laptops

Asus Transformer Book T100 Laptop Review

This pint-sized PC lacks power, but is high on portability, battery life

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If I told you there exists a full Windows 8 laptop/tablet hybrid for around $400, would you question my sanity? Maybe, but it's true: Asus' 10.1-inch Transformer Book T100 (MSRP $399.00) is all too real.

This fully-functional tablet comes with a rather excellent (if small) keyboard attachment, 64GB of hard drive space, 2GB of RAM, and Intel's new quad-core Bay Trail processor. Excited? So was I—at least until I tested this fresh-out-the-oven processor. While Asus' newest hybrid is incredibly functional and offers extraordinary battery life, Intel's Bay Trail chip is a snail.

Design & Screen

Highly-portable PC, cramped keyboard

Tablets come in many sizes, but popular opinion dictates that 10.1 inches is the maximum acceptable size for a truly portable tab. Asus' T100 nails that dimension, although its form-factor is decidedly yesteryear. How so? It's a black and gray slab of relatively thick plastic. An iPad this is not.

When snapped into the included keyboard attachment, though, the T100 makes for a very compact laptop. This attachment includes function and arrow keys, not to mention options for backlight and volume adjustment. My only complaint is how cramped it feels; I have smaller hands and I still made numerous typing mistakes. It's a shame, too, because this attachment is really a quality product. The sturdy keys have excellent travel when pressed. I eventually felt more comfortable with the keyboard—it just takes some getting used to.

The T100's form-factor is decidedly yesteryear. An iPad this is not.

Another cool feature? A tiny touchpad that isn't terrible! I've seen some real embarrassments this season, like the touchpad on the Sony VAIO Duo 13. While diminutive, Asus' touchpad works remarkably well—great news for touchscreen-ophobes.

One last bit on the keyboard attachment: You're not locked into a fixed position à la the Microsoft Surface Pro or the aforementioned Sony Vaio Duo 13. You can fix the screen to any angle you desire. Choose your own destiny!

While diminutive, Asus' touchpad works remarkably well.

If you want to muck up this Transformer Book's 1366 x 768 screen with your filthy fingerprints, rest assured that it's quite responsive. And while a true 1080p resolution (or greater) is always preferred, the T100's small size ensures that you won't notice any pixels even with its low resolution.

Unfortunately, colors are a little wonky, thanks to dull, muted blues. And even though the T100 achieves a respectable brightness, this hybrid can't compete with radiant sunlight. Seek the shade if you find yourself in this situation.

Performance

Power-users need not apply.

If you pay over a grand for a laptop and notice slow performance, you would (rightfully) be upset. But what if you pay a hair under $400? Are you allowed to rage over slow video conversion times and poor gaming frame rates?

To be blunt, the T100 has subpar performance in almost all areas. As a web-browsing, YouTube-watching, Facebook-updating device, this Asus is rock-solid. Seriously—for casual use, this convertible is fine.

But if you want to do anything more, you should look elsewhere. The raw computing performance on the T100 is the definition of sluggish. Here are some examples:

  • Running a complex Excel equation took 26.59 seconds. This same test only took 6.23 seconds on the Microsoft Surface Pro.
  • Processing multiple filters on a test image in Photoshop took 38.8 seconds. This same test only took 19.44 seconds on the Samsung ATIV Tab 7.
  • Converting a test video from one file format to another using Handbrake took over 6 minutes. On the Asus Taichi 21? Only 2 minutes and 31.92 seconds.

In terms of raw power, the Asus Transformer Book T100 cannot hold a candle to these other hybrid laptops. On the other hand, it costs a fraction as much.

As a web-browsing, YouTube-watching, Facebook-updating device, this Asus is rock-solid.

Oh, and do yourself a favor and don't even think about playing traditional PC games on the T100. Even with the settings lowered all the way in Portal 2—which came out in 2011—I witnessed lethargic performance.

Battery life is where this hybrid blows away the competition. The Asus T100 has some of the best battery life for a laptop—with the exception of the mid-2013 MacBook Air, of course. During our web-browser test, which involves dropping the brightness by 50% and reloading a webpage every 2 minutes, I recorded 11 hours of battery life. And just to make sure this result was legit, I left Portal 2 running with settings and brightness maxed—torturous on the T100. The result? About 4 hours. That's a borderline miracle.

Software

Windows 8.1, in all its pristine glory

Microsoft's latest update to Windows 8—simply called Windows 8.1—is a big deal, not to mention a big download. As luck would have it, this huge update is included from the get-go on the Asus Transformer Book T100.

Aside from the return of the fabled Start button and the ability to boot right to the desktop, not too much is different—that is, many of the changes in Windows 8.1 are either under the hood or optional. If you loved Windows 8 before, that won't change. But if you didn't like it before...

Asus didn't clutter up the interface with lots of bloatware.

At least Asus didn't clutter up the interface with lots of bloatware, or useless programs that just take up space. There's the Asus Live Update, which provides computer-specific patches and drivers. Asus also has its own cloud storage solution, called WebStorage. This is the company's version of Dropbox—Asus gives you 500GB cloud storage for a year, too. Not bad, but this service costs $99/year after the free period is over.

As with all Asus laptops I've seen this year, the company bundles great software for the touchpad. You'd think most companies would do this, but then a product like Samsung's ATIV Book 5 comes along and takes away your touchpad privileges. Thanks for being a shoulder to cry on, Asus.

The Verdict

A highly-portable computer—sans power

Asus' latest hybrid is an odd one. It doesn't have jaw-dropping performance results, nor is it the most sleek offering we've seen. In fact, the Transformer Book T100 has crummy performance results and it's way too plasticky.

I still like it.

Don't expect the world from a hybrid that sells for $400. The Asus Transformer isn't here to set the technology world on fire. For casual use, though, the T100 is a really solid deal. If games or graphic design are your forte, look elsewhere—and bring twice the cash with you. If Facebook, Netflix, and some ol' fashioned word processing are your only needs, then you can't go wrong with this little guy.

Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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Our editors review and recommend products to help you buy the stuff you need. If you make a purchase by clicking one of our links, we may earn a small share of the revenue. Our picks and opinions are independent from any business incentives.
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