Asus Transformer Book T100 review: The low-cost hybrid that started it all

£349
Price when reviewed

The Asus Transformer Book T100 was the device that led the low-cost Windows charge, but time – and technology – have marched on. Since its launch, several generations of low-cost Windows cloudbooks, and Google’s Chromebooks, have transformed the laptop marketplace completely – a £300 ultraportable is no longer something to get excited about. If you’re looking for the best alternatives to buy, then click here to peruse our guide to the best laptops and hybrids that you can buy right now.

Alternatively, feel free to scroll down and read our review of the original Transformer Book T100, the affordable hybrid which started it all. If you can pick it up dirt cheap on Ebay, or second-hand, it may still be worth snapping up.

We were sad to see the netbook sink into obscurity, so it was with some pleasure that we unpacked Asus’ latest low-cost Windows device, the Transformer Book T100. Just like its Android-powered namesakes, the Transformer Book T100 partners a 10.1in tablet with a matching keyboard dock – the difference is that it has a quad-core Intel Atom processor and runs Windows 8.1. The big news, though, is that it costs only £349. See also: The best laptops of 2015

If your memories of netbooks are of chubby, miniaturised laptops with glacial performance, then be assured – this Asus is nothing of the sort. In the flesh, the Transformer Book T100 isn’t only surprisingly petite; it’s even moderately attractive. The dark-grey plastics of the base are imprinted with a fake brushed-metal finish, and the tablet’s glossy plastic lid mimics Asus’ top-flight Zenbooks with circular patterns spinning around the Asus logo.

On its own, the 10.1in tablet weighs a mere 550g, and measures 11mm thick, and while there isn’t the premium-feeling build quality of the best Android tablets, or Apple’s iPad Air, it isn’t unforgiveably low-rent. There is some give in the plastic rear when you press on it, but it feels solid enough in normal use. Slot it back into the keyboard base and the two latches hold it firmly, only letting go once the release catch on the hinge is pressed all the way in. Together, the pair weighs 1.07kg.

Blazing a trail

The Asus’ design is nothing revolutionary, but the hardware inside certainly is: it marks the debut of Intel’s latest Atom platform, Bay Trail. This is big news, and perhaps the biggest development for the Atom platform since its inception – Intel has promised dramatic performance improvements.

At the heart of Bay Trail lies the new 22nm Silvermont microarchitecture. This introduces a quad-core design and out-of-order execution, as well as support for USB 3, DDR3 RAM and 64-bit operating systems. Graphics performance promises to take a leap forwards, too, thanks to the presence of a cut-down Ivy Bridge-class GPU.

Asus Transformer Book T100

The Transformer Book T100 is powered by a mid-range Bay Trail CPU, the quad-core, 1.33GHz Atom Z3740, which is capable of running at burst frequencies of up to 1.86GHz. Although the Atom Z3740 supports up to 4GB of RAM, Asus has focused on keeping the Transformer Book T100 affordable – there’s a basic 2GB of DDR3 RAM and 32GB of eMMC flash storage. Nothing fancy, in other words.

In everyday use, however, the new face of Intel’s Atom brings as dramatic a transformation as you could hope for. Compared to our experiences of Windows 8 on the previous generation of devices (Atom Clover Trail), the Asus is a veritable speed demon. Applications load far more energetically; web browsing is slick and smooth; and the overall experience remains impressively responsive, right up to the point where the limitations of the 2GB of RAM start to show.

Full speed ahead

In benchmark testing, the Asus left Clover Trail-powered rivals far behind. Where the 1.8Ghz Atom Z2760 of the Dell Latitude 10 scored 0.22 in our Real World Benchmarks, the Asus racked up a result of 0.32, which is more than 45% faster. The biggest improvement was in the Media element of our benchmarks, which tests a device’s ability to encode MP3 files, render HD video and edit image files in Photoshop. Where the dual-core, Hyper-Threaded CPU in the Dell scored 0.18, the Asus’ quad-core CPU sped ahead with 0.35 – an improvement of 94%.

Details

Warranty

Warranty1 yr return to base

Physical specifications

Dimensions263 x 178 (tablet, 171) x 24 (tablet,11mm) (WDH)
Weight1.070kg

Processor and memory

ProcessorIntel Atom Z7340
RAM capacity2.00GB
Memory typeDDR3
SODIMM sockets free0

Screen and video

Screen size10.1in
Resolution screen horizontal1,366
Resolution screen vertical768
Resolution1366 x 768
VGA (D-SUB) outputs0
HDMI outputs1
S-Video outputs0
DVI-I outputs0
DVI-D outputs0
DisplayPort outputs0

Drives

Capacity32GB
Replacement battery price inc VAT£0

Networking

802.11a supportyes
802.11b supportyes
802.11g supportyes
802.11 draft-n supportyes
Integrated 3G adapterno
Bluetooth supportyes

Other Features

Wireless hardware on/off switchno
Wireless key-combination switchyes
Modemno
ExpressCard34 slots0
ExpressCard54 slots0
PC Card slots0
FireWire ports0
PS/2 mouse portno
9-pin serial ports0
Parallel ports0
Optical S/PDIF audio output ports0
Electrical S/PDIF audio ports0
3.5mm audio jacks1
SD card readeryes
Memory Stick readerno
MMC (multimedia card) readerno
Smart Media readerno
Compact Flash readerno
xD-card readerno
Pointing device typetouchpad, touchscreen
Audio chipsetRealtek I2S
Speaker locationtablet, bottom edge
Hardware volume control?yes
Integrated microphone?yes
Integrated webcam?yes
Camera megapixel rating1.2mp
TPMyes
Fingerprint readerno
Smartcard readerno
Carry caseno

Battery and performance tests

Battery life, light use8hr 49min
3D performance (crysis) low settings20fps
3D performance settingLow
Overall Real World Benchmark score0.32
Responsiveness score0.44
Media score0.35
Multitasking score0.18

Operating system and software

Operating systemWindows 8.1 32-bit
OS familyWindows 8
Software suppliedMicrosoft Office 2013 Home and Student

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