Asus Transformer Book T100 review: The low-cost hybrid that started it all
The increase in graphics performance is harder to gauge, since our Crysis benchmark never worked on Clover Trail hardware, but the Asus exceeded expectations. With Crysis running in Low quality settings and at a native resolution of 1,366 x 768, the Bay Trail GPU managed an almost playable average of 20fps. Knocking the resolution down a touch to 1,280 x 720 was enough to buoy the average to 23fps. Set your sights on less demanding games, and modest screen resolution and detail settings, and the Asus will cope far better with PC games than you’d expect of a half-kilo tablet.
Battery life remains as good as we’ve come to expect from Atom devices. In our light-use battery test, which dims the screen brightness to 75cd/m[sup]2[/sup], switches off Wi-Fi and scrolls through a selection of web pages, the Asus lasted 9hrs 6mins. That doesn’t come close to the Dell Latitude 10, which lasted 12hrs 35mins with its standard battery, but it’s worth bearing in mind that the Dell weighs a more portly 658g. Sadly, in contrast to Asus’ Android Transformer tablets, the T100’s keyboard dock doesn’t sport a second battery.
Long live the netbook
For all its potential, it’s reassuring to find that Bay Trail has materialised in such a sensibly designed device. For what it’s designed to do – that is, deliver a workable halfway house between tablet and compact laptop – it’s a cracking piece of kit.
As a tablet, we’ve no qualms with the Transformer Book T100 at all. The 10.1in display isn’t stunningly good, but the 1,366 x 768 resolution is a good choice for the screen size, and the IPS panel has wide viewing angles. Brightness tops out at a modest 240cd/m2, but the contrast ratio of 889:1 is excellent, and ensures that there’s plenty of detail in images and movies. Colour reproduction isn’t the match of pricier devices – skin tones look yellowish, and colours lack boldness – but these are minor quibbles given the asking price.
Slot the T100 into its keyboard dock, and it brings back all manner of warm, fuzzy netbook memories. The Scrabble-tile keys are small, but there’s a pleasing amount of resistance to each keystroke, and while we’d prefer a wider right-Shift key, it’s something we could get used to.
The buttonless touchpad beneath is similarly miniaturised, but it works well and supports edge-swipes, pinch-to-zoom and two-fingered scrolling, as well as two-fingered taps to emulate right-clicks. Our only complaint is a minor one: clicking the pad is noisy, so you’ll want to resort to dabbing the pad unless you fancy enraging everyone in your vicinity.
Asus has included a fine range of features for the money. The tablet charges via the micro-USB connection, but there’s also a micro-HDMI output, and a microSD slot for expanding the frugal 32GB of storage. There’s also dual-band 802.11n wireless, Bluetooth 4, a TPM2 security module and a passable 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera.
Meanwhile, the dock adds a single USB 3 port, which is a most welcome addition. Offloading files from the main 32GB system drive is painless as a result.
By far the most attractive feature, however, is the bundled software. Somehow, Asus has found room in the £349 budget to provide a copy of Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013. For many people, that will be enough to turn the Asus from being a highly tempting purchase, into an absolutely essential one.
While Microsoft is still trying to convince everyone that Windows RT devices are the spiritual successor to the netbook, Intel has made its feelings clear – ARM isn’t welcome to a piece of the Windows action.
The new Atom platform delivers a dramatic performance increase, enough power for casual gaming and the same great battery life, all at a price point that’s allowed Asus to sell the Transformer Book T100 for only £349. In our opinion, this is the death knell for Windows RT.
As for the Transformer Book T100 itself, it’s everything you could ask from a compact, go-anywhere hybrid, and it’s ludicrously affordable. Snap one up while you can – we predict these will sell out fast.
|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|