- ✓Core i7 CPU
- ✓750GB hard drive
- ✓Multimodal use options
- ✓Ethernet connection
- ✕Large and heavy
- ✕Moderate screen resolution
- ✕Middling battery life
- ✕Some build quality issues
Asus has a strong pedigree in the multimodal notebooks. Indeed, its early offerings, including the Android-based Transformer Pad range of removable-keyboard devices, arguably played an important role in kick-starting the current wave of convertible laptops. The Transformer Book Flip TP550LA is a 15.6-inch Windows 8.1 system offering a screen that rotates through a full 360 degrees. It is attractively priced for a touchscreen notebook at £583.33 (ex. VAT).
The Transformer Book Flip's black and silver livery has a certain appeal. The black lid has a faux brushed-metal appearance, and on the inside the keyboard surround has a dull metallic sheen. However, despite appearances, both parts are in fact made from plastic. The base is solid, but there's quite a lot of flex in the thick lid section. We recommend a sleeve or lots of padding in your travel bag.
Having said that, you're unlikely to want to carry this notebook very often or very far, regardless of how well it's protected. It's weighty at 2.6kg, and at 38cm wide by 26.1cm deep by 2.72cm thick, you'll need quite a large bag.
Asus has done what it can to make the Transformer Book Flip TP550LA look a little thinner than it is. The base section is sharply angled so that only about 9mm of its 20mm height is readily visible. The four corners are rounded and the back left and right edges curve downwards, adding a little style to what would otherwise be a rather boxy design.
The screen rotates through 360 degrees so it can be laid down flat on the base, facing outwards. The hinge will hold the screen at any angle you require on the way to fully flat until it reaches about 315 degrees, at which point the screen's weight becomes too much for the hinge and it falls flat of its own accord. When used in 'tent' mode the notebook is surprisingly stable on a desk.
Unfortunately we found the Transformer Book Flip's sheer size and weight made it unsuitable for many of its potential uses. We found it unwieldy to lift and manoeuvre to flip the screen, and there's no way we'd want to hold it in one or both hands for long in true tablet mode.
The screen's 1,366-by-768 pixel resolution is slightly irritating on a 15.6-inch screen as it limits how much you can see at once. You can get two documents open on-screen simultaneously, but we'd still prefer a higher resolution. Brightness and viewing angles are both good, although the screen's reflective finish won't be to everyone's liking. Touch responsiveness is very good, and comes into its own when using the Windows 8.1's Start screen.
Asus includes its Splendid app, which allows you to switch between three preset display modes -- normal, theatre and vivid -- and to tweak the colour temperature manually using a sliding panel. It's not as flexible as the version of Splendid offered on Asus's tablets and smartphones, but it's still effective.
All that noted, the Transformer Book Flip should function well for delivering multimedia presentations, and its sound output is above average, with reasonable bass tones and plenty of volume.
The wide bezel all around the 15.6-inch screen looks out of place when you're working in notebook mode, but should you flip the screen through its full range and lay it flat on the keyboard to work in tablet mode, the bezel allows you to grip the notebook without accidentally activating the screen.
The broad bezel is mirrored by a wide base, allowing space for a separate number pad to the right of the main keyboard. Its keys are narrower than the main keys, but large enough to use comfortably. There's a nice Fn key combination on the number pad's Enter key that calls up the Windows calculator. The keyboard is not backlit.
The key action is a little rickety and there is some flex in the keyboard that, on our review sample, was more pronounced on the right than the left. The touchpad is responsive to cursor movements, clicks and multitouch gestures.
The chassis size means there's room for an optical drive on the right side, along with two USB 2.0 ports. A third USB (3.0) port sits on the left edge alongside an HDMI port, and SD card reader and a 3.5mm audio-out jack. Volume buttons and a Windows button are also on this edge, enabling easy access when you're working in non-standard notebook modes. There's also an Ethernet port at the back of the left edge; this RJ-45 connector has a well constructed lower hinge that allows the connector to fit into the laptop's chamfered edge. Asus provides a HDMI-to-VGA converter cable.
