Asus Transformer Book T100: First impressions

Summary:The T100 from Asus tries to be both a good tablet and solid laptop. It succeeds at both.

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Transformer Book T100 with keyboard dock (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet) Click to enlarge

I admit being harsh on Windows 8 hybrids when it comes to functionality. I firmly believe that hybrids must be good tablets first or else fail as a hybrid. If a tablet is not a good one then slapping a keyboard on it doesn't compensate for that deficiency.

I was anxious to get my hands on the Transformer Book T100 from Asus as it looked on the surface to be a good tablet. The sale price of $299 didn't hurt, either.

Having spent a number of hours with the T100 either in my hands or on the desk in front of me I can happily report that it is indeed a good tablet. It's also a decent laptop, or more accurately a netbook.

Transformer Book T100 hardware specs as reviewed:

  • Processor: 1.33 GHz Intel Atom Quad-core (Bay Trail)

  • Memory: 2GB

  • Display: 10.1-inch, 1366x768, IPS

  • Camera: 1.2MP

  • OS: Windows 8.1

  • Storage: 32GB SSD 

  • Ports: 1-USB 3.0 (dock), audio combo, microHDMI, microSD card reader, microUSB

  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi b/g/n; Bluetooth 4.0

  • Battery: 31Whr, 11 hours

  • Dimensions: Notebook: 10.4" x 6.7" x 0.93"; Tablet only: 10.4" x 6.7" x 0.41"

  • Weight: Notebook: 2.4lbs; Tablet only: 1.2lbs

It's a tablet

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Transformer Book T100 in hand(Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The 10.1-inch display of the T100 makes it a good size for working with Windows 8.1 on a tablet. The thin 1.2lb slate is comfortable to use in the hands for extended periods, even in portrait orientation. That's something that tablets often fail at doing well.

The Bay Trail technology drives the T100 nicely, it's has no lags even with 9 or 10 apps running at once. The Intel integrated graphics hardware runs the display smoothly. The overall performance of the T100 is very pleasing for such an inexpensive tablet.

The top of the tablet in standard landscape orientation has the power button on the left. On the right side of the slate is the microSD slot, microUSB port (used for charging and connecting peripherals), and a microHDMI port.

On the left side of the T100 is an unusual button that is likely a concession by Asus to keep the cost of the unit down. Up top is the standard volume up/down rocker and just below that is a button that replaces the Windows button normally found on the bezel of tablets.

The placement of the Windows button takes some getting used to, and it can be difficult to hit. It's at a slight angle and requires a bit of force to activate it and that can be problematic at times. It's not a deal breaker but it's annoying. It makes it very hard to take a screenshot (Windows+down volume), even with two hands.

The T100 is nice to use in the hands as a tablet, an important criteria. It feels comfortable in both landscape and portrait orientations, which is not always the case with tablets. It is particularly enjoyable to read books in the Kindle app in portrait mode.

Return of the netbook

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Transformer Book T100 keyboard (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The Transformer Book T100 ships with a keyboard dock in the box which turns the tablet into a netbook. You probably thought the netbook was dead but little hybrids like the T100 have brought them back to life.

The dock for the T100 is not powered, nor does it have a second battery inside as do other hybrids. This keeps both the price and the weight of the device at low levels.

The tablet easily pops into the dock, effectively turning it into a laptop. It’s smaller than some hybrids due to the 10.1-inch display, and the keyboard is a bit cramped as a result. Touch typing is possible after a brief orientation period, so while it’s not the best hybrid keyboard it is passable.

There is a small touchpad under the keys as expected, and it works fine after you change the settings. Some owners are complaining online of erratic touchpad behavior, and my experience echoed that.

There’s an easy fix for the touchpad woes and the following should be the first thing new owners of the T100 do with their device. Go to the desktop and find the icon for the Asus Smart Gesture utility. Double-click it to run and then go to the “Edge Gesture” section at the top. Deactivate all three edge gestures, which for me was causing the erratic behavior. I also deactivated all 3-finger gestures on the “General Gesture” section since I don’t use those. My touchpad has worked fine with this fix.

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Transformer Book T100 -- like a laptop (Image: James Kendrick/ZDNet)

The T100 plays a brief chime when docking and undocking the tablet, a nice confirmation that the tablet is seated properly. Once docked, the device sleeps/wakes when the “laptop” lid is opened/closed, just like any notebook. The tablet is undocked by hitting the button near the hinge on the keyboard and gently lifting the slate out of the dock.

The dock has a USB 3.0 jack on the side, the only extra port. The charging port is the microUSB on the tablet. That brings up a beef I have with Asus. The T100 was shipped with the battery totally dry, making it unusable until a sufficient charge to the battery had been executed.

There’s nothing worse than getting a new device and having to charge it for 8 hours out of the box before you can use it. It also makes me question if Asus is doing any burn-in testing on units before they go out the door. It seems that’s unlikely with the unit shipping dead in the water. That’s my take on it, anyway.

Conclusion

The Asus Transformer Book T100 is a plastic hybrid that has the latest Bay Trail technology from Intel inside. As a result, the performance is quite good, as is the battery life (11 hours). It is a decent tablet that can fill in as a laptop in a pinch with the included keyboard dock.

The T100 is reasonably priced (writer’s system was $299) and should be considered by those wanting a Windows 8 tablet.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive

  • Good performance with Bay Trail technology

  • Battery life (11 hours)

Cons:

  • All plastic

  • Windows button not in the usual place

  • Ships completely discharged

  • Erratic touchpad (until settings changed)

  • 3-foot charging cable is too short

Topics: Mobility, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

About

James Kendrick has been using mobile devices since they weighed 30 pounds, and has been sharing his insights on mobile technology for almost that long. Prior to joining ZDNet, James was the Founding Editor of jkOnTheRun, a CNET Top 100 Tech Blog that was acquired by GigaOM in 2008 and is now part of that prestigious tech network. James' w... Full Bio

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