If you want a tablet that’s good enough to run Bioshock and offer you half a day of usage, then you may be interested in the ASUS device we’re reviewing below. This is the ASUS Transformer Book T100TA model, a hybrid between a 10 inch tablet and a netbook.
The product was launched in late 2013 and it’s priced at $462 on Amazon right now. This is our very first Bay Trail CPU slate and our first Windows 8.1 tablet, so it’s a welcome premiere. As far as the design goes, this model has a netbook format when the tablet and keyboard are docked together. The slate is plasticky, but feels rather solid and although the case is made of plastic, this feels like a resilient device.
The dock has the typical design specific to the Transformer series, but this time it doesn’t feature a battery inside. We’ve also got a new latching mechanism that is also pretty solid and this time instead of a trigger if features a button. The dock’s keys are slightly noisy, but at least they’re well spaced and their input is just fine.
The hinge that connects the slate is pretty well built and the tablet has a pretty big bezel. Both the tablet and the dock weigh around 550 grams each and the thickness is between 11 and 12 mm for each. Overall, the netbook weighs 1.1 kg and you can flex the tablet on the dock at an angle of 135 degrees tops. When you hold the device in your lap, it has a tendency to topple over, because of the weight of the tablet part.
The tablet features a microSD card slot, a micro HDMI, a microUSB for charging, a Home button on the side and volume buttons. The physical buttons on the side are quite hard to press, being too well embedded into the device. The dock only offers a USB 3.0 port, so no SD slot here this time. Interestingly enough there’s no Windows button on the facade of the device, as you can see.
Overall, this is a design based on compromises and ASUS achieved that pretty well. On the hardware side we’ve got an Intel Atom Z3740 quad core processor clocked at 1.3 GHz, a Bay Trail processor, if you must know. ASUS Transformer Book T100TA has 2 GB of RAM, 32 or 64 GB of storage, a 10.1 inch IPS display with a 1366 x 768 pixel resolution and Intel HD graphics inside. As far as connectivity goes, there’s WiFi on board, Bluetooth and a micro HDMI port.
There’s a 1.2 MP camera upfront and stereo speakers as well. The battery embedded into the slate is a 31 Wh unit, that on paper should provide 11 hours of functioning time or 10 days of standby. Our test allowed us to achieve 12 hours and 40 minutes of continuous Full HD video playback. That was achieved with 50% brightness and WiFi on. The charging time is 5 hours, but it’s well worth it. The battery is excellent and it’s easily comparable to the one of a modern iPad.
As far as the audio playback is concerned, the stereo speakers do a superb job. There’s excellent bas, loud and clear sound and the SonicMaster tech is a welcome bonus. The speakers are very loud and voices are warm. The screen is a 10.1 incher with 1366 x 768 pixel resolution, an IPS panel and wide view angles. The brightness is 187 lux units, which is kind of low, but indoors it should be enough. We’ve got RGB stripe pixels and the colors may not very vivid, but the experience is still pretty decent.
The screen aspect is one where you feel the corners ASUS had to cut to make the price so low. Nothing much to say about the 1.2 MP webcam, so we move further. This device has no lag whatsoever and the startup time is 18 seconds. The shutdown time is 6 seconds and the device awakens from sleep instantly. The USB 3.0 port on the dock gave us 20 Mbps speeds, by the way.
Internet Explorer 11 is fast and it supports a nifty pinch to zoom, plus it has an intuitive interface, with some tabs at the bottom when you need them. The speed of the browser is also confirmed by several benchmarks detailed below. Back to the dock, its touchpad offers you a series of very useful gestures. Those include a 3 finger up swipe, that allows you to do a cool multitask a la Windows Phone, a 3 finger swipe down for a Back action and a two finger tap working as a right click.
This product comes bundled with free 1 TB of storage for a year, so the storage is covered. We dedicated a special section of this review to the Windows 8.1 platform, that has a few extras and tweaks compared to Win 8. For one thing the start screen has new and larger tiles, plus there are more colors to customize the background now and more images.
It also has a new move to access the app list: you simply keep the screen pressed slightly and do a gentle swipe upwards. You can also set Windows 8.1 to boot straight into desktop mode. Another thing that this OS brings is a new type of Smart Search, with very well organized results and actually some interactive ones, like songs to be played, galleries of pics and lots of info. The lockscreen can become a slideshow now and it also can include a shortcut to the camera app.
The OS brings Bluetooth LE support and the ability to snap 3 or 4 apps on the screen at the same time. Obviously on a 10 inch screen you’ll only snap 2. The Start button is back and all it does is take you to the Home screen, filled with tiles. IE 11 opens up to 100 tabs at once and now it renders web GL content easily. Windows Store has also improved, making it easier to find new apps and cleaning up the UI a bit.
There’s also deeper SkyDrive integration, automatic updates for apps and improved multi monitor support. Overall Windows 8.1 is a slight improvement from Windows 8, but not a very convincing one. We also did a bunch of benchmarks, the major ones, including 3DMark Ice Storm Extreme, where we scored 8506 points, beating the Dell Venue 11 Pro and its 6877 points. In 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited we scored 10583 points, 4k less than an iPad Air, while in GFX Bench offscreen we got 14 FPS, which is less than the 19 FPS of the iPad 4.
We also achieved a download speed of 16 Mbps, a read/write speed of 41 Mbps/106 Mbps and 2101 points in Relative Benchmark. Finally we got 2737 points in BrowserMark 2.0 and 415 Ms in Sunspider, both excellent results. I’ve heard people comparing this Bay Trail CPU with the Core i3 and I have to say it’s not very far from it.
The tablet runs Bioshock 1, as shown in our demo on the YouTube channel and we’ve also installed an .exe app for you to show you that this is not any kind of Windows RT. The preinstalled apps on this device include Sticky Notes, an average note taking app and Math Input, an app that can identify your on screen scribbling and turn it into math. There’s also Kindle, Netflix and a full Bing suite, that includes Weather, News, Travel, Sports, Maps, Health, Food and Finance.
Then there’s SkyDrive, Skype, Reader, OneNote and Reading List. Office 2013 is here as well and you can get a demo of Word and Excel in the video review below. By the way I recommend you have an account and subscription in order to use Office. And now here comes the Pros and Cons segment of the review.
Here are the Pros:
- fantastic battery
- great speakers
- no lag
- good CPU for the money
- runs Bioshock
- bundled Office
- good price
And the Cons:
- plastic case
- no back camera
- weak brightness
- not many unique ASUS bundled apps
- Windows 8.1 still not very appealing
Finally we give the ASUS Transformer Book T100TA an 8.3 out of 10 for design, a 9 for hardware and an 8.5 out of 10 for OS and UI. The final grade is 8.6 out of 10 for this device, rounded up to 9 out of 10, courtesy of the good price. This is a pretty good machine, a netbook replacement with some punch and excellent battery. If you’re tempted, you can find it on Amazon.