Not too long ago we looked at the ASUS E200HA, a strikingly-good laptop for under $200. Besides looking excellent, it represented one of the few laptops in its price bracket that didn't make a huge compromise.
ASUS has moved on a little with the VivoBook E203, but to the naked eye, it looks like exactly the same laptop. That's not a bad thing by any stretch.
The upgrades are small, but this is still the one to get under $200.
|Display resolution||1366 x 768|
|Software||Windows 10 Home 64-bit|
|Processor||Intel Celeron N3350|
|Graphics||Intel HD 500|
|Storage||32GB (expandable via microSD)|
|Memory||2GB or 4GB|
|Front camera||VGA Resolution|
|Ports||HDMI, microSD, 3.5mm headphone jack, USB 3.0, USB-C|
As with its predecessor, the E203 is a looker. Sure, it's entirely plastic, and glossy on top at that, but it doesn't look cheap. In the blue color that we have here, it looks sleek and sophisticated.
Despite being a tiny notebook, you're not cramped for space when you open it up. The 11.6-inch display is still 1366 x 768 in resolution and glossy in finish, but at this size, the resolution is far from a deal breaker. It's also probably the only area that compromises to reach that sub-$200 price point is apparent.
The viewing angles aren't very good, not at all helped by the glossy finish, and its colors are nothing to shout home about. But it is bright, and it's still not the worst display you can find in a super-cheap laptop. There's not a massive amount of bezel, and the whole thing is a pretty neat looking package.
Faster USB all round
One of the main upgrades to the E203 over the E200 is in the selection of ports. While the E200 had a mini HDMI and a combination of USB 2.0 and USB 3.0, the E203 is all USB 3.0 and has a full-sized HDMI output.
Better still, one of the USB ports on the E203 is the new standard, USB-C. It's still limited to USB 3.0 speeds, but the fact the new port is here is both surprising and very welcome.
Otherwise, it still comes with a microSD card slot that you can use to expand the limited 32GB of internal storage.
ASUS makes great keyboards
If you press too hard, you'll get some flex, but on the whole, the keyboard on the E203 is excellent. It's not quite full size, but the main part of it isn't much more compacted than the tenkeyless mechanical keyboard I use every day.
You have lots of key travel and a really good feeling as you're typing away. Moving to a smaller notebook always takes some practice, but aside from the obvious build differences, the E203 is no less comfortable to use than the much more expensive ZenBook 3.
The trackpad is also surprisingly good for a laptop this cheap. It's a great size, and while it's not a precision trackpad, the smooth finish makes it a joy to use.
Decent performer, plenty of battery
Laptops like the E203 aren't for the power user, of course. They're for more casual PC users and students who want something solid that runs Windows 10 to do their work on without spending a fortune. For both this type of user the E203 shines.
Battery life is claimed at around 10 hours from its 33Wh power plant, and while I've not reached quite that level, I'm easily getting through a day with about 7-8 hours of mixed usage.
The 2GB of RAM inside does lead to performance issues when you try to do too much, but it's perfectly able to run Edge with multiple tabs open, maybe listening to some music in the background and using apps like Twitter all at the same time. Windows 10 does remarkably well on such limited hardware, but it's still important to remember that it is limited.
The bottom line
As with the E200 before it, the ASUS VivoBook E203 is a very good sub-$200 laptop. There are compromises, yes, but there will always be those when you're running on such razor-thin margins.
It's a minor update, with a different processor the only thing underneath that changes, but those improved ports could be a game changer for the right type of buyer. Regular HDMI is always preferred over mini HDMI, and USB 3.0 all around is nothing but a win.
Likewise with USB-C. It's not everywhere yet, but all laptop makers should be getting on board with it now.
For the price, this is truly an excellent laptop, and definitely one of the strongest in its class. At the time of writing it's not currently on sale in the U.S., but in the UK it can be had for £179.
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