Handheld Devices

Transformer Book T100: This hybrid fills both its tablet and notebook roles well

Asus has been in the tablet and keyboard dock game for a while now. After several generations of Android based tablet and keyboard dock combinations, the T100 brings the sometimes schizophrenic interface of Windows 8 to its logical home on a hybrid tablet/notebook.

The tablet looks and feels like so many other slates. It's a 10-inch slab of screen with a few ports and buttons on its edges. The buttons are hidden behind the curve of the tablet so you can't see them when you look from the front. It makes for a clean look, but they can be tricky to find by feel. On the left side of the top edge, you'll find the lock button. Moving around the corner to the left edge there's a volume rocker and a start button. The Windows logo in the center of the bottom bezel does nothing.

The ports and other slots all live on the right edge of the device: There's a Micro SD card slot at the top and Micro HDMI, Micro USB (for charging the tablet), and a headphone jack near the bottom. Two large slots on the bottom of the tablet line up with guide posts on the keyboard dock and the dock port itself. A button on the hinge of the dock releases the tablet when you don't need the keyboard. It also partially blocks the Windows logo, which explains why touching it doesn't deliver you to the Start screen.

The 10-inch screen runs a rather low 1366 by 768 pixels. Many higher-end and even mid-range tablets now come with 1080p screens. Despite the low pixel density, the only time I noticed pixels in regular use was when reading while lying on my stomach, putting the screen pretty close to my face. The screen was very clear on the desk or in my lap. The panel is bright and has excellent viewing angles. The brightness also turns down enough for reading comfortably at night without the need for sunglasses.

The tablet feels solid despite its cheap-feeling glossy plastic back. The curved edges and back are very comfortable to hold in two hands, but the 10-inch widescreen is too wide in landscape mode and too tall in portrait mode for me to feel comfortable holding it in one hand for any length of time.Like most hybrids in this class, the Transformer T100 comes with 64GB of storage and 2GB of RAM (Asus also offers a 32GB model for $349). But Asus chose Intel's new quad-core Atom Z3740 processor (from the Bay Trail family), and I was impressed by the smooth responsiveness of the system. I felt no slowdowns or stutters in average use, including Netflix streaming and some light gaming. Benchmark tests confirm the improved performance, with the Transformer Book scoring 10 to 20 percent higher on most tests compared to tablets based on Intel's older Clover Trail CPUs.

Battery life is also much better. The average 7 to 8-hour run time of the previous generation didn't need much improvement, but the Transformer Pad T100 lasted 11 hours and 9 minutes in our rundown test! On top of that, Bay Trail-based machines are also capable of running in connected standby, which means the machine draws almost no power while sleeping yet resumes to an up-to-date state (with email and other updates) almost instantly.

That long battery life is all the more impressive considering that unlike Asus's Transformer line of Android tablets, the docking keyboard doesn't harbor a second battery. The extra weight would be a welcome addition, because the tablet-and-keyboard combo is fairly top heavy. I feared it would tip backwards while I was typing on my lap. The hinge rotates down as it's opened, giving the keyboard a nice tilt, but it wasn't enough to overcome the top heaviness.

The keyboard's keys are a little more stiff than I like, and their short vertical spacing made even my tiny hands feel a little cramped. It's still usable for long typing sessions, but it's just not as comfortable as some others I've used.

The keyboard dock has a USB 3.0 port and a little touchpad on the keyboard dock, but it's barely worth the space it takes up. It frequently didn't pick up both my fingers for multitouch scrolling or other gestures, and I frequently found myself just reaching for the screen rather than fighting with the touchpad.

The Asus Transformer Pad T100 delivers on the hybrid promise of providing a good tablet experience and a solid notebook experience in one device, for a reasonable price. The keyboard is something of a compromise, but it's not a deal breaker. And if you want to use this hybrid on a desktop, you can plug in a full-size keyboard and display.


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