A while ago I’ve reviewed the Asus Transformer Book T100TA, which quickly became one of the best-selling 2-in-1s of the last year. Now it’s time to have a look at a similar, yet different in a few important ways device, the Transformer Book T200TA.
This one is mostly an oversized version of the T100, as it is still designed as a stand-alone Windows 8.1 tablet bundled with a matching docking station, included in the pack. In other words, the T200 is something you can use as a regular slate, or a mini-laptop if you need the extra productivity provide by a keyboard and peripherals.
Compared to the T100 though, the T200 is larger, heavier and packs an 11.6 inch touchscreen. The dock is more complex, with extra ports, a full-size keyboard and a wider trackpad. Price wise though, the T200 is expected to start at $399 (follow this link for an updated price tag at the time you’re reading this), which is more or less on par with what Asus charged for the T100 at launch.
Keep in mind that I’ve used the T200 extensively for the last two weeks and my review is based on my impressions gathered during this time. The tablet came from Asus’s PR department and went back after I published the article and the video.
|Asus Transformer Book T200TA spec sheet|
|Screen||11.6 inch, 1366 x 768 px, IPS|
|Hardware||Intel Atom BayTrail-T Z3775 CPU 1.46 GHz CPU and Intel HD graphics|
|Memory||2 GB RAM|
|Storage||64 GB eMMC inside the slate and 500 GB HDD in the dock|
|Connectivity||Wireless N, Bluetooth|
|Sensors||accelerometer, compass, gyroscope, light sensor|
|Ports||micro-HDMI, micro-USB, microSD card reader (up to 64 GB cards), proprietary docking port, headphone jack|
|Cameras||5 MPx back camera without Flash, 1.2 MPx front camera|
|Size||Tablet: 305 x 194 x 11.95 mm (12” x 7.6” x 0.47”)|
With dock: 305 x 200 x 26 mm (12” x 7.7” x 1”)
|Weight||Tablet: 780 g (1.71 lbs)|
With dock (and HDD): 1625 g (3.58 lbs)
|Others||docking station included, with keyboard, trackpad, USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 slots, LAN port and HDD|
The Video Review
Design, exterior and first look
Like I said above, on a first look the T200 seems just like a larger version of the popular T100. That was expected, since there’s an 11.6 inch screen on this Transformer Book, while the T100 only packed a 10.1 inch display. However, you’ll notice that there’s a lot of bezel around the screen, at this has a major impact on this slate’s footprint as well.
On top of that, the T200 is rather heavy, as it tips the scales at 1.7 pounds. Have it connected to the dock and you’ll end up with a 3.6 pounds device, while most standard 11 inch mini laptops weigh less than 3, which means that Asus somewhat sacrificed portability on this device in order to implement the form-factor with reduced costs.
Weight aside though, the T200 feels and looks good enough. In fact, it’s fairly sturdy and nicely finished, again, for something that only sells for $400. Blue textured plastic is used for the slate’s back and sides, with a rubbery feel that makes it grippy in hand, but will catch dirt easily. The sides are a bit sharp and covered in some sort of glossy plastic, while the front is occupied by the screen (and bezel).
It’s worth noticing here that all the ports and connectors were placed on the left-edge, which leads to an uncluttered right-side, ideal for most users when having this on a flat surface, in laptop mode.
The dock is made from a mix of silver plastic on the interior and black, rugged plastic on its belly. But if you were looking for premium materials, you won’t find them on the T200.
In fact, this is what makes the Transformer Book T200 as versatile as it is, enhancing your experience with the slate. It offers a full-sized keyboard, with proper spaced keys, good tactile feedback and decent travel. In fact, this feels a lot like the keyboards on the Asus Chromebook C200 and the Asus Vivobook X202.
There’s also a large, smooth trackpad and most-of-the-time accurate trackpad, with gestures support, and a roomy palm-rest.
