The Transformer Book T100TA is Asus' vision of the hybrid tablet/notebook. To stare down the competition (namely, the HP Envy x2 and Samsung Ativ Smart PC), the Taiwanese brand took the road less travelled and used an Atom processor, which, hey, should at least give it some good battery life. Let's see how the rest fares.
The plastic finish necessarily doesn't look or feel as impressive as the Envy x2's brushed aluminium, but given the significantly lower price, that can be forgiven. The back of the tablet/display is made of glossy black plastic that feels sturdy but smudges easily. The dark grey imitation brushed aluminium keyboard panel doesn't have any play anywhere, which is a good sign.
The hinge where the keyboard connects to the tablet feels solid and reliable and the three-point latching mechanism is basic, effective.
The keyboard itself is fairly good quality and the chiclet keys respond well to the stroke. The touchpad is another story: it's a little small and on the unit we tested there was considerable play when we'd press down on the right side, so we had to press harder for the right click than the left click.
The list of ports is very, um, concise with a single USB 3.0 port on the keyboard section and a micro-USB, a micro-HDMI and an audio combo jack on the tablet section. For wireless connectivity it has Wi-Fi 802.11 b/n and Bluetooth 4.0. The Wi-Fi signal is -42 dBm from 5 to 10 metres away from the source and -60 dBm from 20 metres away.
As you can see in these thermal images, the T100TA never came close to overheating, even when we stressed the components. At the most stressed, the body never got above 37°C (98°F). The fan noise stays just as reasonable. The highest we recorded was 36 dB(A).
As for the built-in speakers, they get great volume, but they saturate immensely and the chassis vibrates when you turn the volume up all the way.
The headphone output is the opposite: relatively clean without any unwanted noise, but low in volume.
The Transformer Book T100TA has a 10.1-inch PLS touchscreen with 1366 x 768 pixels. The brightness goes up to 250 cd/m², which is too low to counter reflections and glare from the glossy surface in any significant way. But the 1,000:1 contrast ratio is high enough to make content fairly legible nonetheless.
Grey colour temperature
The colour temperature is fine (7,000 K, which is close to the ideal 6,500 K), but it has a Delta E of 7, meaning the colours aren't particularly natural. There's worse out there in Computer Land, but there's also much better: a value of 3 and below means perfect fidelity, and the best notebooks on the market have less than 2.
We measured the touch response time at 160 milliseconds, which is in the lower average for the touchscreen devices we've reviewed, including smartphones and tablets.
The Intel Atom Z3740 inside the Transformer Book T100TA is a humble processor for a laptop. It's 30% slower than the Core i3s found in competing hybrids like the Acer Aspire P3 and doesn't allow you to do much serious computing. As a tablet processor, however, it performs similarly to the iPad Air's. The problem is that the T100TA is being marketed as tablet and a laptop.
The 32 GB of eMMC memory allows the T100TA to start up in 8 seconds and shuts down in 9 seconds, but with only 15 GB available to the user, you basically have no choice but use the microSD port to up the storage capacity.
This new generation of the Atom processor features an Intel HD Graphics chipset that scores 2129 in 3DMark06. That's far behind the HD 4400s that get between 5000 and 6000 in the same conditions. PC games will hardly run at all on this hybrid, but games for high-end tablets like the iPad Air will run fine. Basically, your choice in video games is limited to what you can find at the Windows Store.
MOBILITY / BATTERY LIFE
As we had hoped, the flipside to the Atom's low PC processing is low power consumption. The T100TA lasts for a full 9 hours and 45 minutes of video playback (in airplane mode with the screen brightness at 100 cd/m² and headphones plugged in). The only other laptop that beats this is the 13" MacBook Air, which lasts 15 hours. All the same, it's a shame Asus didn't put a second battery in the keyboard dock, as that could have increased it even further. As tablets go, this makes the T100TA one of the longest lasting slates on the market, along with the iPad Air.