The Surface Pro 3 set the standard for what a well-built Windows 8.1 convertible device can be. We’ve seen a few devices, such as HP Envy x2, try and fail to mimic the same winning formula. Now, Asus has introduced something a little different with the Transformer Book T300 Chi. What’s more, the company promises that its 12.5-inch 2-in-1 laptop will wipe the floor with Microsoft’s baby and other convertible machines.
Like the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, this laptop utilizes an Intel Core M chip, which has helped drastically reduce the weight and size of the unit. Whereas both Asus’s previous Transformer Book Duet and TX300 felt unwieldy as tablets, the T300 Chi is stunningly light at just 1.58 pounds (0.72 kg).
It’s a staggeringly light device when compared to the 1.76-pound Surface Pro 3. However, attaching the Bluetooth-connected keyboard brings up the total weight of this unit to a less impressive 3.18 pounds (1.44 kg), which puts it well behind the 2.62-pound (or 1.2 kg) Surface Pro 3 with its keyboard cover.
A real keyboard for real work
One of the biggest defining features of the T300 Chi is it comes with a real keyboard. Compared to the (albeit excellent) Surface Pro 3 Type Cover, which normally is sold separately, Asus’s keyboard feels substantially more tactile with minimal flex despite being so thin.
The T300 Chi’s detachable keyboard can also be used even when it is not attached to the tablet section. Thanks to the Bluetooth connection and has its own battery.
Asus tells us that the keyboard should last for 84 hours of use or a week on standby time. Unfortunately, the tablet end of the device can’t siphon power from the keyboard. Still, the Taiwanese company promises that its lightweight convertible laptop will have up to 8 hours of battery life on its own.
Whether you’re holding just the T300 Chi’s tablet portion or the unit as a whole with the keyboard, this is an extremely solid and premium feeling device. Completely clad in an anodized aluminum shell, Asus has refined the Transformer Book’s styling down to the diamond cut, chamfered edge.
Similarly, Asus has done away with the bulky mechanically locking latches from its older convertible laptops and replaced it with strong neodymium magnets. Although the tiny rare earth magnets are even smaller than a Tic-Tac mint, they were able to easily keep the laptop affixed to the keyboard base as I flipped and twisted the device around while inspecting it.
While the magnets help keep the device together almost as if it were a real physical hinge. I found it was a difficult to detach the tablet from the keyboard as you can’t just pull the tablet straight off the base.
As two Asus spokespersons demonstrated, the best procedure was to keep the base planted to a desk with one hand while grabbing the screen and peeling it off to the side. It’s a process that takes a bit of learning and more force than I felt comfortable exerting on such a thin device.
I also found it difficult to replant the tablet into the keyboard base as slots into a tight fitting slit. However the Asus representative also noted that the unit they supplied for our short hands-on was an engineering sample.
Let’s hope that, with the final product, the transformation procedure will be a little less clunky. The use of magnets is ingenious and has helped Asus produce a thinner convertible tablet-laptop than most of its competitors, though at the cost of miniaturizing every port; including miniUSB, mini HDMI and even a Micro SD card slot.
A budget Ultra HD Ultrabook
Asus brought around the WQHD version of the T300 Chi, and it’s a stunning 2560 x 1440 resolution display that almost sparkled upon first inspection. The panel was also extremely color rich with great contrast to boot.
That said, there was a fair amount of glare on the screen, which could prove problematic if you take this machine out to coffee shops. Still the reflective finish is something we become accustomed to with touchscreen devices such as the Dell XPS 11.
Asus has refined it’s old and heavy Transformer Book series into something far more elegant and light with the T300 Chi. The use of a magnetic latch and hinge is a unique choice in the 2-in-1 laptops world and it has allowed Asus to create a Windows 8.1 slate that’s even thinner than some tablets.
Asus hasn’t fully divulged all the pricing details for all the configurations, but the WQHD model will soon be available for a starting price of $799 (about £524, AU$1035). The company also has plans for a 1080p version of the Transformer Book T300 Chi, which will start at $699 (about £458, AU$905).
Additionally, you will be able to pick between the 1.2GHz M5Y71 or 800MHz M5Y10 Intel Core M processors. You’ll also be able to upgrade the convertible Ultrabook with up to 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. The customization options might seem a bit light; but for work, light web browsing and most media consumption, this should be more than enough.
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