On top of that, on the sides Asus tucked a LAN port and two USB connectors (USB 3.0 on the right and 2.0 on the left), while on the inside there’s room for a hard-drive. A 500 GB HDD came presintalled on our test unit, but Asus actually made it really simple to access this bay, which is only one Philips screw and one plastic cap away from you. So if you’ll buy the T200 without the HDD in the dock, it’s going to be very easy to put one in there yourself (or maybe put an SSD instead).
Latching/unlatching the slate and the dock together is another simple process and the hinge is solid enough to keep the screen exactly how you’ll set it up. However, the connection is not completely firm, as the slate moves in place when attached to the dock. On the other hand, the T200 is not very top-heavy, so it won’t easily fall on its rear when the screen is leaned back as much as the hinge allows.
To sum these up, I overall liked how this Transformer Book T200 feels and looks. The slate itself is large and heavy, thus not that comfortable to use, which I wasn’t exactly expecting considering the hardware it packs inside (read down below for details). But that’s the corner Asus had to cut in order to meet the low price point and it’s just something you’ll have to take as it is.
There’s an 11.6 inch touchscreen on this T200 and Asus went with an average-quality IPS panel. It covers 72% of the sRGB and 55% of Adobe RGB standards, which is not bad, but not impressive either. It has good viewing angles and the average DeltaE for the uncalibrated panel is 1.99, with the Blues and the Reds more aggressively skewed than the others.
More details are available below (I’m using a Datacolor Spyder4 Elite colorimeter for the measurements):
- measured gamma: 2.3 ;
- max brightness in the middle of the screen: 254 cd/m2 on power;
- contrast at max brightness: 630:1;
- white point: 7200 K;
- black on max brightness: 0.40 cd/m2;
- average DeltaE: 1.99 uncalibrated, 1.55 calibrated .
The White point is rather cold, but the panel is bright enough and offers decent contrast. On top of that, the Brightness distribution is really good. The picture included is a bit skewed, as there was just not enough room to place the Spyder on the lower third of the screen, which resulted in what I consider inaccurate results for that area of the screen.
Of course, the display is glossy on this device and if you plan to use it outside, reflections and glare are going to be a problem.
Hardware and daily use experience
Hardware wise, the T200 shares the same platform as the T100: an Intel Atom BayTrail-T Z3775 processor with 2 GB of RAM and 64 GB of internal eMMC storage and a 500 GB HDD in the dock, for this tested version. Roughly 35 GB are available for your own content on that internal flash, with a fresh Windows 8.1 install. In time, this space will diminish.
The Hynix made eMMC is not a lot faster than a regular HDD, but at least it’s silent. And the fact that this laptop only comes with 2 GB of RAM will probably disappoint some of you, especially since those cannot be upgraded and the Atom platform supports up to 4 GB of memory. However, if Asus went for 4 GB of RAM on this one, they also would have had to get the 64bit version of the OS preinstalled, and these two would have once again affected the price.
And as James added in the comments section: “Besides cost, 4GB LP-DDR3 RAM is also still not a common option for mobile range devices and the Bay Trail T is using the same mobile LP-DDR3 RAM used in many ARM based devices. So the increase cost would be greater than it would be for the Bay Trail M and D series that support DDR3L RAM that can be readily found in higher capacities.“
The hardware is not upgradeable and in fact accessing it is not an easy endeavor, as it requires to remove the slate’s back cover. There is however a HDD in the dock, a Hitachi Travelstar Z5K500 HTS545050A on our unit, which is a 7 mm drive . I can’t confirm whether 9 mm drive will work or not, but you can be safe as go with 7 mm ones.
The Atom platform is meant to be primarily efficient, so it’s not a power-horse, but is capable of handling well most everyday activities, from browsing to chatting, from editing texts to watching all sorts of video content, listening to music and even playing older games or the touch-optimized titles in Microsoft’s Store. Just don’t over push it and don’t try to multitask between many apps opened at the same time, cause if you do, you’ll end up with a choppy experience.
