Asus has just unveiled a new product that the company defined as “transformative” for both ASUS and the computer market in general. The Transformer Book T100 is a 10.1” ultralight tablet/laptop “transformer” tablet/computer that is 16% lighter than the iPad as a tablet, and sub-1kg as a laptop with an all-day battery (11h in the best case scenario). ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih has presented the new product to a small press group, and commented “It is truly a game-changer for our mobile lifestyle.”
The idea is very attractive, especially if you take into account the, dare we say amazing, $349 (32GB) / $399 (64GB) price, but we wanted to get some hands-on time to form an opinion since the devices are literally at arm’s reach.
Industrial design (nice)
At first glance, the ASUS Transformer Book T100 is obviously part of the popular ASUS Transformer family of tablets (I really liked the ASUS Infinity). Over the years, the design has evolved a bit and has more minimalist lines now, but overall the profile is pretty recognizable. In the back, Asus has used its signature texture with the subtle concentric rings (it’s hard to see with the reflections), although this time, it is not aluminum, but plastic. While not as “noble” as Aluminum, plastic is both lighter and cheaper, which translates into the incredible prices that we have mentioned earlier.
The tablet is held to the keyboard with two solid hooks which are secured by a central release button. You need two hands to detach the tablet, but this is not something that will fall off by accident, no matter how you hold (or shake) the device. The hinge and attachment mechanism make the T100 a bit thicker than an Ultrabook at that particular location, but its light weight more than makes up for it.
The keyboard is not a full-size keyboard since the keys are a bit smaller than what you would get on a 13” laptop but the build quality is pretty good, and the key travel is quite deep (if you like that). I personally prefer a more shallow key travel, but it’s hard to form a definitive opinion without using a keyboard for a couple of days, so I reserve final judgment.
For now, suffice to say that the keyboard quality is relatively good, and it feels similar to previous ASUS transformers keyboard. You won’t get that “high-end laptop keyboard” feel that you may have had with a Lenovo X1 or Macbook Pro keyboard, but this is very reasonable by any standards.
A detachable keyboard solution like this typically yields better typing speed and accuracy when you compare it with something like the Microsoft Surface’s keyboard covers. However, the downside is that the combo keyboard/tablet is not as elegant as the Surface design. I’ve seen this many times, and the only right question to ask is: what do YOU need? Slimmer design, or faster and more comfortable typing? Because right now, you simply cannot optimize for both.
As you can see on the photos, there is a touch pad as well. It is relatively short, but wide enough. It works pretty well but I wonder if it’s comfy if you scroll a lot with it (two finger scroll gesture). Obviously, the answer to that is that you should really be scrolling with a touch gesture on the screen, and I suspect that the trackpad will end up being used for precision pointer control and “mouse buttons”, so it’s probably fine.
Display (very good)
The 10.1” IPS display has a 1366×768 resolution and it looks very good. I’ve seen better IPS displays (the best one being the LG G2‘s, but it’s a smartphone), but it’s rare to have nice IPS displays on very affordable computer like this. To be honest, most PCs priced at $349 typically come with a poor display that will distort color as soon as you look at it from the side of from the top. This is not the case here, which means that you can share content with your friends and all experience the same visuals. ASUS says that this display has a 178 degrees view angle, which is typical of IPS displays. It certainly looked very good when I played with it.
The Transformer Book T100 comes with Windows 8.1 and will be pre-loaded with Office 2013 (I assume without Outlook?), you don’t have to worry about basic productivity software
"YOU WANT CHOICE? RUN ANY WINDOWS APPLICATION" Since it is powered by an Intel X86 processor, this computer can run nearly everything that you’ve been accustomed to having on a PC. I really love this because I always end up needing some Windows software that I like or am accustomed to.
As we pointed out in our Microsoft Surface RT review, simple things that we take for granted like working on a document on a USB stick is not so simple on Android and iOS devices. Being able to save/load/copy any file or attachment is also something that often have a lot of friction in mobile OSes. Here’s it’s simple as pie.
The T100 is a fully featured computer, so you can simple use the USB 3.0 port to connect any PC-compatible device and be on your way to doing what you need to.
You can also benefit from all the network access, protocols and security that you may be familiar with, like Windows homegroup etc. Being able to easily share network files and mount network drives can make life much easier.
In terms of performance, I suspect that it will do OK, we will see. I think that we should be prepared to the fact that having many apps open at the same time may be an issue, etc, but it’s just hard to tell right now.
Battery Life (very promising)
With the new Intel Bay Trail platform, the battery life is one of the highlights of Windows devices to come, including this one. Previous tablets had between 3 and 5 hours, and that was clearly not good enough for most people, and it is known that users don’t like to have battery anxiety. This is why 10-hour battery life tablets were so successful to start with!
ASUS claims an 11-hour battery life in the best conditions, but take the number with a grain of salt, since we’ll have to confirm this in our own test. What we can say is that given the fundamental changes in the hardware platform, we would expect to see 7-9 hours of battery life, and that would be very good.
ASUS Chairman Jonney Shih compared the Transformer Book T100 to the original Asus EEE PC. It is true that the price point and the intent to provide a good and affordable computer are the same. However, the ASUS Transformer T100 is in fact so much better than the original EEE netbook. In Absolute terms of course, but more importantly in relative terms."WE ARE LOOKING AT SOMETHING EXCEPTIONAL"
Given the relative performance, build quality and affordability of this device, we are looking at something that is exceptional. The best comparison that I could draw in terms of value for the price is the Google Nexus 7 2013 edition, which is also made by ASUS.
We can’t wait to take it for a spin and get more details. We want to see how it performs once office is loaded, and how fast Outlook is going to be. Also, we can run some benchmarks, games etc. Finally, we want to see how it is to live and work with it on a daily basis. What would you like to know? Drop a comment, and we’ll try to address your questions during our complete review of the Asus T100
The ASUS T100 will become available “from October 18”.