Product Listing

ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi: Intel Core M done right

By Kenny Yeo - 6 Apr 2015
Launch SRP: S$1498

Introduction

A latecomer to the Core M party

A bit a long wait, but the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi is finally here.

Better than than never right? It might have taken some time, but ASUS’ Transformer T300 Chi detachable hybrid notebook has finally reached our shores. When we first laid eyes on it last year at Computex 2014, we were stunned by its super slim dimensions. A year on however, the luster of that super slim design has been somewhat diminished because it is no longer the only slim hybrid notebook around now, so does the Transformer Chi T300 have what it takes to stand out? Let’s find out.

 

The Hardware

Stickers on the device proudly proclaim that it is powered by Intel's newest and exceptionally frugal Core M processor.

Let’s begin with the the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi's hardware. It is powered by Intel’s latest "Broadwell" Core M processor, specifically the top-of-the-line Intel Core M-5Y71. This processor is a dual-core one that has a base clock of 1.2GHz and a maximum turbo clock speed of 2.9GHz, along with a 4M L3 cache (which looks like it's more powerful than the Core M-5Y70 used on the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro). More importantly, since the Core M processors were designed specifically for use in ultra-thin notebooks and hybrid devices, it has a TDP of just 4.5W and requires no active cooling, allowing ASUS to employ a fan-less chassis design for the ASUS Transformer Chi T300.

Processor aside, the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi gets a very adequate 8GB of RAM and 128GB of SSD storage. A peek inside the Device Manager reveals that the Transformer Book T300 Chi is using SanDisk’s iSSD i110, an embedded storage device that comes in a BGA form factor, which is a contributing factor towards how ASUS managed to achieve the Transformer Book T300 Chi’s slim dimensions (more on this in the next section). As a result, this also means that storage cannot be upgraded by users.

Graphics processing duties are handled by the integrated Intel HD Graphics 5300 GPU within the CPU. This is a new integrated GPU part that can be found in all Core M processors, and on paper it seems to be a match for the older Intel HD Graphics 4400 which is seen in processors that are powering a lot of the older Haswell-powered Ultrabooks in the market today.

 

Design & Features

Here is the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi next to an iPhone 6. There's really not much difference between the two.

The ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi is a detachable hybrid notebook, the tablet display portion of the device is just 7.6mm thick and weighs only slightly above 700g. This is impressive especially when you consider that this is just about as thick as the first generation iPad Air. The display size is 12.5 inches and it has a resolution of 2560 x 1440 pixels, giving it a pixel density count of just under 235 pixels per inch, which is comparable to the Retina displays found on Apple’s MacBook Pro notebooks. The display is crisp and sharp and viewing angles are great. Our only complaint is that the screen seems a little dark even at maximum brightness settings.

The edges of the machine have chamfered diamond-cut polish edges.

ASUS has placed an increased emphasis on design in recent years and the Transformer Book T300 Chi features an all-aluminum construction that feels strong despite its thinness, and does not exhibit any signs of flexing. The edges are chamfered using a diamond-cutting polish, which is a nice flourish. Unfortunately, instead of giving the Transformer Book T300 Chi a raw or brushed aluminum finish or something flashier, ASUS has instead decided to paint the entire device in black, which somewhat takes the sheen away from its rather brilliant design. Nevertheless, the Transformer Book T300 Chi is attractively styled and feels well-built.

The keyboard dock adds significant heft to the device, but they keys have a nice feel to them. Note how the touchpad has chamfered edges as well.

The ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi also comes with a detachable keyboard dock. With the keyboard dock attached, the Transformer Book T300 Chi is still only a very slim 16.5mm thick, however, weight increases quite substantially to 1.43kg. Attaching the tablet display to the keyboard dock was a breeze thanks to the magnetic hinge. According to ASUS, the hinge uses "the world’s most powerful magnetic material in a carefully-designed pattern" and is capable of supporting up to 2kg. In our usage experience, we have no reason to disbelieve this claim. The tablet display attaches very securely to the keyboard dock and requires a firm hold to detach. We could also hold the Transformer Book T300 Chi up by the keyboard dock and the tablet display will also show no signs of detaching.

Two powerful magnets on the hinge secure the tablet display to the keyboard dock.

Unfortunately, the magnetic hinge is just that and so the detachable keyboard dock functions solely as a keyboard and does not incorporate any built-in battery to extend battery life nor storage to boost capacity. As a result, the keyboard dock has its own built-in battery and does not draw power from the tablet display. This also means that the keyboard dock requires charging from time to time. On the bright side, the built-in battery is claimed to be good for up to 84 hours, so charging it shouldn’t be a frequent affair. And according to ASUS, the keyboard dock was specifically designed to give a good typing experience. The specifications from ASUS indicates that the keys have 1.55m of travel and requires 62g of force to activate.

In real world usage, we can say that this keyboard dock is one of the more pleasant ones to use and far surpasses the Surface Pro 3's Type Cover. We would even go as far as to say that it sets the standard for other detachable hybrid devices to follow - where typing experience is concerned. To be honest, the Surface Pro 3's Type Cover is geared for portability and it does a fine job for its slim dimensions and 295g weight. On the other hand, the keyboard dock provided with the T300 Chi is geared towards replicating a proper fixed keyboard experience found in a standard notebook, but it achieves this at the expense of added heft.

With a device so thin, something has got to give. In this case, the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi only has a single micro-USB 3.0 port,  a micro-HDMI port and a 3.5mm audio jack for outputs.

Because of their slim dimensions, connectivity is often an issue with ultra-thin notebooks and detachable hybrids. As for the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi, in order to accommodate its svelte 7.6mm thinness, ASUS had to forgo full-size USB 3.0 and HDMI ports in favor for smaller micro-USB 3.0 and micro-HDMI ports. Fortunately, ASUS provides a micro-USB to USB adapter, so you can still use your USB devices easily. The keyboard dock also has a micro-USB port, but that is used only for charging. The device does however have a standard 3.5mm audio jack.

Speaking of connectivity, it is odd that the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi does not support the latest wireless 802.11ac standard like most modern tablets and notebooks do. Instead, what we found in the device was Intel’s older Wireless-N 7625 network card, which means support for the older 802.11n standard. And since it supports two spatial streams, this also means a maximum data transfer rate of 300Mbps is possible, which is a little slow in comparison to what 802.11ac compatible devices are capable of.

Finally, the ASUS Transformer Book T300 Chi is equipped with two speakers, one at each end of the tablet display, which features ASUS' SonicMaster technology. Unfortunately, they do not impress. Even at maximum volume they were quite soft and had non-existent bass.

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8.5
  • Design 9
  • Features 8
  • Performance 7.5
  • Value 8
  • Mobility 9
The Good
Excellent design and build quality
High resolution, crisp display
Keyboard dock offers good typing experience
Decent performance, low power consumption
Reasonably priced
The Bad
Display a little dim
Micro-USB and micro-HDMI ports
Can get warm
Keyboard has no backlighting
Keyboard dock requires charging
Keyboard dock adds significant heft to device
Wireless 802.11n instead of AC-standard
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