ASUS launched the Transformer Book T300 Chi in March this year. It is a hybrid 2-in-1 tablet cum notebook device that is really sleek and beautiful. At just 16.5 mm and 7.6 mm thin, with and without the keyboard dock, the T300 Chi challenges both dedicated tablets and notebooks in thinness. For the first time, I’ve found a hybrid device that I think will truly work for me.
Hybrid tablet cum notebook devices had a difficult start. Things are starting to look better now, with devices like Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 that seem to be pretty workable. ASUS, however, really impressed me when they unveiled the Transformer Book T300 Chi last year.
There are a few variants of the Transformer Book T300 Chi, differing in the processor, RAM and flash storage size. My review unit comes with the Intel Core M-5Y71 processor (dual-core with hyper-threading) clocked at 1.2 GHz, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of SSD. This is the only model that is sold in Singapore.
The 7.6 mm thinness of the Transformer Book T300 Chi is really awesome. If you think about it, this is thinner than some tablets, and that’s saying really a lot when you consider that the T300 Chi has a 12.5″ display and is a full-fledged notebook inside.
The 12.5″ IPS display is beautiful. It supports a resolution of 2560 x 1440, and it’s really vibrant. In fact, it’s almost too rich. In fact, I worry that it might upset activities like photo-editing. However, I suppose most consumers are just going to be happy with how nice the screen looks.
The left edge of the Transformer Book T300 Chi has the volume rocker at the top, followed by the Windows button below it. The DC power jack is at the bottom. In the centre, there is a speaker grill.
The battery doesn’t run for more than 6 hours, usually less, obviously depending on how hard you make the T300 Chi work.
The on/off power button is on the left end of the top edge. It is, I think, in quite an unfortunate location. The reason is that when the T300 Chi is mounted with its keyboard dock, so that it works like a notebook, there is a tendency for me to accidentally press the button when I want to adjust the angle of the “screen”.
I don’t know about how most people do this, but for me, I always use my left end to hold the left side of the top-edge. However, I suppose, with a little bit of retraining, I could get used to holding somewhere else on the display.
On the right edge, starting from the bottom end, you’ll find a combo audio jack, a micro HDMI jack, and a Micro-USB 3.0 jack. While the micro-connectors are really inconvenient, necessitating carrying around extra adapters, they are unfortunately necessary for the Transformer Book T300 Chi to achieve it’s 7.6 mm thinness.
On the bottom edge, there are two slots into which the prongs from the keyboard dock go into and get locked magnetically. The magnetic attachment is surprisingly strong, and once docked, you could hold either the keyboard or the tablet on its own without worrying that they will come apart.
The keyboard dock is hefty. It needs to be to balance the weight of the tablet. The combined tablet and keyboard weighs in at 1.43 kg, which isn’t much for a notebook. The tablet on its own is 750 g, heavy for a tablet. On the other hand, you do get a real notebook with that weight.
Being a full-sized keyboard with proper keys, typing on it is a joy. The same can’t be said about the trackpad though. It’s small, and having gotten so used to trackpads on Apple’s MacBook Pros, the one on the Transformer Book T300 Chi’s keyboard dock compares poorly. Fortunately, you can always use the T300 Chi’s touchscreen instead.
The keyboard dock communicates with the tablet via Bluetooth. There is no electrical connection between the two parts. It’s a pity. I thought they could have put a sizeable battery inside the keyboard dock which can double up to charge the T300 Chi. It can also add the needed heft to the dock, which currently seems to be unusually heavy for just a Bluetooth keyboard. A Micro-USB connector on the left side of the keyboard dock enables you to charge its built-in battery.
Like some other hybrid tablet cum notebook devices, such as the Acer Aspire Switch 10, the Transformer Book T300 Chi can be attached to the keyboard dock backward. As such, the T300 Chi can be used in a variety of modes, like kiosk style, tent mode, or tablet (with the keyboard folded under it).
The Transformer Book T300 Chi is a joy to use. In particular, the vibrant display is really beautiful. The tablet on its own is really sleek. When docked with the keyboard, the combination becomes less svelte, but certainly doesn’t count as clunky, and I’d say it’s still prettier than most hybrids.
I was curious to know if the Transformer Book T300 Chi would work well as a tablet. The 7.6 mm thinness is really nice. However, in my opinion, the 12.5″ display makes the overall form factor a little largish, and with the 750 g weight, this is clearly a tablet that isn’t anywhere near as mobile as an iPad Air 2 or many other tablets.
In fact, I think with a 12.5″-sized display in a 16:9 aspect ratio, the T300 Chi is inconvenient to hold on to while I’m standing in a train or bus. Now, if I had a seat, that would be a whole lot better.
Of course, finding the right display size is tricky. If ASUS made the screen smaller, the Transformer Book T300 Chi wouldn’t work so good as a notebook. As it is now, I can use the T300 Chi and feel that it’s really a device designed to work like a notebook, not some crammed netbook.
The Transformer Book T300 Chi comes with Intel’s latest fan-less Core M processor, finally making it possible for a hybrid device to be thin and light, and yet having the processing power to meet the demands of typical desktop usage. It pulls out faster than the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro, which also has a Core M processor. The T300 Chi also has 802.11ac Wi-Fi, built-in stereo speakers, and an array microphone.
If I were to need to get a Windows notebook today, I think the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi will be it.
The ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi in this configuration (Intel Core M-5Y71 processor clocked at 1.2 GHz, 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of SSD) retails for S$1,498.
The ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi is beautiful. It’s thin, light, and packs quite capable specs for an ultra-slim notebook. The 12.5″ display is a little large for a tablet, but works really great for a notebook.
- Very thin and light, sleek design
- Vibrant display
- Capable performance
- Short battery life
- Webcam is only 720p