Review of the ASUS Transformer Book T100TA

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My Dell XPS 12 is having some display issues. I’ll be doing a separate post on it, but I’ll probably need to send it in for servicing. So I bought the new Bay Trail ASUS Transformer Book T100TA to tide me over in the mean-time. Unboxing video below.

The Facts

The specs are pretty much what I expect we’ll be seeing on most Baytrail devices:

  • Intel Bay Trail Quad Core Z3740 (1.33GHz w/ burst to 1.86GHz)
  • 2GB DDR3
  • Windows 8.1
  • 10.1″ 16:9 IPS screen (1366×768) w/ 5-point multitouch
  • 64GB eMMC
  • 1.2MP User-Facing Camera
  • USB3

The Verdict

There is no doubt about it, we’re entering the era of Windows 8 tablets. At $400, this one is probably going to be on the high-end price-wise. There’s already a few 8-inchers announced in the $300 range. Any way you slice it, they’re a tremendous value proposition. Compared to the iPad, you get a similar-weight and similar-battery-life tablet for a fraction of the price… that you can then plug into a dock and use as your primary computer! And make no doubt about it, Bay Trail is not your grandma’s Atom processor from the netbooks of yesteryear. It screams through everyday tasks like browsing, word processing, and spreadsheets. It can even handle some basic video editing and older PC games.

So I have very high hopes for Bay Trail, now let’s talk about the ASUS Transformer Book T100TA in particular. For $400, it’s an OK build quality. It’s certainly not all (or even any) carbon fiber and aluminum like my $1200 ultrabook, but it doesn’t feel like it’s going to fall apart. It’s very light, which kind of makes it seem like a toy. Also, when docked it is very top-heavy and will tip over if you tilt the screen too far back. It also has one of those horrible hinges that dips below the keyboard when you tilt the screen back, causing the whole laptop to rise up off the table.

The tablet back is a glossy fingerprint magnet, but the included keyboard dock has a nice matte finish. I initially had some concerns about the strength of the latch and hinge on the dock where the tablet connects, but I’m coming to trust it. Undocked, the tablet is a svelte 1.1 pounds; easily usable one-handed. The keyboard dock pretty much doubles that weight, so the whole thing comes in at an ultraportable 2.3 pounds.

The touchscreen is great – very responsive and sensitive. Docked, I had no trouble typing on the small keyboard. Unfortunately, the trackpad is pretty much garbage. I’m not sure if it’s a hardware or software problem, but it consistently fails to detect my initial touch or, worse, stops detecting my touch mid-way through a pointer movement. Forget multitouch trackpad gestures like scrolling or pinch-to-zoom. It’s very frustrating, and I find myself using the touchscreen, even in laptop mode. I would recommend a USB or Bluetooth travel mouse.

The display is bright and sharp. I thought I would be disappointed with the 1366×768 resolution, but it actually doesn’t bother me. The battery life is unbelievable. Even with the screen brightness on medium, I got a little more than 10 hours worth of web browsing, document editing, and light gaming out of the initial charge.

CPU performance was similarly unbelievable. Very impressive, with no noticeable lag for any task I attempted. Graphics performance, on the other hand, seemed a bit behind. I was not impressed by the handful of app store games I tried, but I also noticed the GPU was not bursting to high performace mode. I will tinker with it and also try some older PC games.

All told, I think everyone needs a Bay Trail tablet this holiday season, but this particular one suffers from a relatively higher price and some nagging build quality issues.

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