The Silicon: Bay Trail Inside

Obviously a big part of the Transformer Book T100 story is the inclusion of Intel's Bay Trail silicon. ASUS opted for Intel's second fastest solution: the Atom Z3740. That's four Silvermont cores running at 1.33GHz with a max turbo of 1.86GHz. I saw the T100 hit 1.86GHz fairly regularly, which backs up what we saw in our initial Bay Trail performance preview. For light tablet use, the Z3740 is incredibly quick. The beauty of Intel's latest Atom silicon is of course that it can run a huge library of x86 applications. I haven't spent enough time with Bay Trail to know whether or not its performance is truly good enough for most users. I suspect it probably needs to be a bit faster to truly replace a modern mainstream notebook + tablet, but if you're used to an older system you might be able to get away with Bay Trail. Intel claims ULV Penryn-like performance out of the fastest Bay Trail silicon, and I think that's a decent estimate. You benefit a lot from not having any silly mechanical hard drive inside, and unlike the initial wave of netbooks the T100 is actually usable.

I complained about multitasking performance in our recent Chromebook 11 review. Intel’s Bay Trail silicon in the T100 has no such  problem. Playing YouTube HD videos in the background while writing in Google Docs is a non-issue. I do occasionally see periods of high latency response, particularly when installing a new application. I believe this may be due to background AV scanning at launch.

It’s definitely possible to bring the T100 to its knees with just above a moderate multitasking workload. It’s important to keep in mind that we’re talking about ~1GHz Penryn sort of performance here and not what you’ll get out of a Haswell system. Think of it as better than what you’ll get from the ARM camp but still substantially behind what a more expensive Haswell solution will offer. Make no mistake, the T100 is very much an entry-level machine in terms of performance.

The four cores are paired with Intel's HD Graphics, a 4 EU implementation of the Intel GPU we saw in Ivy Bridge (running at up to 667MHz, sharing TDP with the CPU cores). The collection of CPUs and GPU are behind a 128-bit wide LPDDR3-1066 memory interface. Like most entry level notebooks in this price range the T100 comes with 2GB of memory. Internal storage is courtesy of an eMMC solution. I was sampled a 64GB model (using a SanDisk eMMC controller). Around 30GB of the device's storage was free at first boot (total partition size = 49GB, ~30GB free for additional apps/data).

ASUS equipped the Transformer Book T100 with dual-band (2.4/5GHz) 802.11n courtesy of Broadcom’s BCM4357. The T100 features a 1-stream (150Mbps) implementation. I didn’t have enough time to test wireless range/performance but the sheer inclusion of 5GHz WiFi in an entry level PC is music to my ears.

Software: Windows 8.1 + Office 2013

Although there are rumors of T100-like devices running Android, and eventually even dual-booting, the Transformer Book T100 launches with Windows 8.1. I haven't had much time to spend getting into 8.1 but it's largely an improvement over Windows 8. Overall it doesn't fundamentally change the concept behind the OS, although it does attempt to make migrating to it from other versions of Windows a bit easier. You have greater customization over the start screen's behavior, where the system boots by default (desktop or start screen) and installing applications doesn't automatically spam the start screen with tiles. You also get truly universal search now integrated into the start screen, which is a life saver.

Since you're dealing with an x86 version of Windows 8.1 here, you can obviously run nearly all old x86/Windows applications. This is a huge deal as it means you can replace IE11 with Chrome, not to mention use the T100 just like any other PC. I'm honestly surprised by the lack of really good 3rd party Windows applications that use the new UI. I expected there to be more uptake by now, but I was very wrong. The T100's success doesn't depend on having more modern UI Windows 8.1 apps since it can still function like a traditional PC, but the undocked tablet experience could surely benefit. Windows 8.1's native apps are definitely better this time around, but the tablet experience alone isn't as good as what you'd get on Android or iOS. Microsoft's new UI definitely has its moments (I'm still a fan of how easy it is to multitask in the OS), but it still has a long way to go.

Intel's silicon in the T100 is 64-bit capable but Microsoft still lacks a 64-bit version of Windows 8/8.1 with Connected Standby enabled. As a result, the T100 (just like all other Bay Trail platforms) ships with a 32-bit copy of Windows 8.1 (with Connected Standby enabled).  

Another huge component of the T100 offering is the in-box Office 2013 Home & Student Edition serial key. Office 2013 is pre-loaded on the device, and each box should have a booklet with a serial key to unlock the Home & Student version of the suite. I realize there's this march away from Office, but to those who still heavily use and depend on the suite it's a tremendous part of the overall T100 value.

 

Introduction & Hardware Display
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  • azazel1024 - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Thanks for the review. It has solidified that if nothing "better" comes out between now and the holidays I'll be selling my iPad 2 and getting a T100.

