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Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi review: The Asus T300 Chi is a highly mobile hybrid for less

Sarah Tew/CNET

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

Video Micro-HDMI
Audio Stereo speakers, combo headphone/microphone jack
Data 1 micro-USB 3.0, microSD card slot
Networking 802.11n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth
Optical drive None

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Sarah Tew/CNET

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.

Conclusion

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.

Handbrake Multimedia Multitasking test (in seconds)

Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen)
441
Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
468
HP Spectre x360
476
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014)
478
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
577
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
682

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)

HP Spectre x360
235
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
238
Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
238
Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen)
243
Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014)
253
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
263

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014)
76
Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
109
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
113
HP Spectre x360
113
Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen)
113
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
142

Note:

Shorter bars indicate better performance

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)

Apple MacBook Air (13-inch, 2014)
986
HP Spectre x360
720
Lenovo Yoga 3 (14-inch)
485
Dell XPS 13 (2015, touchscreen)
422
Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro
346
Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi
314

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

System Configurations

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

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