The T100 is a great hybrid notebook with exceptional battery life, let down by terrible Australian pricing.
Asus Transformer Book T100: On the plus side
When I first previewed the Asus Transformer Book T100, I was rather excited by the concept. Not that convertible Windows 8 tablets were exactly a new thing, but it seemed at first glance to hit many of the sweet spots; a good price, a decent-if-not-high-powered-processor and no sign of WindowsRT to speak of.
Having had some time to test it out more fully, many of those features do last beyond first impressions.
The model that Asus is selling in Australia is the higher end 64GB version; like the cheaper 32GB it comes with an Intel “Bay Trail” Z3740 1.8Ghz processor, 2GB of RAM and a 10.1 inch 1366×768 pixel display. Windows 8 is pre-installed, as is Microsoft Office Home & Student Edition, which is an excellent inclusion for what’s primarily meant to be an inexpensive portable productivity machine.
It’s convertible via a very solid latch that keeps the keyboard attached when in use. It’s a little tricky to remove the keyboard quickly if you just wanted the tablet part with you, but that’s preferable to having it fall off easily when you don’t.
Bay Trail is Intel’s latest run with its Atom architecture; mid-range performance processors tuned for battery life and low cost. As such, I wasn’t expecting great things in benchmark terms. PCMark flat out refused to run, crashing every time, but 3DMark at least managed to run through two of its tests, managing a score of 16048 on Ice Storm and 1218 on Cloud Gate. Nobody’s going to buy the T100 as an all-out games machine in any case, but it will run older titles at a reasonable kind of rate.
For everyday applications, the T100 is a decent performer. You wouldn’t necessarily want to do a whole lot of high-end photo or video editing on it, but if you’re more in the office productivity and web browsing space, it’s perfectly adequate.
The real attraction for Bay Trail is in battery life, where Asus claims “up to” eleven hours of performance out of the T100. For a full Windows 8 system in such a small frame, that’s an impressive claim if true, so I tested it looping full screen, full brightness video to the point of battery exhaustion.
Manufacturers typically state “up to” times to cover themselves, because it’s rare to reach those actual numbers in real world usage. So I was very pleasantly surprised when the T100 ran looped video for an impressive twelve hours and fifty minutes. It’s not the most computationally powerful system you can buy, but it’s certainly got a lot of stamina.
Asus Transformer Book T100: On the minus side
There are a few points where the T100 does reveal its budget nature. The keyboard is ordinary, and as with any 10.1 inch laptop, it’s also rather small.
The keyboard dock has a single USB 3.0 port, but if you’re running in tablet mode, all you get are micro ports. MicroUSB, Micro HDMI and even a MicroSD card slot are your expansion options there. That inevitably means that if you need them, you’re going to need some kind of extra cable to make use of them.
It’s not a problem unique to the Transformer Book T100, but Windows 8.1 doesn’t work quite as well in portrait orientation as it does in landscape. That may be a usage scenario problem you never encounter, but it’s undeniably a landscape type operating system.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Pricing
The local RRP for the Transformer Book T100 is $599, roughly in line with the kinds of pricing that very first EeePC commanded some years back.
There’s a problem, there, however. When Asus launched the T100 in the US, list prices were $US349 for a 32GB variant (which you can’t buy here) or $US399 for the 64GB version.
As always, US RRPs aren’t flat; they never include sales tax which varies from state to state. Still, even applying GST and a small amount of shipping and smaller market size, it’s hard to see how US$399 becomes $599.
Asus Transformer Book T100: Fat Duck verdict
The greedy pricing on the T100 is a genuine pity, because otherwise I really rather like the T100 as a device. It’s unashamedly a “cheap” PC, but it doesn’t have too many of the drawbacks of lower priced models to deal with. The battery life is great. Including Microsoft Office adds genuine productivity potential.
That price, though, is painful, and it’s just another sign of a multinational company applying an Australia tax to IT products. I can’t — and won’t — see that as fair. If big companies can take advantage of globalisation to lower their production costs, why shouldn’t consumers do exactly the same thing?