LaptopTablet

ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi: Ultrabook Review

The new ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi is launched as the world’s slimmest detachable laptop and retails in Singapore at S$1498. Compared to previous iterations, ASUS has made some design changes – and minor sacrifices – to transform into such a sleek and portable machine.

 

Build and Quality

The T300 Chi tablet and keyboard dock has a combined weight of 1.43kg. The tablet alone houses all the hardware, while the keyboard only functions as a keyboard, connected to the main unit via Bluetooth and has its own battery to power up the keyboard. The entire laptop, apart from the full-glass display panel, is in aluminium with no visible seams. The edges are diamond-cut with silver polish to give the T300 Chi that subtle sparkle. Top marks for class and durability.

 

Tablet Mode

The tablet is a mere 7.6mm and 720 grams. The Windows logo that doubles as a start menu button is absent, relegated to a hardware button on the top left corner below the mandatory volume buttons. The power button is also located at the top left above the ASUS logo.

 

The micro USB 3.0, micro HDMI and 3.5mm audio ports are found at the lower right side. The microSD card slot is at the bottom of the tablet, not so easily accessible if the tablet is docked. Speaker grilles are spotted on both sides of the laptop.

Keyboard Dock

The tablet is attached to the keyboard using 2 strong neodymium magnets instead of a keyboard port which was the case in previous Transformer models. I was skeptical about the Bluetooth implementation, but after trying out, the connectivity is very stable and keyboard response is lagfree.

 

The keyboard battery life is outstanding. In fact, I do not turn off the keyboard and yet the battery does not drain excessively. I believe an internal standby mode is in place to minimise battery drain. In any case, there is a notification icon status to inform you of the remaining battery. Worse case, you can charge the keyboard with micro USB cable.

I was also skeptical about holding the dock to the tablet without any mechanical lock other than magnets, but my fears were unfounded. The devices do not come apart easily through normal handling.

 

Other than keyboard function, there are no other connectivity ports to be used with the tablet, nor extended battery, nor storage, compared to previous Transformer models.

 

 

Experience Transformed

With top-spec 8GB RAM and 128GB integrated SSD, the ASUS T300 Chi runs smoothly for most operations. Based on benchmark comparison of my previous laptop review units, the Intel Core M is actually not far off from average-speced i5 laptops. While you might lose a bit on the performance speed, you gain benefit with the tablet size. It is really hard to imagine that this 7.6mm thin tablet contains all the necessary components to run a full Windows OS. The startup is extremely fast – within 10 seconds. But if you are really in a hurry, you can just press the power button to put the device to sleep.

 

I thoroughly enjoy using the T300 Chi. It looks and behaves a lot like any other laptop, until you show off the ability to detach the screen from the keyboard. Thanks to the new magnetic dock, the hinge is a lot smaller. Personally, I can’t see myself using a Windows OS without a proper hardware keyboard, so I would rarely carry the T300 Chi around with just the tablet. However, I appreciate the ability to detach the tablet to view content in portrait mode, for instance, ebooks and websites. This is not possible with a normal laptop, and would be too heavy to use on a foldable laptop.

 

The keyboard mechanical action is a lot better than the previous Transformer keyboard docks I have reviewed. I like the key spacing and have not missed any keystrokes throughout my review. The touchpad feels responsive like any laptops with integrated keyboard, so the Bluetooth connectivity works really well. Because the T300 Chi is top-heavy, ASUS restricted the tilt angle to prevent the laptop from toppling over.

 

The 2560×1440 WQHD display resolution provides sharp text, with the icons and menu bars scaled nicely. I like the natural colour tones, but ASUS includes Splendid Utility to tweak the colour tone like Vivid (saturated) or Reading (warm white). The glass is too reflective for my liking and gets in the way.

 

The stereo speakers on both sides of the tablet delivers treble-clear surround sound, though lacking in midrange warmth and bass. Loudness is adequate for indoors but not loud enough for outdoors.

 

ASUS includes a few other pre-installed apps. PhotoDirector and PowerDirector by Cyberlink, which should come in handy for basic to intermediate editing. But some of the on-screen text are in Chinese, supposedly due to incomplete translation for International users.

 

Battery life of the T300 Chi is average, and I find myself charging the laptop more often than I had desired, probably also because I enjoy using the laptop so much. It should last an average work day, but keep the charger close to you if you are a power user.

 

There are a few issues using the T300 Chi. First, there is only 1 micro USB 3.0 port. While you can easily circumvent with a multi-port USB Hub, it means unsightly wires sticking out. If you prefer to use a mouse instead of trackpad, even if you use a wireless mouse, you cannot avoid plugging a USB converter to connect the wireless dongle to the T300 Chi.

 

Second, you are limited with the storage size – a mere 128GB, small by laptop standards. This is an unavoidable problem with portable computing devices. The consolation is that cloud storage has become more easily accessible, and ASUS is offering unlimited web storage for first year.

 

Verdict

Previous Transformer models are generally bulkier than the laptop models due to the detachable element. The latest Transformer Book Chi series have eliminated this constraint. Consumers who likes using a Windows tablet but still yearns for the conventional laptop form factor should pick the T300 Chi.

 

Would I buy it? Yes I would, but considering the storage, battery and connectivity limitations, I probably would get a lower spec model and use for less mission-critical tasks. The Full-HD T300 variant with 4GB RAM and 64GB iSSD is only at S$1198. The T100 Chi which runs on Intel Bay Trail-T is only S$698 but less premium hardware. These price points should renew the consumer interest in Windows ultrabooks. After all, there are a lot of tasks that only a multi-windowed computer with proper pointing device can accomplish better.

 

Spec

  • Processor: Intel® Core™ M 5Y71 Processor
  • Operating System: Windows 8.1
  • Chipset: Integrated Intel® CPU
  • Memory: LPDDR3 1600 MHz SDRAM, 4 GB, up to 8 G
  • Display: 12.5″ Auto WQHD (2560×1440)
  • Graphic: Integrated Intel® HD Graphics 5300
  • Storage: 128GB ISSD
  • Camera: HD Web Camera
  • Networking: Integrated 802.11ac
  • Interface:
    1 x COMBO audio jack
    1 x Micro USB
    1 x micro HDMI
    1 x Bluetooth On/Off Switch
    1 x SD card reader
    1X AC adapter plug
  • Audio: Built-in Speakers And Array Microphone, SonicMaster
  • Battery: 32 Whrs
  • Dimensions: 317.8 x 191.6 x 7.6 ~ 16.5 mm (WxDxH)
  • Weight: 1.43 kg

 

Reviewed by Chester Tan http://musicphotolife.com/
Rating: 3.8 of 5

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