I’ve been talking about this machine for a while now, ever since Asus first announced it back in early September. Among other things, I posted the Anand technical review of the machines here, so if you want all the geek benchmarks, go and read that again. This post is about my own subjective impressions of the machine and associated issues, starting with its receipt yesterday morning.
First off, kudos to Adorama in NYC, who had it in stock, shipped it immediately with free USPS overnight mail, and didn’t charge California sales tax – which means I paid the list $399 for it. Nice job!
Second, let’s get the bad stuff out of the way first thing.
- Asus claimed they modeled the keyboard on the excellent Lenovo boards, and in many respects this is true: The board feels solid, the key travel is excellent, and, while small, is easy for an experienced touch typist to get used to. Except for one thing. The right-hand shift key is tiny, barely larger than a regular letter key. And it’s driving me nuts.
Why? Well, it means that until you get used to it (and while I’m getting better, I’m still not there yet) you’ll miss it entirely, or hit it partially and hit the up key adjacent to it at the same time. Which will send your cursor flying wildly to some other part of your document and, if you’re a touch typist, you’ll probably spew out a half sentence or so before you notice that you’re not typing where you think you are. Big fail, Asus.
- The touchpad, while generally okay (I’m still fiddling with its settings) is sensitive enough that it can move cursor focus, too, if you brush too close. Not as major an irritant as the botched shift key, but still an irritant.
- The battery seems to take several hours to charge. Asus shipped the machine with a wall-plug power converter and a very short USB cable. I mean very short. So I swapped it out with a standard six foot Amazon USB cable I had on hand. Now, standard USB cables aren’t optimized for power, so that may be what is causing the issue. I’ll try the included cable when I get a chance and report back.
And that pretty much summarizes my significant complaints about the machine.
As for the complaints about screen resolution, color, and assorted other geek fetishes, here are my thoughts.
- Yes, the back of the tablet is shiny gray plastic and fingerprints show. So farking what? I think it looks okay. I don’t need machines costing well over a thousand dollars carved from a solid block of titanium to make me happy.
- The screen is the best looking one I own at the moment, so I don’t give a rat’s ass that it isn’t higher res than 1368×720. That’s not full HD, but it is HD, and the color is fine. It works great for video and photos, and it projects just fine to my big screen dock setup.
- UPDATE: If you hook it up via HDMI to a big screen, it will project full HD just fine to the larger screen. So if that’s you’re fetish, you can do that.
- Yes, it hooks up just fine to my homebrew dock, so I can effectively use it as a desktop machine as well.
Now to what I like.
- I was after a machine that combined the functions of a notebook and a tablet and did both well. This fills the bill for me.
As a laptop, it weighs 2.4 pounds, runs everything I want to run in the way of Windows legacy apps, and has a long (though I haven’t run it down yet in the real world) battery life. Certainly several times the 2.5 hours I’ve been getting out of my Toshiba Ultrabook.
As a tablet running Win 8.1 Metro apps, it weight a feathery 1.2 pounds (only .2 lb. more than the geekish fanbois wet dream iPad Air), but gives me apps for everything I want a tablet to do – the Facebook app is excellent, as is the Tumblir app. Twitter is fine, too, although I prefer to use the browser version online. I use the Kindle app for reading and buying ebooks, and the Kindle Cloud Player to keep my online and local music collections available and organized. I use the excellent News Bento for following a hundred or so publications that interest me. The tablet comes with a “reading mode” which faintly tints the screen so you don’t get so much eye-straining glare in dark environments – you can enable this feature app by app, by the way.
Win 8.1, which many hate, is ideal for a combo productivity notebook/consumption tablet. In desktop mode, I use a utility called Windows Classic Shell to boot me directly to the desktop, though Win 8.1 permits you to do likewise with a bit of obscure fiddling but, more important, Classic Shell restores the start menu of yore, which win 8.1 doesn’t do, “start” button or no. And I will probably use it more in productivity mode, given the amount of writing, surfing, and research I do every day, than I will in tablet mode. And as a notebook it’s more than powerful enough to handle the productivity stuff I do.
But when I switch to tablet mode the Metro interface is perfect for touch-oriented media consumption, and works great in that form factor. It’s like having two different operating systems depending on how you are using your machine at any given time. I love it.
Okay, it doesn’t have a Wacom digitizer, so those of you who think the combination of ancient tech like pens and modern tech like computers are the only way to go will have to look elsewhere. But my initial take when I first read about this machine remains the same:
For those of us who want a nice tablet and a nice little production notebook that runs all your favorite Windoze programs, plus all the new fangled Metro mobile apps, and who don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for that, this is the best thing on the market today.
Some notes: You do get free Office Home and Student, but you have to use a code to activate it. The code is on a card included in your documentation, so don’t throw that away.
When I was setting up the machine, I went to control panel and set the display to enlarge everything to 150% of standard, while leaving the desktop icons set as “small.” This let my old eyes deal with the small screen without cluttering the desktop with icons the size of beach balls.
Like any new machine, you’ll need to play with this one a while before you get everything tweaked to your preferences – and I’m still tweaking – but I’ve very, very happy with the Asus Transformer T100.
And for $399, with free Office and a free 100GB of Asus cloud storage, why wouldn’t I be? Especially since it actually performs as well as it does.
One final thing: If you’ve got more questions or I didn’t cover something you wanted, post a comment and I’ll try to answer as well as I can.
UPDATE: Here’s a guy who hooked up his T100 to a big screen, etc. He found some settings I didn’t know about, and will try. Worked fine for him. Using the Asus Transformer Book T100 as a desktop PC (video) – Liliputing.
UPDATE: Just found out Win 8.1 has Miracast streaming built in, so I should be able to stream directly to my TV.
UPDATE: A reader emails to ask about the machine’s fan noise and heat. There is no fan noise, because there is no fan. As for heat, I haven’t been able to detect much, if any.