The keyboard base is closer to a traditional laptop keyboard than on the Surface Pro 3, as it has large island-style keys that have reasonably key depth and a decent-sized touchpad. I ran into a few moments of delay when first making the keyboard/screen connection, but typing was decent, if not as good as a standard 13-inch laptop such as the MacBook Air or Dell XPS 13. The touchpad, while larger than the one included on the Surface Pro 3 keyboard attachment, was sluggish and imprecise, leading to more frequent use of the touch screen to hit buttons and scroll through long web pages.
With a smaller physical size, only 12.5 inches diagonally, and a higher-than-1080p resolution, the 2,560x1,440 can be hard to see if you're using the traditional Windows desktop mode. A 1,920x1,080 version is also available, and frankly is more than high enough for a screen this size, so that's one way to save a little on a configuration. The screen in our upgraded model was clear, bright, and not overly reflective, and worked well from wide viewing angles in tablet mode.
Ports and connections
|Audio||Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack|
|Data||1 micro-USB 3.0, microSD card slot|
|Networking||802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth|
Connections and performance
Like the much-maligned single port on the 12-inch MacBook, connection options here are very limited, with only a single Micro-USB port on the side of the display, plus a microSD card slot. The keyboard base has a micro-USB connection, but that's to keep its internal battery (used only for the keyboard, not the system) charged. On optional accessory is an Asus active stylus, available for $40 in the US.
The Intel Core M processor used here performs better in some tests than in the first Core M system we tested, the Yoga 3 Pro. Core M was pitched for power efficiency, not performance, but in some of our tests, it performed on par with recent mainstream Core i5 laptops.
In hands-on use, it felt less sluggish than the Yoga 3 Pro did, with a little occasional stuttering. For lower-power systems such as this, you'll get a better experience using Microsoft's built-in Internet Explorer Web browser rather than Chrome, as IE is so well optimized for Windows 8.
The real test for Core M will come with Apple's 12-inch MacBook, which will also use that chip. Significantly lower performance or battery life than the current MacBook Air models will be a tough hurdle to overcome.
And battery life seems to be a weak spot for the Core M, at least in Windows 8 hybrids. Both the Yoga 3 Pro and the Asus T300 Chi ran for less than 6 hours (5:14) in our video playback battery drain test. That's fine for an afternoon of meetings or a work session in a coffee shop, but despite being very portable, this isn't going to be an all-day companion, unless you use it sparingly. Based on our tests with other higher-res laptops, you may get better battery life from the 1,920x1,080 screen configuration.
On paper, the Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi sounds like a great combination of smart design, new components, and a very reasonable price. In person, it's not as effortless to use as I'd like, and the Intel Core M platform doesn't seem to be optimized for especially long battery life. But, starting at $699, it still represents a very good value, and is worth a look if you want a small hybrid that packs in features without packing on the cost.
|Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi||Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 1.2GHz Intel Core M 5Y71; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB (shared) Intel HD 5300 Graphics; 128GB SSD|
|HP Spectre x360 13t||Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 256GB SSD|
|Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014)||Apple OS X 10.9.3 Mavericks ; 1.4GHz Intel Core i5-4260U; 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1536MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5000; 128GB SSD|
|Lenovo Yoga Pro 3||Windows 8.1 (64-bit); 1.1GHz Intel Core M-5Y60; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB (shared) Intel HD Graphics 5300; 256GB SSD|
|Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)||Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHz Intel Core i5-5200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 256GB SSD|
|Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen)||Windows 8.1 (64.bit); 2.2GHZ Intel Core i5-5200U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1600MHz; 3839MB (shared) Intel HD 5500 Graphics; 256GB SSD|