ASUS’ $299 hybrid TAB is good idea that’s past its prime
The day Asus’ $299 hybrid TAB is good idea that’s past its prime ASUS launched the original Transformer Book T100 back in the year 2013 it had a relatively novel concept on its hands: Windows with affordable cost tablet could double as a laptop thanks to its included dock. The company clearly thinks it’s still a good idea, since it recently released the Transformer Book T100HA with more powerful guts and Windows 10. But does this concept still hold water in 2015, when 2-in-1 Windows laptops are common place and mobile tablets are increasingly powerful? I’ve been living with the T100HA for several weeks to find out, and the truth is that it’s no longer as sweet a deal as it once seemed. There are still many things to like about ASUS’ hybrid, but you’ll have to make some compromises that shouldn’t really be necessary in modern hardware.
Some of those sacrifices are clear from the outset, starting with the design. Externally, the T100HA hasn’t changed much compared to the Windows 8-based T100. It still has that familiar 10.1-inch, 1,280 x 800 display and matching keyboard dock. The biggest differences are the addition of a USB Type-C port (which isn’t very useful to me right now, unless I buy a new Nexus phone) and a button-free tablet release mechanism. It’s very easy to carry around — the system weighs 2.3 pounds with the dock — but it also leaves me trying do all my computing on a small, low-resolution display. I found this acceptable in pure tablet mode, but the laptop mode felt cramped, like an uncomfortable flashback to the netbook’s heyday. It’s time to give the T100 series a proper redesign, ASUS, starting with the screen.
The signature keyboard dock doesn’t help with that claustrophobic feeling. It’s entirely possible to type quickly on this smallest of Transformer Books, and the track pad is quite usable despite its tiny size (although some scrolling gestures would help). However, that doesn’t mean that you’ll be enthralled with it. The small keys meant that I had to always be mindful of where my fingers were, while a full-size keyboard would let me relax. And did I mention that those keys are loud and spongy, too? The dock is still helpful for writing those long messages, but it’s a joyless experience that’s in need of an overhaul.