Asus harnesses Intel’s Core M processors to create an alluring Windows hybrid that rivals the Surface Pro 3.
The T300 exudes the kind of high-end charm that we’d expect from a device a good deal more expensive than its price. The 12.5in tablet and keyboard dock are a handsome couple: hewn from chunks of aerospace-grade aluminium and finished in a deep metallic blue, with the brushed metal framed by bevelled edges skirting neatly around the sides.
Meanwhile, Asus’ choice of Intel’s low-power Core M processor has enabled it to pare down the size and weight. The tablet is 1.2mm thinner than the Surface Pro 3, at 7.9mm, and 80g lighter at 720g. In fact, the only physical disappointment is that the T300 is rather weighty once you factor in the keyboard dock.
Still, there are plenty of plus points. The weight in the base counterbalances the tablet to stop it toppling backwards. And while the screen doesn’t tilt back as far as a traditional laptop, it folds back enough to prove usable – and stable – on a lap. Factor in a comfy, spacious keyboard that’s pleasant to type on, and a touchpad that works well, and you have a hybrid that’s genuinely usable as a laptop.
The keyboard, which is now held in place by a strip of super-strong magnets, and connected via Bluetooth rather than a physical connection. This means that the keyboard needs to be charged separately to the tablet via its micro-USB connection, but this shouldn’t be a regular occurrence: after a full charge, our keyboard lasted well over a week during testing. And the Bluetooth connection allows the keyboard to function even when it isn’t directly connected – hook up the tablet to a monitor or TV, or just prop it up nearby, and you can control it remotely from several metres away.
There’s a microSD slot and a headset jack, as well as 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4, but the tablet’s slender edges leave no room for full-sized ports. Instead, Asus has resorted to micro-HDMI plus a single micro-USB 3 port, and supplies an adapter in the box to expand the latter to two full-sized USB 3 ports.
With a 1.2GHz Intel Core M-5Y71 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD, the Asus should feel sprightly. Indeed, while the Core M-5Y71 sips a mere handful of watts, it can boost up to 2.9GHz for short periods. What’s more, the Core M is capable of delivering those speed bursts without the need for a fan. The metal rear of the T300 becomes warm under normal use, but not to a worrying degree. It was only once we started hammering the Asus flat out with our benchmarks that it became uncomfortably hot to the touch.
Performance was sluggish on occasion, particularly during heavier multitasking. We’d point the finger at the low-power 128GB SanDisk i100 SSD, which sacrifices small-file read and write performance in order to minimise power draw. In the AS SSD benchmark, the i100 SSD achieved read and write transfer speeds of only 11MB/sec.
Battery life isn’t as good as we hoped – and especially not given the presence of a power-efficient Core M CPU. With the screen calibrated to a brightness of 120cd/m2, the Asus lasted for 5hrs 37mins in our looping 720p video test; short of Asus’ claim of eight hours.
The T300’s display is astonishingly good. A 2,560 x, 1,440 resolution stretches across the 12.5in panel, delivering sterling performance. Brightness tops out at a creditable 372cd/m2, contrast hits 1,243:1, and the panel dredges up an impressive 98% of the sRGB colour gamut.
Colour accuracy is the only area where the T300 drops behind the Surface Pro 3, with an average Delta E of 2.66 to the Surface Pro 3’s 1.77. We found the touchscreen to be superbly responsive, and the pressure-sensitive inking with the bundled stylus works beautifully too.
The Transformer Book T300 Chi is a competent hybrid. The display is superb, the design attractive; this is a hybrid that performs well in both tablet and laptop roles. There’s room for improvement – but, for the money, its flaws are ones we could live with. If you’ve been looking for an affordable, more flexible alternative to the Microsoft Surface Pro 3, the Asus Transformer Book Chi T300 is worth considering.
Editor's note: This review was to have appeared in the June issue of PC & Tech Authority but a production error unfortunately transposed a review of another product review on that page, we apologise to our readers for this error. Ben Mansill.