2-in-1 ultrabooks sound pretty amazing. They’re ordinary-looking laptops that can be converted into tablets, simply by detaching the touchscreen, like so:
These versatile hybrids are invariably sleek and lightweight, making them ideal for those who need to lug their laptops around frequently. Even if you don’t need to, there’s still something strangely fun in pulling a 2-in-1 apart or snapping the pieces together when you’re bored. And one of the best models in the market right now is the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi, the long-awaited sequel to its Chi line of ultrabooks.
Before we talk about our hands-on experience with the T300 Chi, here’s a rundown of the spec sheet:
|Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi|
|Screen size:||12.5 inches|
|Screen resolution:||2,560 x 1,440 (WQHD) capacitive multi-touch IPS display|
|Dimensions:||317 x 191 x 16 mm|
|Weight:||1430g (720g without keyboard)|
|CPU:||1.2GHz Intel Core M 5Y71 processor, 800Mhz (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 2.9GHz with turbo boost)|
|Ports:||Micro USB 3.0, mini HDMI, microSD card reader, headphone/mic combo jack|
|RAM:||8GB DDR3L (1600MHz)|
|Camera:||2MP 720p webcam|
|Price:||USD 699, or approximately SGD 940|
My first thought when I lifted the laptop from its box was, “Wow, it’s heavier than it looks.”
Don’t get me wrong — at 1430g, the T300 Chi is one of the more lightweight laptops around. Take it as a testament to the huge amount of care that went into its design — from all sides, the Transformer looks sliver-thin.
Let’s get the grouses out of the way first — of which there are quite a few. Despite its attractive sleekness, the T300 Chi made a bad impression on me right off the bat — I couldn’t get the Bluetooth keyboard to work.
Moments after receiving my unit and powering it up, I met with a huge problem: the tablet portion wouldn’t respond to the Bluetooth keyboard. The fact that Bluetooth seemed switched on on the keyboard itself resulted in some frantic Googling and general confusion on my part, until our resident tech whiz figured out that Windows had disabled Bluetooth on the tablet due to some mysterious error. If you’ve encountered this issue, here’s what you should do: open Device Manager to disable or re-enable the dock’s Bluetooth as necessary, and pray hard that this isn’t a harbinger of recurrent problems.
The first thing I did after getting past this hitch was to download and try out Google Chrome (sorry, Internet Explorer). For Google Chrome users, here’s something that might be an annoyance: the touchscreen keyboard pops up any time you tap the touchscreen. This doesn’t happen outside of the browser and can get really annoying. Although it does disappear as soon as you start typing on the Bluetooth keyboard, it doesn’t do so smoothly — either the page warps for a moment, or there’s a bright flash as the keyboard disappears. That doesn’t sound like too major a problem, but just imagine dealing with it fifty times an hour.
Another problem would be the unresponsive touchpad: I often found myself sighing in frustration as I made futile jabs at the trackpad. However, this is amply compensated for by the sensitive touchscreen, to the extent that trying to use the sluggish trackpad just seems like too much of a hassle. You’ll definitely find yourself falling into the habit of reaching out to tap something onscreen — while using my ordinary laptop, I had to catch myself from trying to tap a non-existent touchscreen several times.
Also, one of the downsides of the Chi’s magnetic hinge mechanism is that it restricts the angle at which you can open the laptop. If you’re using it on a table, there should be no problem, but if you often cradle your laptop in your lap, you might wish for the screen to be more flexible. In addition, the keyboard dock and the tablet portion are around the same weight, plus the whole thing wobbles slightly when open to its maximum angle. All told, the laptop is terrifyingly prone to tipping backward.
But the issues I’ve mentioned above are, in truth, pretty minor (aside from the sluggish touchpad). In terms of aesthetics and general performance, the T300 Chi has far more good points than otherwise.
As I’ve already mentioned, the hybrid has a slim silhouette and compact craftsmanship, so design-wise, there’s little to quibble about. The magnetic clasps make it simple to detach and re-attach the tablet and keyboard dock, while ensuring that the laptop doesn’t accidentally come apart even if you pick it up by the screen. Fingermarks do show up on the shiny bezel edges easily, but you can probably get rid of those easily with Asus’ complementary microfiber cloth.
Despite its slimness, the T300 Chi packs an impressive amount of hardware beneath the hood. Its 2560 x 1440 screen resolution means that the Transformer’s display is incredibly sharp and clear — even the 13-inch Macbook Air only has a display of 1440 x 900. With a perfectly respectable 1.2Ghz Intel Core processor, the laptop also runs a smooth performance. It’s certainly no hardcore gaming laptop — its CPU and GPU aren’t really meant for demanding activities — but it handles everyday tasks like browsing the Internet magnificently. Some have complained about poor performance at low battery levels, but I personally didn’t experience that at all.
Of course, the sleekness of the T300 Chi means that compromise is necessary — in place of standard ports, the tablet elegantly houses a Micro USB port, Micro HDMI port, and a microSD slot. This means that even the simple act of plugging in a standard thumbdrive is troublesome, requiring you to connect adaptors.
The T300 is also fanless: this means that it runs much more quietly than the average laptop, but has a tendency to heat up quickly even when you’re just using Microsoft Word. Since all the hardware is packed behind the sliver-thin screen, the keyboard remains nice and cool when placed on your lap, but the heat can get quite worrying after long periods of time.
For those wondering whether a 2-in-1 is worth it, my answer would be an immediate yes. I’m using the Transformer to write this article now, and it’s all too easy to, say, type on the Bluetooth keyboard and then instinctively reach out to the touchscreen to fix an error a few lines above — instead of tediously positioning the cursor. Even if you’re not someone who needs to travel light, being able to use both a physical keyboard and a touchscreen means you get the best of both worlds.
But that’s a different question from whether Asus’ T300 Chi is worth it — and my yes to that might be more hesitant. Sleek, beautifully crafted, and with a fantastic display, the T300 is undoubtedly a very good convertible at a very reasonable price. It’s arguably the best in the Chi family so far, and high-performance enough to match up to an average laptop.
The gripes I have with the Bluetooth keyboard — from a sluggish touchpad to the inflexibility of the magnetic hinge — serve to make it less appealing as a laptop. It seems more apt to call the T300 a tablet which just so happens to have an attachable keyboard. But by the standards of most tablets and 2-in-1s, Asus’ latest Transformer is mostly droolworthy.
If you need one more reason to get the T300 Chi, I have it: just think of how many people’s minds you can mess with by ‘accidentally’ breaking your laptop in half. It’s worth it, I promise.