ASUS Transformer Book T100 Windows 8.1 Hybrid

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External Design

The Transformer Book's composite body sits neatly between the light plastic that Samsung typically uses for its own devices and the magnesium alloy Microsoft uses for its own Surface hardware. Microsoft still sets the gold standard for building Windows tablet bodies, but the Asus T100 doesn't feel cheap or fragile and the body isn't overly slick. There were, however, a few odd decisions made on the display. First, there's the nature of the physical "Start" button. On every Windows tablet I've seen to date, including Microsoft's Surface, the physical start button functions just like a keyboard Start button.


The icon is visible here, right above the dock

The Asus Transformer Book T100 still has an icon in precisely the same place -- but the icon does absolutely nothing when pressed. Instead, the button's functionality has been moved to the right-hand side of the unit, where it fits just below the volume button rocker switch. The problem with the side mounted button is that it's not as easy to hit as the flat button at the bottom. If you've gotten used to hitting the physical windows button, seeing the icon leads to a lot of useless tapping.  Personally, I liked the center placement more, but moving it is not a major issue.

Keyboard, Touchpad, and Dock



Docks have always been a sore spot for me. For years, manufacturers treated them as luxury add-ons, with prices ranging from patently absurd (like the original dock for the Atrix 4G) to pricey, but somewhat acceptable ($100-$150 for typical Windows 8 convertible tablets). Given that a dock is typically a keyboard and a USB 3.0 port, the price adder was tough to justify. Thankfully, companies like Asus have realized this -- the Transformer Book's dock is part of the base product and included in the $349 asking price.

The T100's keys are not full sized. The alpha keys are 90% the width of a standard mobile keyboard, but just 74% of the height, which gives them a distinctly rectangular appearance. If you're fat-fingered, and I am, this may throw you off your typing until you adjust to it. While smaller keys are more difficult to type on, the keyboard response is actually excellent, particularly for a mobile device. The degree of key travel is satisfying without feeling mushy or stiff and the travel distance is large enough that you can always tell if you've properly hit a key or not.



The trackpad is small, but well designed. The left and right-click functions are snappy and precise and it offers tap-to-click functionality as well. Equally important is the fact that the trackpad is pretty good at ignoring accidental touches while typing. This simple issue can make using a laptop nearly impossible without a separate mouse, so we're glad to see it dealt with here.

The dock has three primary goals. 1). Balance the weight of the monitor. 2).  Securely attach to the monitor.  3).  Offer additional ports and in some cases, additional battery capacity. Of these three, the Transformer Book T100 nails the first two. The integrated USB 3.0 port is welcome, to be sure, but that's all the expanded capability you get. There's no internal battery and no expandable storage.

Still, at $350, that's enough to get the job done. The housing and case are strong on all points.
 

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