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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  • RyuDeshi - Sunday, October 20, 2013 - link

    This is one of the reasons intel introduced the ultrabook specification. My Yoga 11s will standby/sleep for weeks before fully discharging on a relatively small battery (for a laptop). Reply
  • AsusJake - Sunday, October 16, 2016 - link

    windows computer operating system vs android os in terms of power consumption is a ridiculous comparison... Reply
  • ricardodawkins - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Exactly... the man keep on harping about the stupid Chromebooks that are a complete FLOP. He talks about the 3rd party app situation of the MetroUI but what about the app situation for ChromeBooks ???

    Heck if you need a Chromebook just install Chrome on this Asus T100.
    Reply
  • AsusJake - Sunday, October 16, 2016 - link

    exactly Reply
  • gsusx - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Genuinely a bit stumped by people moaning about this. He said it's a great product with fantastic potential that is almost perfect. Lest we forget this is a tablet with a fully fledged os behind it. What do people expect for the price point. It's not a laptop replacement, then again a laptop is not a tablet replacement. For the money. For what you get its fantastic. It's a real middle ground machine. If you have a desktop or heavy duty laptop at home and want something portable but with the ability to do a bit more this thing is perfect. The Dell machines will be more expensive of that I have no doubt and the surface pro is double the money. You can argue about performance till you're blue in the face. Want impure over performance. Buy a machine and spend the money. You pays your monies you takes your choice. Personally I'm selling my MBA 11" to fund this. Reply
  • sri_tech - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Well said. Reply
  • StormyParis - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Exactly. I see it as a tablet that can double up as a laptop in a pinch. I'm still unsure about apps in tablet mode though: are there good apps for dlna, LAN, video... I'd hate to have to switch back to Desktop for Touch use... Reply
  • Belldandy - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Good review especially with the limited time you had with the device. I'm looking forward to your full update. Here are a few questions I'd really like answered as well.

    Is the microUSB port only usable for charging or can an adapter be connected to allow things to be connected like the Nexus 4's usb port.

    Is the microSD card slot capable of supporting the microSDXC 64GB and larger cards?

    I'm assuming the micro HDMI can be setup for extended or cloned display like any other windows laptop.
    Reply
  • StormyParis - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    I have an old HP 10" Netbook that is very small, a newer 13" Lenovo that I can't use in economy class... I guess the sweet spot for me is at 11.6", which is a pity because that Asus looks very nice for the price. Reply
  • teiglin - Friday, October 18, 2013 - link

    Thanks for clearly laying out the available storage--that was a big concern for a device like this for me. Two questions--of the 19 GiB occupied at boot, does that include the pagefile and hibernation file (which should admittedly be much smaller than on a typical machine with 8GB RAM)? And is the remaining ~10 GiB partition accessible at all? Obviously this is going to be a larger issue on the 32GB version--with the same 19GiB occupied, they obviously can't leave the entire remaining 10GiB inaccessible, so I'm curious how some of that storage is reclaimed.

    Also, am I correct that the pricing is $350 for the 32GB model and $400 for the 64GB, and that both include the dock? Your table is pretty confusing where it says "$349/$399 (including dock)"--makes it seem like the extra $50 gets you the dock, rather than extra storage.

    Anyway, it's an interesting device. Honestly, though, I remain unconvinced that the 10" form factor is worth anything at all; I can only assume it was spurred on by the iPad and all the me-too Android tablets that followed. Your experiences with the keyboard reinforce the fact that 10" is really too small for a clamshell, and smaller tablets have proven to be more popular for "sit back and read, browse the internet, and watch YouTube" experience--even Apple had to concede on the iPad mini front.

    I have both an iPad mini and a Galaxy Tab 7.7 and gravitate to my 13" ultrabook nine times out of ten, so I have concluded that I'm not a tablet person, but I'm watching with interest to see if the upcoming 8" Windows tablets can be successful.
    Reply

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