Asus Transformer Book T100 Review
The ASUS Transformer Book T100 is one of the first Windows tablets running the new Intel Atom Bay Trail chipset and comes with a keyboard dock for a sub $400 price. This has been a pretty hot seller for Asus and Windows tablets in general since its launch in October. With its affordable price, good specs, and included benefits that would normally cost a lot more than the packaged deal has gotten it a lot of notice. The question is though, is if it’s worth the price and even praise from users and reviewers alike. From the company that made the Netbook market popular with its Eee PC and somewhat started the convertible market with the Transformer Pad line, is the Asus T100 the best of both, a compromise of the two, or something even better?
Design and Hardware
The Asus T100 features a design resembling that of their Transformer Pad lineup running android. It has the rather basic rounded rectangular design with a decent sized bezel that makes performing the Windows 8 gestures very comfortable to do. The tablet portion has a very glossy dark blue-ish coating with a bright chrome Asus logo right in the middle of it. The tablet also has a very subtle circular brushed metal type of pattern that isn’t really seeable unless you look really close at it. The back features a pair of stereo speakers on opposite sides of the tablet aligned horizontally with the Asus logo.
On the top of the tablet you will find a power/sleep button with an LED right next to it that glows orange to indicate its charging and white to let you know when its fully charged along with a microphone. On the top left side of the tablet there is a volume rocker and the Windows button. On the top right you will find an uncovered micro SD card slot and on the bottom right there is the micro USB port for charging and micro HDMI port along with a standard 3.5mm headphone jack. On the bottom of the tablet there are three ports to connect to the dock.
The design itself is pretty basic and not really inspiring, it’s essentially a plastic package with a big screen on the front. Something to note is that since it’s a glossy plastic it is very prone to fingerprints and smudges so that is something to keep in mind. With that being said the build quality is decent and has a solid feeling to it. The tablet portion weighs a light 1.2 pounds with evenly distributed weight, a somewhat rubbery feel, and curved edges that gives it a very comfortable feel in the hands. Combined with the keyboard dock the full package only weighs 2.4 pounds making it very portable.
The T100 comes running Windows 8.1 right of the box with a free copy of Microsoft Office included. One of the highlights of Windows 8.1 is the improved multitasking capabilities in the Metro/Modern interface with the ability to snap two apps side by side 50-50, 60-40, or 67-33. Windows 8/8.1 was made perfect for the hybrids because of the configuration of the software.
Want to have fun and play games? Undock the keyboard and you’re free to go. Need to type word documents, photo and video edit, code, or do heavy research? Dock the keyboard and enjoy the accuracy of a touchpad and the tactile feedback of a keyboard.
Windows 8/8.1 is a gesture heavy user experience. A swipe from the left bezel is a way to switch apps or pull in another app to split screen view.
A swipe from the bottom bezel is how you pull up app specific menus. For example in Internet Explorer a swipe up from the bottom will pull up the search bar, open tabs, and other options.
A swipe from the top bezel is to close or resize app and a swipe from the right bezel will pull up the charms bar consisting of the Start button, Devices, Share, Settings and Search.
If you are a heavy user of Microsoft services then you will find the experience very well integrated. OneDrive (formerly SkyDrive) automatically syncs your photos, videos, documents and system settings. If you have or use Xbox then you can boost your Gamerscore with achievements from games in the Microsoft store as well as tight Xbox Music and Video integration.
Everything is tied back into your Microsoft account. With that you have full integration with OneDrive, Outlook, Office, Skype, Bing, and Xbox. If you are more into the Apple or Google ecosystem then this might be either or a non-factor or even an issue. You will not find any issues with the quality of how well the built in apps work with Windows 8/8.1.
General Performance and Fluidity
The performance of the T100 is very good and you will rarely if ever notice any types of stutters or lag. For the week or so that I’ve been testing it, it has not frozen or crashed once. Multitasking is smooth and seamless and playing games like Jetpack Joyride, Samurai vs. Zombies Defense, and SoulCraft played very smooth with consistently high frame rates and performance. Streaming is always consistently good whether it’s streaming music with Xbox Music or video with YouTube or Netflix.
The device booted from cold to the login screen in only 10.8 seconds which goes to show how greatly improved the Bay Trail chip is compared to any previous generation Intel Atom chip. The chip is about as fast as any modern mobile chipset such as the Snapdragon 800, Tegra 4 or Samsung made Apple A7 chip. When compared to full computer type processors it compares to certain laptop Intel Pentium chips or AMD A4 CPUs. This means that this is blazing fast as any tablet or smartphone while being decent compared to other full computers.
