Asus Transformer Book T100 review: The low-cost hybrid that started it all
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.
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%.
|Warranty||1 yr return to base|
|Dimensions||263 x 178 (tablet, 171) x 24 (tablet,11mm) (WDH)|
Processor and memory
|Processor||Intel Atom Z7340|
|SODIMM sockets free||0|
Screen and video
|Resolution screen horizontal||1,366|
|Resolution screen vertical||768|
|Resolution||1366 x 768|
|VGA (D-SUB) outputs||0|
|Replacement battery price inc VAT||£0|
|802.11 draft-n support||yes|
|Integrated 3G adapter||no|
|Wireless hardware on/off switch||no|
|Wireless key-combination switch||yes|
|PC Card slots||0|
|PS/2 mouse port||no|
|9-pin serial ports||0|
|Optical S/PDIF audio output ports||0|
|Electrical S/PDIF audio ports||0|
|3.5mm audio jacks||1|
|SD card reader||yes|
|Memory Stick reader||no|
|MMC (multimedia card) reader||no|
|Smart Media reader||no|
|Compact Flash reader||no|
|Pointing device type||touchpad, touchscreen|
|Audio chipset||Realtek I2S|
|Speaker location||tablet, bottom edge|
|Hardware volume control?||yes|
|Camera megapixel rating||1.2mp|
Battery and performance tests
|Battery life, light use||8hr 49min|
|3D performance (crysis) low settings||20fps|
|3D performance setting||Low|
|Overall Real World Benchmark score||0.32|
Operating system and software
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 32-bit|
|OS family||Windows 8|
|Software supplied||Microsoft Office 2013 Home and Student|