I had no problems running high-bitrate 1080p mkvs on this T200 or streaming 1080p content from Youtube, in which case the Wireless module proved fast and reliable (a Broadcom 802.11 bgn chip). There’s also a Fast Ethernet Realtek adapter, in case you need to go the wired route.
The speakers are not bad either, loud and punchy, and definitely help with the overall multimedia experience, but the slate’s shell tends to vibrate when pumping up the volume, which is not going to be a problem when using this T200 in laptop mode, but could be when holding it as a tablet.
The computer also runs cool, as you can see from the pictures below and the case barely gets warm under load. On top of that, this thing is almost completely noiseless, if not for the occasional cranking of the spinning hard-drive. Otherwise, the platform is fan-less, thus dead-quiet.
The T200 is capable of going for up to 8 hours of daily use, with Wi-Fi ON and the screen at 50%, while performing a mix of the activities mentioned above, with the dock attached all of the time. And that’s not bad at all.
The tablet can also go for about 11 hours when left idle, with the screen completely dimmed down. At the same time, it will run out of juice in under 5 hours of full-load with the screen at max brightness.
Keep in mind that this particular version of the T200 comes with the HDD inside the dock and that’s going to have an impact on final numbers. If you’ll go for the versions without the HDD, your T200 will last somewhat longer each charge. It’s also worth noting here that there’s no extra battery inside the dock.
There’s supposedly a 37 Wh battery inside the slate, although HWInfo and other similar software only show an 18.5 Wh one on my test unit, but also abnormally small average consumption, which makes me think the apps are only reporting on half of the battery, but the entire one is actually in use.
The laptop comes with a 33Wh power-brick and a complete charge takes around 2 hours (with light use during this time). It no longer charges via the microUSB port, like the T100 model, but through a dedicated charging pin.
Pricing and conclusions
Now, to wrap this up, the T200 sure offers a lot for the money: an interesting hardware platform, long battery life, a nice screen, plenty of ports and a surprisingly good typing experience. It does sacrifice portability, as it is bulky and heavy for an 11 incher.
It’s also not meant for heavy use, but can handle well the daily chores. Last but not least, it’s built entirely out of plastic and some of you might have expected a higher resolution screen and better hardware configurations, with 4 GB of RAM and extra storage space, but those would have driven the prices up.
Asus chose to keep the prices down instead, as the T200 starts at $399 for the 32 GB version (follow this link for the updated price). There will be a couple of different other models available as well, including one with 64 GB of SSD storage, 4 GB of RAM and one with a HDD included in the dock. Personally, I’d buy the 64 GB variant and add a storage unit of my own licking in the dock later on, preferably an SSD, in order to keep this thing completely noiseless, as this is after all one of the Atom’s platform selling points.
I’ll update this section with prices and configurations as soon as the T200 becomes available in stores.
Update: the 32 GB model is available in UK at various stores, Including Argos, for £349 (Thanks Alan).
Update2: The $399 model, with 32 GB of storage, 2 GB of RAM and no HDD in the dock, seems to be BestBuy exclusive in the US right now. Other shops, including Amazon or B&H or Newegg list a $499 version, which bundles a higher clocked Intel Z3795 processor, 4 GB of RAM, 64 GB of storage and Windows 8.1 64-bit. There’s not Office license included with this model (or with the cheaper base version either) from what I can tell, unlike with the smaller T100TA and T100TAM 2-in-1s.
At the end of the day, the Transformer Book T200 hits the sweet-spot and I believe it’s going to be one of the most popular inexpensive 2-in-1s of this year. It’s not the ideal option for everyone and it might not be what you want, in which case you should check out my list of recommended 11 inchers available here on the site, and also some of the other Asus Transformer Books, the portable and cheap T100, or the premium looking T300, with a 13 inch screen, Intel Core hardware and a sleek metallic body.
Either way, that’s about it for this review. Let me know what you think about the Asus Transformer Book T200TA in the comments section below, and if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to ask, I and the other readers will be around to reply.