak. While the majority of the keys actuate with a dull thunk, the spacebar emits a higher-pitched chirp. Sounds like the sort of thing a shot of WD-40 would cure, but I'm not brave enough to find out. I can only hope the noise will get quieter as the switch mechanism breaks in over time.
The spacebar might need a little lubrication, but the touchpad does not. It's delightfully smooth, allowing fingertips to glide effortlessly across the surface. A subtle ridge around the exterior nicely defines the tracking area, and I wish there were something similar separating the integrated buttons. This is technically a clickpad, which means you can press down anywhere on the tracking area to generate a left click. The bottom of the touchpad also has tap zones for left and right clicks, but tracking in those regions is somewhat inconsistent, especially with gestures.
Asus' associated Smart Gesture software allows the left and right buttons to be swapped, but not to be disabled. That's a shame, because literally every one of the 13 gestures supported by the touchpad can be toggled individually. In addition to everything you'd expect, there are gestures that replicate Windows 8's touchscreen controls, including edge-based swipes that switch between applications and bring up the Charms and Menu bars. Three-finger swipes are also part of the package, enabling forward/back navigation in web browsers and a quick shortcut to the desktop.
Two-finger scrolling is arguably the most important gesture for a modern notebook, and the X202E has a pretty good implementation. Horizontal scrolling feels smooth, and the speed of the flick-and-coast function is nicely correlated with the aggressiveness of the gesture. Unfortunately, tapping with two fingers doesn't consistently produce a right click, at least with my fingers.
On numerous occasions, I've sent the mouse cursor careening across the screen with inadvertent touchpad contact while typing mid-sentence. Ugh. Touchpad drivers should really let users set a delay that defines how long input will be ignored after consecutive key strokes. The Smart Gesture software isn't quite that smart. It can, however, automatically disable the touchpad if a USB or wireless mouse is connected to the system.