Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi review

This 2-in-1 laptop takes thinness to a new level

Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi review

The Asus T300 Chi handily kept up with every task I threw at it, whether it was editing some images in Lightroom or streaming a 4K video on YouTube. What's more, thanks to being designed as a tablet and laptop in tandem, I was able to quickly go from watching a Netflix movie to typing up a quick document, and then pulling the screen off its base for a quick round of Hearthstone (which happens to run beautifully on medium settings, in case you were curious).

Here's how the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi fared in our benchmark tests:

Benchmarks

  • 3DMark: Cloud Gate: 4,583; Sky Diver: 1,965; Fire Strike: 516
  • Cinebench CPU: 245 points; Graphics: 24.65 fps
  • PCMark 8 (Home Test): 2,273 points
  • PCMark 8 Battery Life: 3 hours and 37 minutes

Asus Transfomer Book T300 Chi review

Intel's Core M chipset is really starting to come into its own after a troubling start with the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. Just looking at the Transformer Book's higher 3DMark Sky Diver benchmark score - 1,965 points to the Yoga's 1,406 - you can see it's a much better suited at running games on medium to low settings than the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro. The T300 Chi even pulls ahead of the Lenovo with a better PCMark 8 score - 2,273 points to the Yoga's 2,165 - despite running the same processor.

Unsurprisingly, Asus's latest hybrid machine also trounces Surface Pro 3, which is powered by a Core i5 processor from fall 2013, in almost every test stressing both the CPU and graphics chip. While Microsoft's hybrid baby comes packing a faster Core i5 processor, its GPU is older and less capable compared to the Intel HD 5300 graphics inside the Asus. The Surface Pro 3 is by no means a dinosaur yet, but to see Asus pack even more performance into a smaller package makes it clear that the bar has been raised.

Asus Transfomer Book T300 Chi review

Look mom, no screen

One of the biggest defining features about the T300 Chi is that it comes with a real keyboard that can split away from the main unit. The detachable keyboard opens up a whole new avenue of use cases, because it can be used even when not attached, thanks to the Bluetooth connection and it having its own battery.

For example, I stood the tablet up vertically against my bag while at a café to work on a long word document. I only wished the tablet came with a stand of some sort to make propping up the tablet more practical and stable.

Asus Transfomer Book T300 Chi review

The keyboard itself is excellent, with tactile and clicky keys and a solid base that shows minimal flex despite being so thin. The trackpad, on the other hand, feels annoyingly sticky but it's still serviceable enough. Plus, there's always the option of tapping around with the touchscreen.

Asus promises the keyboard on its own will have 84 hours of use or a week on standby time. Sadly, though, the tablet end of this device can't siphon power from Bluetooth accessory, because the battery life could use a pick-me-up.

Asus Transfomer Book T300 Chi review

A bit less than advertised

Asus advertised the T300 Chi with an eight-hour battery life. In my own testing, however, I found it to about half or even less than the projected numbers. The PCMark 8 home battery test, which runs a string of simulated tasks from video calls to web browsing, yielded a battery life of 3 hours and 37 minutes.

In my own test, the T300 Chi's runtime extended to 4 hours and 42 minutes with a mix of web browsing, streaming Netflix for an hour, playing some Hearthstone, playing Google Music over the speakers set to 20% and keeping the display to 50% brightness. With just simple web browsing and word processing, I could see battery life extending to just shy of six hours. This is a machine that can definitely hoof it on its own, but you should remember to pack the charger nonetheless.

Compared to the Surface Pro 3's maximum battery life of four hours, the Transformer Book is in the lead again. The Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro manages to squeeze out a bit more juice lasting for just over seven hours in our tests

Asus Transfomer Book T300 Chi review

Beyond HD

The WQHD, or 2,560 x 1,440, resolution display on the T300 Chi is magnificent. Everything you look at on this display is stunningly sharp and clear with great contrast to boot. If you're a fan of long vistas or looking at any type of color photography and video, this screen will make it sparkle into life.

Unfortunately, I wasn't too impressed with the side firing speakers. They're, as expected on such a thin and light machine, underpowered and tinny sounding. One nice thing about them is they can get very loud, filing a room with the booming explosions from the latest RoboCop movie. (Though not quite doing them justice.)

For production means, I would say this panel a bit too color rich, as reds can look completely overblown and meld into themselves. There's always the option of diving head first into Asus's Splendid utility to fully manage your display options, but you'll never be able to fix the screen's other issue: glare.

The T300 Chi's display panel very reflective, which could prove problematic if you take this machine out to coffee shops. Still, the glossy finish is something I've grown accustomed to with touchscreen devices, such as the Dell XPS 11.

Asus Transfomer Book T300 Chi review

Bundled software

The T300 Chi comes heavily loaded with bloatware. All the usual suspects are here, including MacAfee LiveSafe, Line, Music Maker Jam, Wild Tangent Games and Zinio. That said, there are a few applications you'll actually want to keep around.

Asus Splendid Utility: A little software tool for quickly optimizing your viewing experience with different levels for color saturation. It includes a few pre-built modes including Normal, Eye Care and Vivid. Manual mode is also available for complete customization including color gamut, skin tones, sharpness, contrast, and color temperature.

AudioWizard - ASUS software designed to enhance every audio experience. AudioWizard offers five intuitive presets: Music, Movie, Recording, Gaming, and Speech Mode.