I hated netbooks.
That might seem an odd way to launch the conclusion of a review, but I think I need to start there to give my fair opinion on the Transformer Book. From the first Eee PC, through NVIDIA's Ion, and right up through Clover Trail, the very best I felt like Intel's Atom offered was "barely useful." Sometimes, as with Clover Trail, it was great to see x86 competing in new form factors or with stellar battery life, but if you ever needed performance, Atom simply couldn't get the job done.
Asus Transformer Book T100 - What the netbook always wanted to be.
Editor's Note: For the uninitiated, Joel has an immense capacity to hate mediocrity in technology.
I hated netbooks -- but the Asus Transformer Book T100 isn't. This is the idealized concept of what a netbook could be when Intel started talking about new mobile device types and MIDs back in 2008. The form factor hadn't been fleshed out (I think only about six people on Earth though MIDs were a good idea), but the idea Intel sold was a low-cost x86 system with all-day battery life that could handle common desktop tasks and scenarios. The T100 is the first x86-based system that delivers on that vision, at every point.
Need a keyboard, USB 3.0 port, and mouse? You've got the dock. In tablet mode, the device feels just as light and quick as an ARM-based device. Previous Atom-based systems never felt "snappy," even in ideal circumstances. The T100, in contrast, feels genuinely quick in lightweight software. It's got all the light-weight and compatibility advantages that Clover Trail promised last year, but with twice the performance.
The T100 isn't perfectly suited to every task. If you want serious horsepower, number crunching or heavy-duty gaming, then this isn't going to be the best system for you. But for everyone who has wanted an x86-compatible system on the cheap ($399 for 64GB variant, includes keyboard dock) with excellent battery life, this is ideal and an optimized OS. This is the low-cost x86 tablet/laptop convertible we've been waiting for all these years and it runs Windows 8.1 with touch, like a dream.