The variety of 10- and 11-inch tablets and notebooks on the market deliver an even wider range of performance, weight, and price among the available devices. On one end, we have the Surface Pro 2 and Lenovo Yoga 11S that, once all said and done, ring in around $900 with keyboard and full Windows 8.1 capabilities. Alternatively, options for a 10- or 11-inch notebook for $500 or less are decidedly underwhelming, with most featuring short battery lives and bulky designs. But the hybrid or “2-in-1″ market seems to be paving its way, introducing budget-friendly, compact, portable, and capable devices.
The Asus Transformer Book T100 became one of the most popular purchases on Black Friday and Cyber Monday of 2013, with the 64GB model priced at an appealing $300 with full Windows 8.1 and the Microsoft Office Suite. So two months later, does the Asus T100 live up to the hype?
The Asus Transformer Book T100 comes equipped with Windows 8.1 as well as the full Microsoft Office 2013 Suite. Right off the bat, the Transformer Book comes with a $139.99 value worked into its already low price point, which was $300 for the 64GB during the holidays. Now the 64GB model can be found for around $400 and the 32GB version comes in at $350 at Best Buy.
The Asus Transformer Book T100 stands out from other hybrid devices because even at such a low price point, it runs full Windows 8.1. Comparable devices, such as the Microsoft Surface 2 or Lenovo Yoga 11 both run Windows RT and cost $549 and $399 respectively. Not to mention, the Surface 2 doesn’t even come with the keyboard, so add on another $150. Price point aside, it’s also no secret that Windows RT leaves much to be desired, with a lack of compatible apps and functionality, so having Windows 8.1 helps fill in those gaps.
In terms of performance, the Asus Transformer Book T100 really shines when considering it’s really a tablet with a detachable keyboard dock, and not a traditional notebook. It’s easy to forget it’s a tablet when docked into its keyboard, and the device handles basic productivity software (like Microsoft Office) with ease. Sure, users won’t be playing the latest and greatest games on the Baytrail Atom processor with only 2GB of RAM and integrated graphics, but you can certainly engage in casual gaming, web browsing, media streaming, and word processing with no problems. The team here at NBR hasn’t experienced any lag that couldn’t be fixed by killing some apps running in the background, and T100 hasn’t crashed yet.
The keyboard dock comes with the device, which sweetens the deal even further. The keyboard dock turns this device into a legitimate notebook, allowing users to use it on their laps. The display has a decent range of motion, and the only con is that it can be a little top heavy when extended all the way back. Otherwise, it gets the job done, and users will quickly acclimate to the smaller keyboard after a little bit of use. Even after a month of use, the tablet clicks in and out of the dock easily, and it hasn’t become loose or shaky.
The trackpad can be a little finicky, but NBR was able to fix this by disabling most of the gestures under the Asus Gesture settings. While gestures may be useful in some cases, in the case of the Transformer Book, it caused the track pad to be less responsive, and most gestures wouldn’t even register correctly. The trackpad comes in handy when using the tablet in desktop mode, since having the keyboard makes it feel like a notebook. And it complements the touch screen, especially when navigating desktop programs or trying to switch between open windows. It would be interesting to see whether or not Asus offers different keyboard docking stations down the line as an additional purchase. Most of the team here at NBR felt it would be nice to have the option to get one with a backlit keyboard.
The only notable issues with the Asus Transformer Book T100 are related to the tablet’s cheap plastic chassis. Users will notice that the power button is finicky at best, and in NBR’s experience, the power button responds best when pushed on its left side with the tip of a fingernail. And more often than not, it will take a few tries before it responds.
NBR staffers had the misfortune of getting the power button jammed under the plastic casing around it, causing the unit to stay powered down. Upon calling Asus, a rep claimed it was “physical damage,” even though the (widely reported) issue arose from the tablet’s build. It was still under the 1 year warranty, but we were quoted a whopping $99 bucks for parts, labor, and shipping; all for one measly button.
Luckily, during the call, our editors weres able to get the power button to spring back out using the tip of a carefully placed safety pin. Considering the $99 bucks for something so simple, users might want to look into third party warranties to protect against any “physical damage”. If a power button will cost $99, we’d hate to think what anything more detrimental to the device would cost users. It’s an especially hard fee to swallow when considering how cheap the tablet was in the first place. But companies such as Squaretrade will insure the device for around $40 bucks – and they also run discounts pretty regularly – so the one time fee of $40 to cover all accidental damage is already cheaper than the $99 bucks we were quoted to pry a power button from out underneath the casing.
On a separate occasion, when testing out the microSD port on the device, testers got the card stuck inside the port. Users need to cautiously insert the card, ensuring that it loads onto the springs, to avoid this issue. Once again, NBR was lucky enough to get the card out with a steady hand and a pair of tweezers, but it is something to consider when using a microSD card in the Asus. All in all, they weren’t major issues, and both were fixed quickly, but users will want to be cautious with the power button and other ports. The cheap build doesn’t extend to the keyboard docking unit, but Asus certainly made some cuts on the overall chassis of the tablet.
Overall, this reviewer finds she reaches for the Asus T100 over alternatives like a 15-inch notebook or an Apple iPad which are also within arm’s reach. The keyboard and track pad give the T100 the versatility of a notebook with all the portability and features of a tablet. It may just be that it is easier to overlook any cons when the price is right, but with the Asus there really aren’t many concessions. Compared to a Chromebook, the Transformer Book offers even greater portability with far more functionality. Hopefully its popularity will motivate other manufacturers to follow suit with affordable hybrid options. With the Asus Transformer Book T100 it’s easy to get the best of both worlds, switching back and forth from notebook to tablet with ease.