There’s more to this netbook than meets the eye – it’s also a tablet.
Netbooks were all the rage a few years ago, but the popularity of these small and cheap laptops faded around 2009 and most manufacturers have stopped producing them. But they’ve returned in a new form, doubling as Windows 8 tablets. The Asus Transformer Book T100 is one such example.
Although the T100 looks like it’s made out of brushed metal, it’s actually constructed of plastic – and not particularly sturdy plastic at that.
It therefore feels cheaply made, with a hinge that wobbles and a lid that creaks alarmingly under pressure. While we weren’t expecting an expensive metal enclosure at this price, the flimsy build quality is still disappointing.
When docked with its keyboard the T100 weighs just 1.1kg. The keys are much smaller than those found on standard size laptops, especially the cursor keys. You’ll struggle to use the keyboard if you have chunky fingers, but our small digits soon got used to it and we were able to type accurately and quickly because the keys have plenty of travel and feedback. We didn’t like the touchpad though – it’s small and was often maddeningly unresponsive, taking a few seconds to respond to our prods and strokes.
The slender keyboard dock doesn’t have its own battery and adds just a single USB3 port to the connectors on the tablet – a micro SD card slot, a micro USB2 and a micro IIDMI port. You can use the micro USB2 connector for charging, as well as connecting USB sticks and other peripherals via a USB On The Go adapter cable when the T100 is being used as a tablet. Annoyingly the thick hinge means the screen can’t be tilted more than about 110 degrees, so finding a comfortable viewing angle in tight spaces, such as on an economy-class airline seat, can be somewhat tricky.
Press the button on the hinge and the 10in touchscreen comes off and can then be used as a tablet. Unlike some other budget Windows 8 tablets and laptop- tablet hybrids, the T100 runs the full version of Windows 8.1, rather than the cut-down 8.1 RT, so you can run older Desktop programs as well as newer touchscreen apps you’ve downloaded from Microsoft’s app store. The app selection isn’t as comprehensive as that available for the iPad, but both the ability to run existing Desktop programs and the pre-installed copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013 make up for this.
When used as a tablet, the T100 weighs 550g, w7hich is reasonably light for a 10in tablet. One odd little quirk is that the Windows logo doesn’t double as a Start button, as it does on other Windows 8 tablets. Instead there’s a small unmarked Start button next to the volume buttons on the left-hand side of the tablet (when held horizontally). It’s an unintuitive arrangement and we initially mistook this odd Start button for the power button. But it does mean you’re less likely to accidentally bring up the Start screen – a common problem on other Windows 8 tablets.
Performance and screen
Battery life was very good, with the T100 lasting just over 12 hours when scrolling through a text document and just under 13-and-a-half hours when playing videos continuously. The T100 comes equipped with 2GB of memory and one of Intel’s latest Atom processors, the quad-core Z3740. While it’s much faster than the Atoms used in older Windows 8 tablets – these were often chronically slow – it’s not fast enough for video-editing. It is, however, good enough for web browsing, office work and basic image-editing, but does slow down if you have more than a few’ programs open at the same time, due to the small amount of memory. The 32GB SSD only has 12GB of actual available space due to the amount of space needed for Windows and Office, so you’ll need additional USB storage or a micro SD card.
A far bigger flaw with the T100 is the screen. Its 1366×768-pixel resolution means text is too small and hard to read when used as a netbook at arm’s length. Unlike higher-resolution screens, you can’t use Windows 8.1’s display settings to make text look larger. And, when used as a tablet where you hold it closer to
10in 1366×768-pixel touchscreen »1.33GHz Intel Atom Z3740 quad-core processor»2GB memory « 32GB storage »Intel HD integrated graphics chip« Windows 8.1 • 550g (1.1kg docked) • 24x263x171mm (HxWxD) • One-year warranty • Part code T100TA-108791 www.snipca.com/11183 your face, the lowly resolution makes text noticeably fuzzier compared to tablets with higher-resolution screens, in short, the screen is a bit of a pain to use, both as a tablet and as a netbook.
The Asus Transformer Book T100 is the one computer we’ve seen that comes closest to being the perfect hybrid between tablet and laptop, but it still falls significantly short. Long battery life, useful ports, a low price and an included copy of Microsoft Office are all very welcome, but the small keyboard, flawed screen and merely adequate performance means the T100 is best suited as a cheap child’s computer or as an adjunct to a more powerful computer.
A reasonably good laptop- tablet hybrid, but there are still a lot of design compromises that won’t suit everyone
HP Pavilion Chromebook 14
If you’re happy using web apps, then this Google Chrome OS-based netbook is a cheaper alternative