Does this Windows 8.1 device have what it takes to be a decent laptop AND tablet? Check out our Asus Transformer Book T100 review
Tablets are sometimes seen as gadgets for consumption more than creativity. So many games, movies and books to enjoy, why would you use it for writing a document, preparing a spreadsheet or creating a presentation when a proper computer does that so well?
Asus seeks to blur the lines between tablets and laptops by supplying a clip-on keyboard to make it the best of both worlds - that's the theory anyway. The Asus Transformer Book T100 is a 10.1-inch tablet with a keyboard that clips on - a physical connection means you don't have to depend on Bluetooth and the hinge means it folds flat as a proper laptop would.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Size and build
The 10.1-inch display means this is smaller than most laptops, even with the keyboard attached. Unclip it and the tablet with its widescreen display is satisfyingly self-contained. Separately or together, the T100 is manageably lightweight - 550g for the tablet alone, though around double that for the keyboard too.
That means the T100 in tablet format is noticeably lighter than the Apple iPad 2, though heavier than the iPad Air. The T100 measures 263 x 171 x 10.5mm, though it's around 2.5mm thicker with the keyboard attached.
The tablet is solid and well built, though the plastic casing inevitably draws unfavourable comparisons with premium-material machines like the iPad. The keyboard, with its soft-rubber back, feels good to the touch, though the keys themselves are less persuasive, feeling cramped and with a slightly clicky feel to them.
Worse, the trackpad feels decidedly low-rent and is the least successful part of the build. There's no backlight to the keys and no battery in the keyboard. This keeps the keyboard light, and means no recharging of the keyboard is necessary, but means battery life is limited to what's in the tablet.
In fact, the keyboard is a little too light: in laptop mode the T100 feels slightly top-heavy as though it could topple backwards.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Features
This Windows 8 tablet features not only the latest version, Windows 8.1, but also the fullest capabilities - this is not a Windows RT machine. This means the range of usable programs is the widest possible, not limited to the apps in the Windows store as RT machines are.
The convenience of having tablet and laptop in one can create another issue: should you poke the touchscreen or tap a direction key, say? Practice will tell users which they prefer, and we'd guess using the trackpad won't be the top choice in these quandaries.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Display
The screen is absolutely usable but it's not full HD and it shows. Though for much day-to-day usage the differences are minor, video playback can show the lower resolution at its worst.
Actually, the pixel density is more than the Apple iPad 2 - here it's 1,366 x 768 pixels, which is 155 pixels per inch - but in a world where Retina displays or their equivalent are now commonplace this does not look cutting edge. Of course, it keeps the price down, but the T100's IPS display lacks bright colours as well as pin-sharpness.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Camera
Tablets, as we know, are poor cameras ergonomically, and Asus seems to have taken this to heart by not installing a rear snapper. There's a front-facing one, at 1.2MP resolution, so suitable for video calls rather than capturing those Kodak moments.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Performance
The Intel Atom Z3740 1.33GHz quad-core processor at the heart of the T100 is decent enough, though again suffers in comparison to the fastest, most powerfully chipped tablets like the iPad Air. Still, the touchscreen is responsive and fast. The tablet copes well with Windows 8.1, rarely seeming over-taxed or struggling to keep up.
Connectivity is good enough, with microHDMI, microSD memory card slot, headphone socket and microUSB, which is where you charge the device. The keyboard has a full-size USB 3.0 socket.
Video playback, given the display, isn't on a par with high-resolution screens and the sound isn't as strong as on the Amazon Kindle Fire HDX, though it's not bad. High volumes can distort, mind.
It has 32GB capacity, which should be enough for many, though there is a 64GB model, too and anyway that handy microSD card slot means you can expand the storage affordably.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Battery
Asus quotes 11 hours for the T100's battery life and it manages that, with or without the keyboard. Since you might be using the T100 as a laptop substitute all day, this isn't bad going.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Verdict
Gadgets like the Asus Transformer Book T100 mean you no longer have to choose between a tablet and a laptop - it's a fully functioning computer so your only choice is keyboard-on or keyboard-off. It's pretty lightweight, comparing well to a laptop with both parts assembled. And it performs well, and at length.
On the flip side, the display really doesn't match others out there, so you may tire of its low resolution and average colour palette. And the keyboard is a disappointment in terms of build quality and usability, especially the creaky touchpad. The T100 is also available in wi-fi only configuration, there's no 3G model.
Still, it's small, neat and well priced, so you may feel the under-achievements are compensated for by its good value.
Asus Transformer Book T100 release date: Out now
Asus Transformer Book T100 price: £349 (32GB)