A tablet is mostly used for browsing, games and multimedia. But what if you want more? What if you need a small computer that can run the software you’re already familiar with from your main PC, a slate that can handle not just the fun, but some work as well.
In this case, Asus’s Transformer Book T100 line could be what you’re looking for and in this review we’re talking about the youngest member of the family, the Asus Transformer Book T100TAM, a subtle step-up from the popular Transformer Book T100TA.
This is still a 10.1 inch tablet bundled with a matching docking station that includes a keyboard, trackpad, ports and increased storage space. Together the two still make for a neat mini-laptop, or you can use the slate by its own if you want to. On top of these, the T100TAM still sells for $399 and up. However, there are a few things that changed, like the case, the screen and hardware, and you’ll find all about these from the article below.
|Asus Transformer Book T100TAM spec sheet|
|Screen||10.1 inch, 1366 x 768 px, IPS|
|Hardware||Intel Atom BayTrail-M Z3775 CPU 1.46 GHz CPU and Intel HD graphics|
|Memory||2 GB RAM|
|Storage||32 GB eMMC inside the slate|
|Connectivity||Wireless N, Bluetooth|
|Sensors||accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, light sensor|
|Ports||micro-HDMI, micro-USB, microSD card reader (up to 64 GB cards), headphone jack|
|Cameras||1.2 MPx front camera|
|Size||Tablet: 264 x 170 x 10.4 mm (10.4” x 6.7” x 0.41”)|
Dock: 305 x 200 x 12.9 mm (10.4” x 6.7” x 0.51”)
|Weight||Tablet: 605 g (1.33 lbs)|
With dock (without HDD): 1126 g (2.48 lbs)
|Others||docking station included, with keyboard, trackpad, USB 3.0 slot and HDD (on some options)|
The Video Review
Design, exterior and first look
The new Transformer Book T100TAM has a metallic body, while the original TA went for a plastic shell.
A textured sheet of aluminum covers the back and stretches around the edges, and as a result, the tablet feels stronger and overall more premium. On the other hand, it’s also less grippy and more prone to smudges and fingerprints, and besides these, it is heavier as well, tipping the scales at about 1.33 pounds (the TA weighs 1.24 lbs). That’s not a huge difference, but every ounce matters when talking about a hand-held device.
So the metal case does have its fair share of drawbacks.
The dock hasn’t changed, it’s exactly the same one we’ve seen on the original T100TA, made of plastic, with a miniaturized keyboard and trackpad, plus an USB 3.0 slot and room for a hard-drive inside (however, you’ll have to remove the entire back panel to access the 2.5″ bay).
The typing experience is decent, as long as you get used to the small and cramped keys and the trackpad is alright if you need more precision than the touchscreen can offer, especially in the Desktop version. But just like the keys, it is tiny.
You can use the tablet as a separate device or attach it to the dock. The latching mechanism is simple and intuitive and combined, the two make for a 2.5 pounds compact computer. It’s worth noting that the slate is now a bit taller than the dock, which let’s you more easily grip its edge when lifting the screen in laptop-mode, as you can see from the video. On the other hand, the screen barely leans back to about 120 degrees, which can be problematic when using this anywhere else but on a desk (or similar). Still, with all the hardware in the slate and the heavier case, the T100TAM is top-heavy and that was the only way Asus could prevent the ensemble from falling on its back.
Not much else has changed on the exterior. The same ports and buttons are lined around the edges, with the micro-USB and micro-HDMI connectors placed on the right lip, which can get annoying when using this as a laptop and having the right side cluttered with cable and peripherals.
The 10.1 inch screen is on a first look identical to the one on the previous T100 model. It’s still covered in protective glass and surrounded by a fairly hefty bezel. However, the colorimeter shows that Asus went for a new panel on the T100TAM, with the HW ID AUO20DC. I’ve seen some T100TA owners mentioning that they have the exact same one on their units, but the TA I tested (and the ones tested by most other publications) had a HV101HD1 panel.
