Asus has carved itself a niche in the tablet-computer market, one which hasn't been replicated to date. While other manufacturers struggle to find unique selling points to sway tablet buyers away from the iPad, the series continues to find fans. The 300T is the latest in the series, but it isn't designed to supersede the Transformer Prime. Instead, the 300T is a lower-priced alternative.
The most obvious difference between the 300T and the Prime is the shift in materials used to house these computers. Asus spared no expense with the Prime and its aluminium chassis, while the 300T has a more cheerful, playful aesthetic, being wrapped in coloured plastic. Our review unit is a deep blue, featuring a fine-ridged texture like a giant fingerprint across the back of the unit. This feels nice to hold, and provides grip for the unit — an important element for any tablet.
Curiously, the 300T is heavier than the aluminium-clad, with a 635-gram weight for the tablet portion only (the dock adds a further 546 grams). It's thicker, too, at 9.9mm, but not so much that it should make any difference to anyone comparing the 300T with the Prime — or any of its other competitors, for that matter.
The combined weight of the tablet and dock is about 1.2kg.
What will be less obvious to the casual tablet shopper is that Asus has chosen to use a standard IPS LCD display on the 300T, rather than the Super IPS variant that we saw on the Prime. Without the "Super" prefix, this IPS screen may seem like a big step down, but we're not really convinced that it is. Our review unit displays bright, colourful images; crisp, strong whites; and has excellent off-axis viewing angles. Nitpickers will spot the difference with the Prime, but for the price, the 300T beats most other tablet displays (and many notebook screens) hands down.
Docks, plugs and switches
Of course, what makes the Transformer series so interesting is the keyboard dock accessory. In Australia, the 300T SKU is sold with the dock bundled with the tablet, unlike previous models, where there had been options to buy the tablet by itself. Even though a dockless SKU would make for a cheaper tablet still, we feel that this approach is best, as it's the dock that really makes this package worthwhile.
The dock isn't just a keyboard and a stand, the way that many third-party Bluetooth keyboard accessories are. The Transformer dock includes a track-pad mouse with a single selection key, and, more importantly, its own battery. When you connect the tablet, you begin using the dock's battery power first, so that when you undock it and take it on the road, the tablet should still have most of its charge remaining. It doesn't double the battery life of the tablet, but it does expand it significantly — by up to 50 per cent in our tests.