Asus Transformer Book T200TA review
Looking for a low-cost laptop? Asus fuses an 11.6in tablet with a keyboard dock to create one of the biggest bargains of 2014
The Transformer Book T200TA proves that a budget Windows device doesn’t have to be boring. The big brother to Asus’ smash-hit 10in Transformer Book T100 convertible, it expands the display to 11.6in while keeping the price down to a mere £350. With a capable quad-core Atom processor at the helm and a good-quality IPS screen, this looks to be the hybrid bargain of 2014. See also: what's the best laptop you can buy in 2014?
Asus Transformer Book T200TA: design
At such a low price, you’d expect all manner of compromises, such as ropy build quality and chunky, thickset looks – but the T200TA is surprisingly handsome. The tablet’s rear is finished with a handsome dark blue swirl which curves around and tapers into the thick black bezels circling the screen; the keyboard dock combines a black matte-plastic base with a silver keyboard surround.
Despite this all-plastic construction, the T200TA feels nice and solid, and there’s little flex in either the tablet or the dock. The whole assembly is a little on the portly side, however: the tablet measures 12.7mm thick and weighs 781g, and the keyboard dock swells the weight to 1.64kg.
This solid construction has its benefits. The tablet doesn’t slot into the dock with a particularly enthusiastic click, but it held firm throughout our testing, and it’s possible to angle the display back without the whole caboodle rocking backwards. Unexpectedly, part of the weight of the base is down to a replaceable 2.5in 500GB hard drive, which supplements the tablet’s modest 32GB of flash storage. It’s great to have that kind of storage on hand – the downside being that, of course, the tablet needs to be docked in order to access it.
Asus Transformer Book T200TA: connectivity & ergonomics
On the tablet itself, there’s a decent range of features and connectivity. There’s dual-band 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4, as well as micro-HDMI and OTG-compatible micro-USB ports, and a microSD slot lets you supplement the tablet’s built-in storage. We’d certainly recommend shelling out for a card, since the OS and recovery partition swallow up most of the 32GB drive – we were left with around 8GB of free space before we’d even installed our benchmarks.
The dock, meanwhile, adds a full-sized USB 2 port, one USB 3 port and a Gigabit Ethernet socket. Using the T200TA in docked mode is perfectly agreeable, too, thanks to a good-sized keyboard and touchpad. Admittedly, there isn’t much feel to the keyboard – the keys are rather limp and unresponsive – but it’s not cramped.
Asus has also furnished the T200TA with a 5-megapixel rear-facing snapper and a 2-megapixel front-facing camera. The rear-facing camera dredges up just enough detail for posting quick snaps to social networks and the like, but the resulting images are anything but refined - all of our test shots were dogged with noise and ugly compression artefacts.
Asus Transformer Book T200TA: display & performance
The T200TA’s 11.6in display has a low resolution of 1,366 x 768, but Asus has spent the cash where it really matters, shelling out for a good-quality IPS panel. Although brightness tops out at a modest 215cd/m[sup]2[/sup], a contrast ratio of 836:1 ensures that images have plenty of detail, from the darkest shadows to the brightest highlights, and viewing angles are wide too. If we had to make a criticism, we’d note that the panel fails to reproduce the richest, most saturated colours, as it covers only 63.9% of the sRGB colour gamut, but overall it’s still an attractive display.
With one of Intel’s quad-core Bay Trail CPUs powering the whole show, the T200TA feels pretty spritely most of the time, and an Overall score of 0.37 in our Real World Benchmarks reflects more than enough poke for everyday office and internet applications. However, if you were hoping to use that 11.6in screen for multitasking, you may be disappointed. Asus has trimmed costs by partnering a 32-bit installation of Windows 8.1 with a frugal 2GB of RAM, and there’s no way to add extra memory. As a result, the system can easily get bogged down, resulting in performance that’s sluggish even by Atom standards.
On the upside, battery life is as good as you’d expect for an Atom-powered device. With the screen dimmed to 75cd/m[sup]2[/sup] and the Wi-Fi turned off, the T200TA flicked through a variety of web pages and documents for 10hrs 40mins before needing a trip back to the mains. Unlike the T100, the T200TA charges only via the supplied mains charger – charging over USB isn’t supported.
Asus Transformer Book T200TA: verdict
At this price, we never expected the T200TA to be the last word in ergonomic design, but it’s a great little hybrid that does a cracking impression of a budget 11.6in laptop, and doesn’t make a bad tablet either. The display in particular is significantly better than the screens you’ll find on most budget laptops. The Atom processor and 2GB of RAM may not provide enough headroom for everyone’s needs, but as a cheap and versatile Windows device, the Transformer Book T200TA takes some beating.
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||305 x 200 x 26mm (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Atom Z3775|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
|SODIMM sockets total||0|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1366 x 768|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|USB ports (downstream)||1|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Pointing device type||Touchpad/touchscreen|
|Camera megapixel rating||5.0mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||10hr 40min|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.37|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 32-bit|
|OS family||Windows 8|
|Recovery method||Recovery partition|