Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300LA
Cheap, reasonably powerful and with great battery life, Asus' Transformer Book Flip seems to have it all
Intel’s 14nm Broadwell architecture – the die-shrink of Haswell’s 22n process – is here, and with it the promise of ever-greater power and battery life combinations. The Asus Transformer TP300LA may not be the first Intel Core Broadwell laptop we’ve seen (that honour went to the Asus Zenbook UX303LA), but it’s the first we've seen to sport a Core i5 from the range. See also: The best laptops to buy in 2015
The part in question is Intel's Broadwell-U, Core i5-5200 processor running at 2.2GHz, with 6GB of DDR3 RAM. The processor has a TDP of only 15W, so despite a strong finish in our benchmarks of 0.65, it ran for an impressive 11hrs 53mins in our light-use battery test, which involves dimming the screen and simulating gentle web browsing until the battery is depleted. It lasted two hours 45 minutes in our heavy use benchmark, in which the screen is set to its brightest and the processor taxed until the battery is exhausted.
Elsewhere, the mechanical 500GB hard disk is neither the last word in capacity or performance (the 5,200rpm Toshiba unit has a buffer of only 8MB), but provides reasonable space for normal work. If things get tight, the Transformer comes with a free subscription to Asus WebStorage, 5GB of cloud space hidden behind the most dreadful user interface since Microsoft Bob.
However, the TP300LA's combination of core components is very usable for games if you’re prepared to sacrifice some effects and a little detail. Running our Crysis benchmark, at the screen’s native 1,366 x 768 resolution at low detail settings, produced a very playable frame rate of 45fps. Running the benchmark at the same resolution but with more detail scored an average frame rate of a barely playable 31fps. The integrated HD Graphics 5500 GPU is clearly up to the odd bit of light entertainment.
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300LA review: design
The Transformer’s chassis itself isn’t as new as the internals, but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The styling owes more than a nod to Apple’s machines: it's all bevelled edges and metallic finishes, with a black Scrabble-tile keyboard sitting in a slight recess.
Distinctive it isn't, but it’s smart enough for work. The only hint that the Transformer is a convertible laptop is the double-action hinge at the bottom of the screen, which allows the display to fold backwards on itself. The mechanism is sturdy, but the wobble between hinge and display was slightly exaggerated compared to non-convertible laptops.
At 1.75kg, the Transformer is arguably too heavy to cradle for long periods as a tablet, but it isn't too cumbersome for browsing the web from your sofa. Fold it closed and the metal lid feels robust, and the base offers just a little flex. This is no tank, but feels like it should survive reasonably inattentive treatment.
The TP300LA is well appointed for ports as well. A full-sized HDMI port and a unified 3.5mm jack for audio in and out join a pair of USB 3 ports on the right-hand edge. The left-hand edge is just as busy: it has another USB port, which is disappointingly only USB 2, plus an SD card slot, and volume and power buttons. There's also a dedicated Windows button along the same edge for bringing up Windows 8’s homescreen in a flash; we're not convinced this is such a great idea, though, and found it rather easy to press by accident when moving the laptop around on a desk.
Asus Transformer Book Flip RO300LA review: display and ergonomics
The 13.3in screen is a mixed bag. The 1,366 x 768 resolution provides plenty of workspace. However, there’s a big gap between the touch-sensitive surface and the display itself, which means there’s a noticeable amount of glare.
Horizontal viewing angles are less than ideal, and the touchscreen means there's a subtle-but-disappointingly grainy texture to the screen. Our technical tests provided more woe. The Transformer Book Flip scored 139cd/m2, which is incredibly dim, even for a budget laptop. For comparison, the HP Stream 11, which costs only £180, has a screen that measures 261cd/m2.
Testing for contrast produced rather better results, but while 220:1 is just about acceptable, the Transformer fares poorly when compared with rivals. To demonstrate that the folding chassis doesn’t have to mean compromises, the 11.6in Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 2 has a screen that scored significantly better in our tests.
When it comes to colour performance, the Transformer Book Flip put in a terrible show, covering a mere 67.6% of the sRGB colour space, and gaining a very disappointing average Delta E score of 10.22, with greyscales taking on an unnatural blue tinge.
The keyboard is merely middle-of-the-road, too. The keys have a reasonable amount of travel but a slightly spongy-feeling base makes typing dissatisfying: we've used many keyboards better than this. The trackpad is reasonable, although it, too, would benefit from a slightly sharper click. Gestures – such as two-fingered scrolling up and down, or a two-fingered tap to produce a right-click menu – work well.
Asus Transformer Book Flip RO300LA review: verdict
The Transformer Book Flip represents another promising outing from Broadwell: the balance of value, performance and battery life is excellent, with the Flip scoring a little above average on all counts. Build quality is generally good, too, although the ergonomics need a tweak to make it really stand out.
Above all, though, the screen needs a rethink: affordable, convertible laptops such as the Lenovo Yoga 2, and indeed Asus' very own Transformer Book T100, demonstrate that top-flight convertibles don’t need to compromise on display performance, and while the Transformer represents Intel’s latest and greatest at a tempting price, it doesn't tick all the boxes.cd