The Transformer Book T100 Chi is one of several new Windows 8.1-powered convertibles by Asus. Outed at CES 2015 alongside the company's flagship 12.5-inch T300 Chi and 8.9-inch T90 Chi, the 10.1-inch T100 Chi aims for the sweet spot between portability and performance.
Its predecessor, the Transformer Book T100, made an impression back in 2013 for being one of the first cheap Windows convertibles that could handle everyday computing tasks without buckling at the knees.
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While it wasn't for everyone due to its small, low-resolution display, absence of full-sized ports and average performance, it was thin and light, ran all of your old Windows programs and went for more than 10 hours before giving up the ghost. Compared to similarly-priced laptops, Chromebooks, and anything that ran Windows RT, the original T100 was a pretty sweet deal at the time.
Two years later, the T100 Chi arrives as an upgraded model with positive energy seeping out of its 80 machine-drilled speaker holes (probably). One of the biggest upgrades from the T100 is the display, which at a pixel-resolution of 1,920 x 1,200 delivers a more than respectable 224 ppi - just short of the 13-inch Retina MacBook Pro's 227 ppi.
Bay city roller
It's received a healthy boost on the inside too, swapping the T100's Z3740 CPU for a newer Bay Trail-based Intel Atom chip in the quad-core Z3775. That's backed up by 2GB of DDR3 RAM, 32GB/64GB of flash memory, Windows 8.1 and a battery-powered stylus.
Simply put, it's an all-round improved device, something that's reflected in the price tag. Available to buy now for £399 (around US$604 or AUS$774), the T100 Chi teeters on the brink of budget territory and costs £50 (around US$76, or AUS$96) more than the T100 did when it first launched.
Once again it's more than suited to accompanying you on road trips as a travel device and could be used as a main machine too - so long as you're prepared to make a few compromises.
The T100 Chi lands with a number of competitors snapping at its heals - including the Toshiba Satellite Click Mini and Dell's impressive Venue 11 Pro 7000. But if we're picking out an arch nemesis, the Surface 3 is the red-eyed bull waiting to charge when its May 5 launch date comes around.
Microsoft's latest 2-in-1 boasts a sharper 1,920 x 1,280 pixel-resolution display, a newer Cherry Trail-based chip and one full-sized USB port. However, the base model starts at £20 (around $33, orAUS$40) more than the T100 Chi, and for the full experience you to shell out an additional £110 (around US$166) for a Type Cover, making the Chi the more affordable option post-accessories.
The T100 was an inexpensive 2-in-1 that felt like a budget device, something that can't be said for the T100 Chi. It's a world apart in terms of build quality, swapping its predecessor's plastic-clad exterior for an aerospace-grade aluminium that stands up well to flex. It seems forever cool to the touch too; even in a warm office I managed to stay cool by pressing the lid of the Chi to my face (attracting some curious looks in the process).
The biggest compliment that can be given to the T100 Chi is that it doesn't look or feel a million miles apart from Apple's 11-inch MacBook Air - at least on the outside.
Open it up and the premium effect is only slightly diminished. While the base is adorned in the same attractive gunmetal matte finish and silver trim, the tablet part is let down by a chunky black bezel surrounding the display. It's not hugely unattractive, but the symmetry between the T100 Chi's two parts isn't there in the same way that the Surface 3's Type Cover feels a natural fit for Microsoft's 2-in-1.
The T100 Chi has traded the clamping action of the T100 with a magnetic latch that holds the tablet part in place. It's now easier to insert into the dock in a single motion while being simpler to remove with a forceful tug. It's sturdy too; you could confidently carry it around by the lid without worrying about either part flying off.