Has Apple lived up to its own hype with its new flagship device?
Asus Transformer Book T100 review
What is it?
The Asus Transformer Book T100 is a Windows 8.1 tablet that can act like a laptop thanks to its keyboard dock.
It's cheap and it's versatile, and should suit anyone who wants to use Windows on the go.
Minor niggles with the Asus T100 include a so-so keyboard and trackpad, and an average display resolution.
The bottom line:
If you want a Windows tablet that can also function as a laptop, this is the best value option around at the moment. Despite some limitations, it's a terrific little machine.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Review
Windows 8/8.1 is finding its feet as a tablet operating system, at least as far as the choice of models is concerned. Just before Christmas we published a round-up of the best Windows 8 tablets on the market, and the T100 comes right into the midst of a pack that includes the Toshiba Encore, Sony VAIO Tap 11 and Samsung Ativ Tab 3. Like the Tap 11, the T100 comes with a keyboard dock that transforms it into a laptop-style device with the click of a hinge, which is important if you're looking for something that gives you the best of both worlds.
Of course, weighing up any tablet in today's market is as much about the software as the hardware: are you already a seasoned Windows user with an affinity towards Outlook, Office, Skype, Bing and the bright tiles of the Windows 8.1 Start screen? If you are, you'll be far more interested in the T100 than if you're already a happy iOS or Android user.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Specifications and performance
The 1.3GHz quad-core Intel Atom Z3740 CPU running the T100 is very nippy for a tablet, walking all over most of last year's equivalents (such as the processor in the Samsung Ativ Tab 3). It's just about good enough for running desktop applications as well as the stripped-down, touch-friendly apps that inhabit the Windows Start screen. In terms of power we're not talking the same bracket as Microsoft's own Surface Pro 2, but the T100 will get the job done. The 2GB of RAM is pretty much the minimum it can get away with, offering just enough room for a handful of apps running together.
Asus promises a lot of battery life from the T100, and it certainly lived up to expectations: we managed to get more than 10 hours' standard use out of the device multiple times. Charging could be quicker, but as the T100 can make use of any Micro-USB adapter to fill up on juice we're not going to complain too loudly. There's no camera around the back, just a fairly basic 1.2 megapixel snapper on the front for your video calls.
Asus T100: Tablet mode
Despite Microsoft's best efforts, Windows 8.1 doesn't feel quite as polished as Android or iOS when you use it on a tablet. Of course, unlike its mobile-only rivals, the full version of Windows 8.1 (which is the one installed here) also has a desktop mode so you can run full apps like Chrome, iTunes and Photoshop provided they can cope with the T100's stripped-down specifications. We managed to run our normal office packages and Web browser without any problems at all. The desktop mode is not available to tablets running Windows 8.1 RT (like the Nokia Lumia 2520), so it's a welcome inclusion here.
The Start screen app environment is slowly improving, and the T100's 10.1-inch 1366 x 768 pixel display is bright and responsive. The big black bezels around the sides mean that this doesn't have the premium feel of some of the higher-end tablets on the market, but its light enough to hold in one hand comfortably — both keyboard dock and tablet weigh in at 544g. The tablet on its own is a little heavier than the lightest version of the iPad Air (469g) but it's by no means difficult to lug around.
Asus T100: Laptop mode
Clip the T100 into its keyboard dock and you can use it as a laptop, thanks to the way Windows 8.1 has been developed to suit both tablets and traditional computers. With the T100's low-powered processor and limited 32GB storage space you're not going to be able to run the most demanding games or crunch through a pile of video editing, but it's a great option when you've got a lot of typing or emailing to do. It's also a refreshing change to be able to use a laptop device that doesn't get uncomfortably hot during use.
The dock itself is solidly built and attaches easily. The touchscreen option still remains, so you can take advantage of it when necessary (closing apps or opening up the charms bar, for example). You might find the keyboard a little cramped, but we had no problems using it to put together this review. On the downside, we found the trackpad somewhat erratic and cheap-feeling. One added bonus: you get Microsoft Office 2013 Home & Student Edition (worth £99) thrown in for free, making the T100 an even more appealing prospect.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Verdict
The T100 is a great value Windows 8.1 tablet that also functions perfectly well as a laptop thanks to Microsoft's flexible operating system. The specs aren't the most impressive in terms of display or power, but many users will find it a perfectly usable device. With its low price and ability to flip between tablet and laptop modes, it's an appealing piece of kit — even with its limitations, we were sad to see the T100 go when our loan period was over, which is always a positive sign. If you want the full-fat edition of Windows 8.1 on a tablet together with an integrated keyboard, this is difficult to beat.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Available now - £349.95 (32GB)