Tablets are great for web browsing and multimedia, but without a keyboard they aren’t ideal for productivity. If you don’t want to carry a laptop as well as a tablet, just in case you need to get some proper work done, a hybrid device is the way forward. The latest from Asus, the Transformer Book T300 Chi, makes the transition between laptop and tablet modes seamlessly, thanks to a clever magnetic hinge keeping the tablet firmly secured to its keyboard base.
Not having to fiddle with latches or locks is far simpler than other convertible laptops. You simply clip the two together when you want to type, and pull them apart when you only need the tablet. It works well for the most part, although we sometimes unintentionally separated the two parts by grabbing the screen at an awkward angle. Everything is machined from a single piece of aluminium too, so both parts are impressively sturdy given their thickness. There are no seams or screws on show either, so there’s no denying the T300 looks sleek whether it’s docked or not.
With no direct connection between the tablet and keyboard, however, the T300 isn’t quite as flexible as other hybrids. The keyboard connects via Bluetooth, and only has a Micro USB port for charging its internal battery. This doesn’t function as a secondary battery to boost the tablet’s lifespan either.
A Micro USB to Micro USB cable is included in the box to charge both tablet and keyboard at the same time, but annoyingly the ports are on opposite sides, meaning you have to run the cable across the back of the laptop. Placing the ports on the same side and supplying a smaller cable would have made more sense.
All the ports are found on the tablet, although unsurprisingly for a convertible that’s only 7.6mm thick there’s not a great deal in the way of connectivity. You only get Micro HDMI, a microSD card slot, headset jack and USB3 Micro-B. Asus has included a Micro-B hub that gives you three USB3 ports; it’s not the most elegant way to connect devices quickly, but it keesp the tablet thin and saves you having to buy one yourself – unlike the less expensive Transformer Book T100.
The dual-core, 1.2GHz Intel Core M-5Y71 processor inside the T300 can boost to 1.4GHz when thermal limits allow. As one of Intel’s newest mobile chips, the Core M doesn’t need active cooling, meaning the T300 is completely silent. It is paired with 4GB of memory, but there are models available with 8GB. Performance was respectable, scoring 77 in our 1080p benchmarks – just behind what we’d expect from a Core i3 laptop.
However, while performance was decent, the T300’s battery life left us disappointed, managing just 6 hours 49 minutes. This is below what we would expect from a Windows tablet and two hours shy of the Transformer Book T100 Chi, although admittedly the T300 is considerably more powerful and has a higher resolution screen.
At least the display didn’t disappoint in terms of image quality. The 2,560×1,440 resolution is very sharp, contrast was fantastic with a ratio of 1,291:1, and sRGB colour gamut coverage was an exceptional 99%. Colours looked vibrant, with plenty of contrast and detail on show. Black levels were also very good at 0.29cd/m2, although we did notice a disappointing amount of backlight bleed around the screen edges. This detracts from what is otherwise an excellent screen, but only when viewing very dark images.
We didn’t have many complaints using the T300 in laptop mode, thanks to the comfortable and responsive keyboard. There might not be a lot of travel in the keys, but there’s plenty of space between each one so we didn’t feel at all cramped when typing. The keys aren’t backlit, however. The touchpad is admittedly quite small too, especially for vertical scrolling, but the surface was smooth and our fingers could glide across it without any problems. The tablet and keyboard weigh roughly the same, at 760g and 700g respectively so they are well balanced and won’t tip backwards while you’re working.
Our real issue is whether the T300 Chi is practical to use as a tablet; the 12.5in display is far larger than the average tablet, and the 16:9 aspect ratio makes it rather unwieldy. It feels imbalanced in your hand, whether you use it in portrait or landscape. The big screen was still useful when showing images or content to others, as it’s far easier to pass around than a laptop.
The Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi has several great features, such as its gorgeous design and high resolution screen, although battery life was disappointing and connectivity is only average. Unless portability is your absolute priority, the thicker Microsoft’s Surface 3 is a better pick, it has a full-size USB3 port and much better battery life. Even with the optional touch cover on top, it’s cheaper than the T300 as well.
|Processor||Dual-core 1.2GHz Intel Core M-5Y71|
|Memory slots (free)||1 (0)|
|Sound||Realtek HD Audio (3.5mm headset port)|
|Graphics adaptor||Intel HD Graphics 5300|
|Graphics outputs||Micro HDMI|
|Total storage||128GB SSD|
|Optical drive type||No|
|Ports and expansion|
|USB ports||Micro USB Type-B|
|Memory card reader||microSD|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1|
|Operating system restore option||Restore partition|
|Parts and labour warranty||One year RTB|
|Price inc VAT||£670|