    It certainly doesn't sound perfect, but it does sound "good enough" for me. I need a tablet that is a decent content consumption device. It needs to have a decent enough panel in it that it doesn't hurt my eyes or my pride to use it. It needs to be able to be decent for watching movies, listening to music, looking at photos, browsing the web and writing email. Windows 8.1 and the T100 seem to have that.

    As a bonus this means I can leave my HP Envy 4t at home on occasion when traveling light, and still have a machine that can use Lightroom 4. It doesn't have to be super fast, but it has to be capable of running it, which it sounds like this will. It should be on par or faster than the old Turino based 17" Toshiba laptop my wife used to have a few years ago, which I used Lightroom on for on the road image review/light editing. Also bonus points for being able to run some older Windows based games with a bluetooth game pad or keyboard/trackpad/wireless mouse.

    $399 for the 64GB version plus around $50 for a 64GB microSD card isn't too bad. I would like to see what kind of performance the microSD card slot is capable of though to judge what kind of card I should get for it.

    I do wish Asus at least had an option to bump the silicon up to the Z3770 and 4GB of memory. I'd gladly pay an extra $50 for that. I'd just as gladly pay $100 extra for the Z3770, 4GB of memory, dual stream dual band Wifi (bonus points of 802.11ac) and a better quality panel that was 900p.

    For me my absolute max budget is $500 for a "tablet" and I doubt I'd ever be willing to pay more than that. I'd of course rather spend less, so $399 is nice...but again, I'd rather spend a bit more for even faster silicon, more memory and a better panel (better wifi wouldn't hurt). I do wonder if Asus might have another Transformer Windows 8.1 tablet down the road, a higher end one...maybe before Christmas?

    I can hope anyway.
    Reply
  • Wolfpup - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Wow, this is pretty amazing hardware for $350-400! I'm getting really, really impressed by these Windows 8 tablet/hybrid things, and their pricing. This is kind of what Microsoft's been hinting at for the last decade, but the hardware's finally catching up to the idea.

    Dang, these things are practically impulse buys, cheaper than a freaking iPad lol
    Reply
  • Hector2 - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    I bought a brand new 15.4" Win8 2.4GHz Pentium dual core full feature Lenovo laptop on sale last year for $270. It's great & I'm real happy with it. Internet-only Chromebook prices need to be less than $200 for me to buy Reply
  • OneOfTheseDays - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Another terrible review from Anand. It's becoming quite clear to me that this guy is incapable of reviewing any Microsoft products at this point due to his obvious Google/Apple bias.

    For starters, this is a $349 device. Who the fuck cares about delta E and calibrated displays at this price point? What a completely irrelevant point to make for a device that is obviously geared at people who couldn't care less about that. The bottom line is it's IPS, has decent resolution, and gets bright enough and has decent contrast. It gets the job done, period.

    Also, what is this about Metro IE11 being horrible? Are you kidding me? Metro IE 11 is probably the best TOUCH browser experience you can get on Windows. Desktop IE11, that's a different story. Still, if you are in tablet mode Metro IE11 is perfectly capable for any user.

    Finally, battery life. This thing gets 8.5hrs. That is MORE THAN ENOUGH for 99.99% of users. Again this is a $349 device, the fucking garbage Chromebook 11 you just reviewed can barely muster 4 hours and it's nothing more than a glorified web browser running ARM.

    This site is going down the tubes and Anand is clearly to blame. He needs to stick to SSD reviews and let other reviewers without bias handle these ones.
    Reply
  • BrianChase1776 - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    I thought it was pretty fair even though I didn't understand the Chromebook fascination, those things are trash. But, when comparing tablets it makes sense to compare these vastly superior machines to those toys since the majority of tablet buyers care more about how it looks and how quickly it loads a Youtube video than what it has inside. Unfortunately, we're a minority by a large margin. Reply
  • OneOfTheseDays - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    It was a terrible review that focused on all of the wrong things. Nobody cares about how calibrated a display is at a $349 price point. Anand's reviews are becoming increasingly off the mark IMHO. Reply
  • BrianChase1776 - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    I still have to disagree, my parents, for example, don't understand that a simple Google search could explain how to fix the calibration issues. If they received the device and took issue with the colors they would quite literally assume it is broken and move on to looking for another device. We can figure it out, and we want options, but most people can only handle simplicity. Reply
  • BrianChase1776 - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Can't find an edit option but for the record I think the t100 looks amazing! I strongly believe that Apple and Android are garbage and, for those of us that plan to do anything serious on a tablet this device will do the job. I'm just defending the practice of writing a review for the majority, even thought it is sad that it has to be done that way. Reply
  • steven75 - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    It's definitely an interesting option to say "Apple and Android" are garbage. The consumer market speaks and it soundly disagrees with that. Reply
  • Nagorak - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Until recently there wasn't even another viable option, so it's kind of a stretch to say the market has spoken. Reply

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