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Review: Asus Transformer Book T100

HardwareReviews
9/10
by James Morris, 24 Dec 2013Reviews
Review: Asus Transformer Book T100
Best Buy

When the original Android-based Asus Eee Pad Transformer hit the market in 2011, it felt like a fresh new development after the initial tablet rush caused by the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab. But the detachable screen concept has now been copied quite a bit by other manufacturers, including mainstream brands such as HP's Envy x2 and Toshiba's Portege Z10t-A-106. So the Transformer Book T100 has none of the revolutionary appeal of its earlier sibling, but it does have one difference – this model runs Windows.

The Transformer Book T100 looks not unlike the original Eee Pad. The finish is grey and shiny, and is largely made of plastic, unlike Asus' more recent and higher-end Android Transformers. The tablet screen bezel is quite wide, which isn't as attractive as some style-oriented tablets. There is also only a camera on the front, not the rear, so you won't be using the T100 as a giant holiday snapper, although we question the sanity of those who do use tablets for this purpose anyway.

On the tablet itself there’s a microUSB port, which is also used for charging, plus microHDMI and a combined headphone and microphone minijack. All of these are on the right-hand edge in landscape mode, with the power button in the top left-hand corner, and volume control on the left alongside the button to disable automatic screen reorientation. The keyboard dock only adds a single USB 3.0 port, which is welcome, but there's no full-sized HDMI or VGA, or wired networking, so this isn't quite the ideal hybrid device for business users. Toshiba's Portege Z10t-A-106 would be the better bet here, if you can live with the battery life.

Like the Android Transformers, the T100's tablet docks firmly into a hinge on the keyboard section, rather than resting on a case. The connection is very secure, and turns the T100 into a full notebook, rather than just standing in for one. The connection between the keyboard and screen is directly electrical, too, so there is no need to worry about Bluetooth pairing. You just slot the screen into the keyboard hinge, and get typing. With the keyboard and tablet both weighing a tad over half a kilo (550 grams for the tablet and 520 grams for the keyboard), the sum total is about the same as an Ultrabook, so perfectly fine for carrying around in your bag all day. The keyboard also protects the screen very well.

Apart from the detachable touchscreen, the T100 is essentially a netbook. Inside there’s a quad-core Intel Atom Z3740 processor. This runs at a modest 1.33GHz, but has a similar technology to Turbo Boost called Intel Burst Performance Technology (BPT), although the latter is even more sophisticated. The top processor core frequency possible with the Z3740 is 1.86GHz, but the integrated graphics and each of the four cores as well as other chip-integrated devices can be ramped up and down in power as required, whilst still remaining within the low power consumption that is characteristic of Atom processors.

The Atom is backed by 2GB of DDR3 RAM, which is fairly normal for a netbook or tablet, but not exactly copious for a Windows system. The on-board graphics are better than with previous Atoms, being based on the same Intel HD graphics core as the Ivy Bridge generation of Intel processors, although with only four execution units where HD 4000 offers 16. But the graphics support DirectX 11, OpenGL 4.0, OpenGL ES 3.0 and OpenCL 1.1, so most modern graphics software will run, even if it won't be quick.

The T100 can be specified with 32GB or 64GB of on-board eMMC flash storage. Our sample came with the 32GB option, which is a little miserly for Windows, although there's a microSD card slot available if you need a bit more. Even then, this does put the T100 behind most netbooks for storage capacity. You won't be able to store a huge amount of digital media on board.

The 10.1in touchscreen offers a resolution of 1,366 x 768, which is a little higher than the average 10.1in netbook. However, non-Windows 10.1in tablets like the Kobo Arc 10HD are beginning to offer screens with 2,560 x 1,600 pixels, so the resolution looks a little pedestrian. Viewing angles and colour are good, although the glossy finish is a distraction in bright conditions. Asus is also fairly proud of the Golden Ear sound on the T100, but we didn't find it any better than the norm for a 10.1in tablet.

The screen's touch abilities proved accurate during our tests, and although the trackpad is a little small, it's fairly accurate too – even if the built-in buttons at the bottom are a little fiddly. The keyboard is also rather small, which is unsurprising for the form factor, but beats most Bluetooth tablet keyboards we have tried, and even the keyboard on the Toshiba Portege Z10t-A-106. It has a decent travel and clearly defined action, making it comfortable for touch typing. The T100 is also one of the first devices we have seen with Windows 8.1. However, although the new Atom supports 64-bit operating systems now, our sample only included the 32-bit version.

We have come to expect merely acceptable everyday application and multimedia abilities from Atom processors. However, the new generation of Atom is a much more serious prospect. The last Atom-based system we looked at, Dell's Latitude 10in, only managed 0.51 in the Maxon Cinebench R11.5 render test – but the Asus Transformer Book T100 jumps significantly to 1.23. This isn't up with the standard of an Ultrabook, but it's much closer. And whilst the earlier Atom's graphics don't support Open GL enough to even run the Cinebench R11.5 graphics test, the T100 at least managed 5.94, even if this is a fairly miserable result on a more general level. Similarly, the score of 210 in Futuremark's 3DMark11 is the lowest result we have seen, but Atom-based systems don't generally run this test at all. So at least the T100 will actually handle DirectX 11 software, even if performance will be dismal.

Unlike the original Transformer, the T100 doesn't have a secondary battery in the keyboard base, so the battery life is the same whether it's in tablet or notebook form, relying exclusively on the 31Wh two-cell unit in the tablet. In our intensive test, this lasted 270 minutes with the processor and graphics at 100 per cent, which is one of the best results we have seen. Asus claims an eleven hour battery life when using the T100 to browse the web, and we can entirely believe this from the excellent result in our test. You will probably be able to watch two or three feature-length movies on one charge as well, making this a really excellent mobile companion.

Verdict

The Asus Transformer Book T100 has made some clear compromises both as a tablet and a netbook. Its screen resolution lets it down slightly amongst the former, whilst the minimal storage and relatively meagre port count reduce its abilities as the latter. But overall these are compromises many will be able to live with, particularly when the sub-£350 price tag and capable performance of the new Intel Atom processor are taken into account. This may not be a master of either of its trades, but on the jack-of-all front it does a very commendable job for the money.

Specifications

Manufacturer and Model

Asus Transformer Book T100

Processor

1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740

RAM

2GB DDR3 SDRAM

Graphics

Intel HD

Hard disk

32GB eMMC solid state disk

Optical disc

None

Display

10.1in LED backlit IPS touchscreen TFT with 1,366 x 768 pixels

Networking

802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0

Interfaces

USB 3.0, microUSB, microSD card reader, combo headphone/microphone, microHDMI

Width x Depth x Height

Tablet: 263 x 171 x 10.5 mm

Keyboard dock: 263 x 171 x 13.1 mm

Weight

550g (tablet) plus 520g (keyboard dock)

Warranty

2 years limited international

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