Anyway, this is still an IPS touchscreen with 1366 x 768 px resolution. However, the panel on the TAM covers 72% of sRGB, 52% of NTSC and 54% of the AdobeRGB spectrums, which is an improvement over what I knew from the T100TAM. And the numbers below support this conclusion:
- measured gamma: 2.0 ;
- max brightness in the middle of the screen: 245 cd/m2 on power;
- contrast at max brightness: 770:1;
- white point: 7500 K;
- black on max brightness: 0.32 cd/m2;
- average DeltaE: 2.42 uncalibrated, 1.40 calibrated .
This display is still not very bright (but the Brightness distribution is solid, above 90%) and the Black point is a bit high, which leads to an only decent contrast ratio of 770:1. The White point is cold and that leads to somewhat skewed blues and reds.
However, colors are much more accurately painted than on the older screen, with an average DeltaE of 2.42 for the uncalibrated panel, which can go to a 1.40 once calibrated, while the T100TA averaged a DeltaE of around 7 (more details in here). And that’s really good for a tablet in this price range.
All the numbers are recorded with a Spyder4 Elite Colorimeter.
To wrap this up, the screen on the T100TAM displays more accurate colors than the one on the TA. The brightness, which is not adequate for outdoor use, and the contrast remind us we’re dealing with a budget option here, but even so, the screen is one of this slate’s strong points.
Hardware and daily use experience
The Transformer Book T100TAM has received a hardware boost over the original T100TA.
While the previous version was powered by an Intel BayTrail-T Z3740 processor, this one gets the Z3775 CPU. Same platform, same architecture, just slightly higher clocked, and more importantly, with about 10 to 15% faster graphics. There are still only 2 GB of memory though, that’s for the moment what we can expect from similar priced and sized devices.
Besides these, this particular unit that I’ve tested here comes with 32 GB of internal storage, which leaves about 15 GB of space for your own content with a brand new Windows install, but the tablet is available in a few other configurations as well (64 GB eMMC inside the slate, with about 35 available for your stuff and an optional 500 GB HDD in the dock, only available on SOME versions).
The eMMC Hynix storage solution is slow and soldered on the motherboard, but when compared to a regular HDD, it’s compact and noiseless. You can expand the storage space with an up to 64 GB microSD card,
or you can add a storage drive inside the dock.
Important: There are two dock versions for the T100 line. One paired with the non-HDD version of the tablet, which is slimmer and does not offer the electronics for a HDD, and another paired with the HDD equipped version of the tablet. In other words, if you buy the versions that are not equipped with a HDD, you can’t add one yourself. However, if you buy the one with a HDD, it is possible to replace the pre-includded drive with a different 2.5″ 7 mm one, HDD or SSD.
But how does this machine perform in everyday use? I’d say good enough for daily activities, including browsing between up to 10 different tabs, editing some documents, watching 1080p video content, both self-stored or streamed online, etc. BTW, quite a few buyers complained about wireless issues on the T100, but I haven’t encountered any on this version. The signal strength when a bit further away from the router (20 feet from mine, with 3 walls in between) can however be a problem.
On the other hand, the speakers on the tested T100TAM model were scarred by low-volume, so while the sound quality is not bad, the audio coming from those two punctured grills on the slate’s belly is tiny and cannot fill a noisier room. Thus headphones are going to be the way to go if you want to watch movies on this Asus tablet.
Old games will work on the T100TAM as well (tried Age of Empires 2 HD and was happy with the experience) and even more demanding software (like Adobe Photoshop, as long as you only perform basic stuff), but keep in mind this thing is not meant for heavy use. The hardware is going to show its limits if you’ll push it hard. Even so, while performing activities that keep the CPU at an unrealistically high load for a longer period of time, the device is still responsive.
On top of that, it does run cool and completely quiet, since the ATOM platform is fan-less. Running benchmarks like Cinebench 11.5 (this one scored 6.81 OpenGL fps and 1.61 CPU pts) does push the internals above 75°C and makes the slate’s back warm, but with daily use, temperatures are not going to be a problem.
