Asus Transformer Book T100: First impressions

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

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Talkback

47 comments
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  • Is

    All plastic a fair con for a $300 hybrid device?
    For that price I can't say personally that I would have any other expectation at all, especially when compared in cost to the Android powered Transformer line.
    Boothy_p
    • ASUS Warranty Status

      Having problems with your ASUS device? Find the direct link to the ASUS live technical support chat at:

      www.computerwarrantylinks.com
      computerwarrantylinks
  • Nice review

    I do agree with you that this is a great example of a tablet and notebook done right on both ends. It is a netbook in size only as the performance is really quick and the HD4000 graphics is quite capable for a tablet, even if the clock speed is turned down on it.

    I've said a few times that something like this can serve an average users needs for both a tablet and a notebook computer without issue.

    For the price I can't think of a better purchase.
    Emacho
    • Desktop?

      One of the biggest boons with my first generation Windows 8 tablet, the ATIV SmartPC 500 was the desktop dock. This allows it to sit on a desk and plug into desktop peripherals and a cabled Ethernet network. It also hold the tablet at a usable position to be used as a secondary screen on at the desk.

      Is there a desktop dock option for the Asus?
      wright_is
      • I don't think there is a docking station for the T100

        There might be some generic docking stations that work with it, but again I am not sure.
        Emacho
      • Docking solution

        You could always use an HDMI monitor (using the microHDMI port) and either USB or Bluetooth keyboard and mouse to make this work as a desktop. I just wish there was a connection for an AC adapter, or at least an additional battery in the keyboard dock. It would be nice if ASUS would offer an enhanced dock for this.
        mlemasney
  • Think I might wait for Price on T300 to come down ...

    seems like 13.3" form factor and I5 may be more what I need. I would think the T100 would be pretty similar to the HP Envy x2 that you already own James ?
    jkohut
    • I had the same HP Envy x2 and now the T100

      The Envy had better build quality, but was 11.5 inches. I prefer the 10.1 inch screen size for portability.

      However, the processor in the T100 is much much faster.
      Emacho
      • Thanks for the feedback.

        Helpful to have that as a comparison as James used to love the x2.
        jkohut
  • Display resolution enough?

    Is 1366x768 enough resolution for a 10.1 inch tablet display? That's a pixel density of only 158 ppi in contrast to my 2012 Nexus 7, which has a pixel density of 216 ppi. I'm not certain I'd want to go any less than that.
    nwtim
    • Hard To See A Difference

      I would think a ppi difference of only 58 will be hard to tell even with the two screens next to each other.
      rmark@...
    • snipping tool

      Easiest way to grab screen shots on later versions of Windows
      mswift@...
      • I sort of agree

        if you want a specific area of the screen, then it is great, but in tablet mode, it isn't as easy as when you have a screen and keyboard. I certainly use it by preference in desktop mode.

        The quick button press is a lot easier, you can then cut out the bit you need.
        wright_is
    • About right...

      I've got an 11.6" Windows 8 tablet with 1366x768 resolution and it is about right. Most text looks clean and sharp (especially compared to iOS and Mac devices).

      We also had a Galaxy Note 10.1 2014 Edition here and it looked nice, but just reading the screen, I didn't see any immediate advantage or have any device envy. For surfing and normal work, the resolution is fine. If you are going to be working with high resolution images, it would make a difference.

      It also makes desktop mode on the go a lot more usable than a FullHD or QWHD display.
      wright_is
      • Can you explain about the resolution?

        Why does It make desktop mode on the go a lot more usable than a FullHD or QWHD display?
        I've been weighing between this and dell venue 11. the two things I like about venue 11 are that it has 1080P screen and a slightly faster cpu.
        xjq194949
        • Size of buttons

          the size of the buttons is much smaller on a higher resolution screen. Not a problem if you are using a mouse or trackpad, but more difficult if you are using a finger.

          You can use Windows settings to boost the size of objects (most people seem to recommend 125% or 150% for full HD). This is much the same as what a Retina display does on an iPad or MacBook Pro in default mode.

          Although Microsoft defined this functionality back in the 90s, many programs (including such big names as Adobe Create Suite) ignore these settings, making them hard to use on high ppi screens. This shouldn't be a problem for well written applications or App Store apps.

          There is also a bit of hassle with adding second displays, although I believe 8.1 allows you to set up scaling for individual monitors now, so once you have set it up once, it should then work every time you plug in a second display.
          wright_is
    • That is generaly a valid

      argument when choosing exclusively by numbers. But in this case I must admit, display is very good and not showing any signs of inferiority to denser screens. All I can say is, at this price the screen is superb. It's nicer and sharper than my 22" Dell U2312, better than my Lattitude X2 screen, better than HP 635 screen, better than HP 2712 screen... And not as good as my Lumia 920.
      So, sometimes I wonder, if all this pixels are really valid argument or there is something more that makes a display good.
      Andrej.G.
  • User comment

    I chose this tablet for my wife, to use mainly as a tablet, but also so she had the same version of OS in her tablet as in her HO desktop. As a Real Estate Broker, she just expects everything to work and it's my job to make it so. It's a surprise Christmas present and I have only found time to sneak the box open while she's not looking, but I note one error in everyone's (even reviewer) comment about battery charge state when received.

    The instructions in my box essentially said "DO NOT RUN OFF BATTERY" until it is fully charged after 8 hours or so. Tablet works just fine when new out of the box, plugged in! And battery charges while you are using/testing/etc.

    Considering the various levels of charge I have encountered when first getting a battery operated device out of its box, I far prefer plugging in and leaving them charge overnight, before relying on any battery in an "away from home power" mobile operation.

    Of course, if you want my wife calling you nasty names on a cell phone while working a property sale, please feel free to drop by for an experience of your life.

    colcbp
    chazal
    • I remember

      the first 15 years or so of mobile phones and laptops (late 80s and 90s).

      They always came with instructions to charge them for between 12 and 24 hours (depending on model) before using them away from a power socket. I guess we have become complacent over the years, with devices being delivered with enough juice to get going, without ever thinking about properly charging and conditioning the battery to ensure it lasts.
      wright_is
  • Asus T100

    I have had mine about a week now and I like it very much. I just hooked up my printer to it wireless and it worked quite well. I haven't really found anything I don't like about it so far. Just takes time getting acquainted with it.
    marvinmckinley