The battery life on this Convertible is absolutely outstanding especially since its running a full blown desktop operating system like Windows 8. On a normal day I’ll do programming in Eclipse, Word document typing, streaming music with the fantastic Xbox Music app, watching YouTube videos, playing games and plenty of web browsing I was easily able to get through a full day if not a day and a half. There is no way to kill this battery with either moderate use or somewhat heavy use. Unless you watch videos nonstop, or play games on here for hours at a time you will have a tough time draining this battery before night time. This feat is even more impressive when you consider that the battery is strictly found in the tablet without a secondary battery in the keyboard dock like the traditional Transformer Pad line or other similar Windows 8 convertibles.
The unit also does not tend to get hot or overheat even when doing heavy multitasking or gaming. At most the back of the unit gets a bit warm, but nothing out of the ordinary and nothing where it gets to the point where its uncomfortable to hold. This is a sign of good battery distribution and one of the benefits of a plastic build whereas metal would be a bit worse at masking heat.
The battery life is by far the most compelling thing about this product. This should last you over 6 hours with heavy use and a good 12-15 with moderate use and some standby times in between.
Audio and Visuals
The T100 comes with a 10.1 inch IPS display set with a resolution of 1366 x 768 for a pixel density of 155ppi. While that might seem low compared to today’s iPads, Android tabs and even other Windows 8 convertibles like the Surface 2, Venue 11 Pro, and Surface Pro 2, the clarity of the screen is still very good with wide viewing angles. The clean interface of Windows 8.1, flat and fresh user interface, and crisp typography means that this resolution will still look very good and is forgivable when you consider the amazing value you will be getting this at.
The screen allows for 10 points of multi-touch and is a glossy display as expected from a tablet. Sadly the unit does not come with any forms of stylus input like Wacom, N-Trig, or even Synaptics; however, that’s to be expected with something in this price range.
The audio is surprisingly good on the T100. It’s nice to see that even though this is a “budget” hybrid Asus didn’t cut corners with some of the underappreciated things like sound. The volume that pumps from the rear pair of stereo speakers is incredibly loud and you would be hard pressed to ever find a reason to turn the volume up to 100 percent. It is very loud even at 50 percent and 100 percent is hilariously loud. Just to test I queued up Eminem’s “Rap God” and blasted the speakers all the way up the maximum level. I then went all the way to the furthest end of my house and closed the door and could still hear the melody and vocals clearly. The same is true even when using headphones, in any case turning the volume up full blast is just asking for trouble for the health of your ears.
Further extending the fantastic value you get with this package is an included keyboard dock with a brushed metal feel and a soft rubber type bottom. On the bottom of the dock you will find a Windows 8 sticker and 4 little nubs to get a grip on whatever surface it is resting on.
On the left side of the dock you will find the single and very useful USB 3.0 port with nothing on the front or right side of the dock. Also there are three small rubber nubs on the dock to prevent the screen from touching down on the keys.
The keys themselves are a Chiclet style six row affair including a full function key row that are definitely small compared to normal keyboards or even the Surface Type covers, but the keyboard itself is good. The keys offer surprisingly good travel so you can get a nice amount of feedback when one finger bounces off of one key and transitions to the other. So while the keyboard is cramped, you should still be able type at a very fast pace as with any other keyboard. The keys themselves have a matte-like coating so there isn’t much sliding around or missed keys on this when compared to other ultrabooks.
While the keyboard is really good the touchpad is another story. It isn’t bad per say, but you will definitely notice the small, cramped size of it. The bottom part of the touchpad is clicky to allow for left and right clicks, but because of how small it is I was accidentally right clicking when I wanted to left click and vice versa. I eventually got used to it, but it’s definitely something to note. The pad itself is smooth and doing gestures like pinch to zoom and two finger scrolling is easy enough to execute. However, for extended sessions I would recommend a mouse or just using the touch screen.
In my opinion the Asus Transformer Bok T100 is the second best Windows 8 tablet behind the Microsoft Surface Pro 2. Unlike most other Windows 8 tablets and convertibles it doesn’t have that many compromises. Some are too pricey, too heavy, too big to use as a tablet, bad battery life, slow processor, etc. The only real knock on this product is that it’s not as powerful or well spec’d as a Core i5 tablet or as premium feeling as a more expensive slate. For all of its shortcomings, its value is incredible, the battery life and the good Bay Trail performance all packaged together with a keyboard dock included in the price make this a sweet package. It’s as fast as a high end tablet and as good as a low to mid-level laptop all for under $400.
So who is this for? As a college student I recommend this to all people attending school as it is portable, runs full Windows, has all day battery life so you don’t have to search for an outlet in that classroom and has the flexibility to be a fun tablet and productivity laptop in one for probably half or even a third of the price. Also with its great affordability it is something that is realistically attainable for even the most frugal budgets. It’s also good for those who want a device with great portability and good performance that already have a powerful desktop or laptop. This makes a good compromise for most people.