I haven’t stress-tested this version of the T100TAM to see what happens to the CPU’s frequency under load and haven’t really pushed the graphics to find out how the Z3775 processor compares to the older Z3740, because I was a bit time-pressed with this review and did not consider heavy load use relevant, since this thing is not designed for such scenarios and cannot handle them smoothly anyway.
One of the Transformer Book T100TA’s (previous generation) biggest selling points was the included Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 unlimited license. This particular version of the Office suite was bundled with the slate and you could use it indefinitely, without extra costs.
Things seem to be slightly different for the T100TAM model, and while it might vary from region to region, in the US the listings suggest that the T100TAM model is only bundled with a 1 year worth of MS Office 365 Personal, which is not an unlimited license. You’d have to pay $69.99 a year after the first to keep using the license, and while the 365 pack does include extra benefits over the standard Dekstop Office suite, that’s something quite a few of you might not appreciate.
The battery hasn’t changed on this T100TAM tablet, which still packs the 31 Wh heart we’ve seen on the older model. This translates in about 7-8 hours of daily use, or more if used lightly with the screen dimmed down.
That’s OK. However, the charging problem I encountered on the T100TA is still present here. This Transformer book charges via the microUSB slot on the slate and is bundled with a small-capacity 10W charger. As long as you charge it with the original cable, the one included in the pack, the device is going to charge in about 3 hours if you’re not using it, or many more if you are.
The included cable is only 1 m long (3 feet or so) and with the micro-USB slot on the right of the tablet, it’s going to be very difficult to charge and use the tablet on the desk at the same time, unless you have a wall-socket very, very close by (like on the desk as well). If not, you might want to use a longer USB to microUSB cable, but in this case the tablet barely trickle charges and isn’t capable of supporting the amount of energy needed for everyday use.
And all these made my life with the T100TAM a complete pain.
Pricing and conclusions
Long story short, the Asus Transformer Book T100TAM is a marginal update of the popular T100TA model. It gets a metallic case, a slightly bumped processor and faster graphics, plus a more color-accurate display, while inheriting all its other traits. Hopefully Asus worked on their quality-control process as well and we won’t see as many units with faulty wireless chips and batteries.
The new model has the same list price as the previous one, of around $400 for the 64GB configuration, with the dock included (the version without a HDD). There’s also a 32 GB version of the slate with the 500 GB HDD inside the dock, available for $399 as well these days. See this link for details and keep in mind that the docks included with the HDD and the non-HDD equipped versions are different and there’s no way to add a HDD yourself on the non-HDD model.
But the original T100TA is also available discounted in most stores. And on top of that, I’ve seen some versions of the plastic-made T100 offered with the Intel Z3775 processor as well (sold as the Transformer Books T100TA-C1-GR(S), the gray one, or the T100TA-C1-WR(S), the white model). Follow this link for details and potential discounts.
And that makes the aluminum case and the panel the only different aspects of the T100TAM. And the differnet Office packages included: Microsoft Office Home & Student 2013 on the T100TA and only 1 year of Microsoft Office 365 Personal on the T100TAM.
At the end of the day, if the TAM version is going to match the TA in price, or at least come close at the time you’re reading this post, it could be worth buying over the older model, even if you’ll end up with a heavier, potentially more difficult to carry around device and an Office suite that would require further payments down the road.
Otherwise, the T100TA will offer more for the money and will remain the smarter choice. Time will tell, just check out both models after reading this article and make a decisions based on how much each of them costs.
But before you do that, make sure you understand that this is a budget tablet/mini-laptop meant primarily for light use and don’t expect more from it or you’ll end up disappointed.
With that in mind, it’s time to wrap this up. The comments section is open, so if you have any questions about the Asus Transformer Book T100TAM or anything to add to this review, don’t hesitate to do so below. And if the T100TAM is not the right device for you, then you should also check out my lists of popular 10 inch 2-in-1s and the list of the best mini laptops of the moment. Or you can have a look at the Asus Transformer Book T200TA, the slightly larger and better equipped kin of the unit tested here.