Disappointingly, wi-fi is limited to 802.11b/g/n, so if you need the latest 802.11ac this isn't the laptop for you. A conventional hard drive provides a generous 750GB of storage, while the 1.8GHz-2.4GHz Core i7-4500U processor with 8GB of RAM keeps everything responsive. This isn't a silent laptop, though: our review unit emitted a constant low-level buzzing that we found distracting.
Performance & battery life
Microsoft's Windows Experience Index (WEI) benchmarks (out of 9.9) shows the Transformer Book Flip to be a relatively strong in terms of processor and memory speed, but held back by its integrated Intel HD Graphics 4400 GPU and 5,400rpm hard drive:
Memory (RAM) 7.5
Gaming graphics 5.5
Primary hard disk 5.9
This is more than enough horsepower for mainstream business and consumer workloads, but anything challenging in the graphics or disk department may cause the system to struggle.
Battery life could prove an issue. We were unable to get through a standard working day off a full charge of the 38Wh lithium-polymer battery, achieving between five and six hours of use depending on our mix of browsing, media playback and document creation/editing work. In our power consumption tests, we got battery life estimates ranging between 7.4h and 1.8h, depending on the mix of workload and screen brightness. If you need reliable all-day (>8h) off-grid battery life, you'll need to look elsewhere.
The Transformer Book Flip TP550LA is a large-screen multimode notebook whose Core i7 processor and reasonable price are added attractions. Bear in mind, though, that it's heavy and unwieldy (especially in tablet mode), screen resolution could be higher, and battery life isn't great.
|Bundled Services||ASUS WebStorage|
|Operating System||Windows 8.1 64-bit Edition|
|Processor / Chipset|
|CPU||Intel Core i7 (4th Gen) 4510U / 2 GHz|
|Max Turbo Speed||3.1 GHz|
|Number of Cores||Dual-Core|
|Features||Intel Turbo Boost Technology 2.0|
|Installed Size||4 MB|
|Memory Speed||1600 MHz|
|Configuration Features||1 x 4 GB + 4 GB (soldered)|
|Installed Size||8 GB|
|LCD Backlight Technology||LED backlight|
|Image Aspect Ratio||16:9|
|Monitor Features||ASUS Splendid Video Intelligence Technology, Zero Bright Dot, glare|
|Touchscreen||yes (10-point multi-touch)|
|Diagonal Size (metric)||39.6 cm|
|Display Resolution Abbreviation||HD|
|Audio & Video|
|Graphics Processor||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|Sound||Stereo speakers, microphone|
|Features||ASUS AudioWizard, ASUS SonicMaster Lite, MaxxAudio|
|Spindle Speed||5400 rpm|
|Features||ASUS Smart Gesture technology|
|Wireless Protocol||802.11b/g/n, Bluetooth 4.0|
|Wired Protocol||Gigabit Ethernet|
|CPU Type||Core i7|
|Clock Speed||2 GHz|
|Drive Type||no optical drive|
|Supported Flash Memory||SD Memory Card|
|Run Time (Up To)||5 hour(s)|
|Input||AC 120/230 V (50/60 Hz)|
|Output||65 Watt, 19 V, 3.42 A|
|Connections & Expansion|
2 x USB 2.0
Headphone/microphone combo jack
|Memory Card Reader||Yes (SD Card)|
|Product Line||ASUS Transformer Book Flip TP500LA|
|Mechanical Design||360° flip design|
|Hard Drive Capacity||1 TB|
|Data Link Protocol||Bluetooth 4.0, Ethernet, Fast Ethernet, Gigabit Ethernet, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, IEEE 802.11n|
|Features||InstantOn, hard drive password|
|Included Accessories||power adapter|
|Diagonal Size||15.6 in|
|Dimensions & Weight|
|Type||1 year warranty|
|Operating System / Software|
|OS Provided: Type||Windows 8.1 64-bit Edition|
|Graphics Processor||Intel HD Graphics 4400|
|Graphics Processor Series||Intel HD Graphics|
|Service & Support|
|Type||1 year warranty|
|Service & Support Details|
|Type||accidental damage coverage, limited warranty|
|Full Contract Period||1 year|