Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Asus Transformer T100 Tablet/Laptop

My daughter Alexandra just got an Asus Transformer 10.1" tablet/laptop from Amazon. This post will offer my initial impressions.

A couple notes: First, this is the older model that comes with MS Office 2013, instead of an Office 365 subscription, which is a plus in my book. Second, she spent her own money on this. She already has an iPad but they use Windows in her school district.

Up until now I have not been a fan of Windows 8.x. Having used the Asus briefly, I can say that with a touchscreen it doesn't totally suck. If it was mine I'd still probably install Classic Shell so that I could have a Windows 7-like user interface, if my primary use involved the keyboard. Without a touchscreen, the Metro UI (or whatever MS calls it nowadays) blows.

During the initial setup I let it scan my home network, where it automatically detected my Brother HL-2270DW printer and installed it. Pretty slick.

You almost have to have a Microsoft account (e.g., hotmail.com, live.com, or outlook.com) to use the full features of Windows 8.1. I set Alexandra up with one and she got 15 GB of cloud storage for free. She's going to be using the Asus for schoolwork so by having her save everything to her OneDrive it will be automatically backed up.

I was able to set her MS account as a child's account. I'll get notified of her usage and they will filter inappropriate content. To do this I had to sign in with my live.com account and let them charge $0.50 to my Discover to confirm that I'm an adult.

Alexandra uses a GMail account and the Windows 8.1 Mail app was able to connect to it with no problems.

There's a USB 2.0 port on the tablet itself and a USB 3.0 port on the docking station/base/keyboard unit. The tablet has HDMI out, too. Network access is strictly via WiFi.

The machine seems to be pretty responsive. Considerably more responsive than my 2008-vintage MSI Wind U100 running Windows XP, 7, or Ubuntu. It came with Office 2013 Home and Student, and both Word and Excel launch quickly. The CPU is a quad-core Intel Baytrail and the tablet has 64 GB SSD, but C: shows a capacity of 49 GB, and about 35 GB free. It didn't come loaded down with too much bloatware, but there is a recovery partition.

The screen quality is excellent. Images are very sharp and text looks crisp.

It was about $350 after tax from Amazon. The combination of its size, light weight, and the ability to run most Windows apps is very appealing. It would probably make a good machine for portable ham radio digital mode use, or if you want something light for travel. Hopefully it’ll hold up well and the battery life will be good. Asus claims an 11 hour battery life, but I expect this varies widely depending on usage.

One caveat to be aware of with the Transformer is that if you put it in a case like this one and aren’t careful to reconnect the keyboard, you’ll have to reseat it firmly or you’re stuck with just a touchscreen. For that reason, for my own use I’d probably rather have a more conventional laptop if I could get it in the same size. It would be a great evolution of the netbook concept.

If the Asus develops any problems I’ll post a follow up.