Microsoft Surface Pro 2 vs Asus Transformer Book T100

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Asus Transformer Book T100 vs. Microsoft Surface Pro 2Microsoft’s Surface Pro 2 is well known as a high-performance, high-price hybrid tablet, while the Asus Transformer Book T100 is a a budget-friendly hybrid tablet that seemingly came out of nowhere this past November. TabletPCReview wanted to find out if users need to pay $900 (or more) for the Surface Pro 2, or if the Asus Transformer Book T100, modestly priced below $400 (depending on the configuration), would serve as an acceptable substitute for those on a budget.

Build & Design

The Surface Pro 2 and T100 are quite different in build, specs, and especially price. Microsoft’s offering is the more attractive, which can be expected considering its higher price point affords a higher-quality build. However, the Asus model isn’t ugly; it’s just built more cheaply, with a plastic chassis, where the Surface has a sturdier, polycarbonate build.

Microsoft Surface Pro 2The Surface Pro 2 measures 10.81 x 6.81 x .53 inches and weighs 2 pounds, while the Asus Transformer Book T100 measures 10.4 x 6.7 x .51 inches and weighs 1.2 pounds without the dock and 2.4 pounds with it. Even still, the Surface’s build makes it feel a bit heavier (and sturdier), but both are convenient and compact enough for travel.

They offer a similar range of ports, each boasting a full USB 3.0 port and a microSD card slot. The Microsoft model has a miniDisplayPort, while the Asus features a microHDMI port. The Pro 2 includes a pen to navigate the tablet, while the Asus model does not come equipped with a digital pen. On the other hand, people sometimes forget that Microsoft charges extra for its keyboards, while Asus bundles one with the T100.

The Surface Pro 2’s keyboard attaches magnetically, and users rely on the kickstand to keep the device upright. With the T100, the tablet clicks into a keyboard docking station, which allows it to work similarly to a traditional notebook. Microsoft Surface Pro 2This boils down to preference, but users will have to think less about using the Asus while sitting on the couch or lying in bed. It’s not going to fold shut and it requires minimal configuring. We’ll touch more on the usability of the keyboards later in the article.

In terms of build and design, both feature a nice design with a full selection of ports, but the Asus device is easier to use as a traditional notebook. Therefore, users looking for a hybrid that can act like a clamshell laptop, the Asus Transformer Book T100 is the way to go.

Display

Asus’s tablet has a lower display quality on paper, but the 10.1-inch, 1366 x 768 resolution IPS display is more than enough for regular computing and occasionally watching a show or streaming from Netflix. There are definitely worse options out there.

Microsoft built a a better display, 10.6 inches in size and with a ratio of 16:9 and a 1920 x 1080 full HD resolution.

Asus Transformer Book T100Most users won’t notice a huge disparity, but those interested in a tablet for heavy media use will prefer the Surface Pro 2. For anyone that will use the device casually, not as their primary streaming device, the Asus will be more than enough.

Going off the specs, the Surface Pro 2 wins in display quality, but users won’t be grossly disappointed with the T100, especially considering the price.

Performance

The Transformer Book T100 includes 2GB of RAM, a quad-core Intel Atom Processor, and comes in 32GB and 64GB configurations. It’s perfectly suited for web browsing, multitasking apps, using the Office Suite, and streaming media content, but won’t be able to handle intensive programs or gaming, though it can perform minor Photoshop tasks and simpler games, as well as other basic computing and apps.

The Surface Pro 2 features 4GB or 8GB of RAM, a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 Processor, and configurations range from 64GB to 512GB of storage. This model definitely has the chops for heavy computing or design work.

On the wPrime, PCMark 7, and 3DMark 11 performance tests, the Surface came out on top in each one. This isn’t surprising considering what the Surface is packing under the hood; a better processor and far more memory.

The Asus product will be more than enough for users on a budget who just need a portable device for web browsing and light computing, but anyone looking to use their tablet for intensive design or to play high-powered games will want to go with the Surface Pro 2.

Software & Accessories

The Transformer Book T100 comes with a keyboard dock, and Asus is now offering an optional keyboard with an extra 500GB of SSD storage built into the dock. The 32GB and 64GB T100 models cost $350 and $380, respectively. To purchase the devices with the keyboard with 500GB of storage, the 32GB costs $400, while the 64GB is actually priced lower at $370 at the time of this writing.

As discussed, the Surface Pro 2 does not come equipped with a keyboard, and purchasing one will cost users $70 to $120, depending on the model.

Asus Transformer Book T100 KeyboardWhile both are touted as hybrid devices, the Asus’ keyboard allows it to act more like a notebook than Microsoft’s. In TabletPCReview’s testing, the Asus Transformer Book T100’s keyboard came out easier to use and sturdier than the Touch Cover for the Surface Pro 2. The T100 acts more like a traditional notebook, as mentioned, while the Surface Pro 2 is often not completely comfortable to balance on a lap.

Both tablets support full Windows 8.1, but the Asus device has a leg up because it comes equipped with a free copy of Microsoft Office Home and Student 2013. That’s a $140 value built into the already low price of the Asus Transformer Book T100. The Surface Pro 2 does not come with a registration code for Office, so users will have to purchase that separately.

Combine the Office Suite with the Keyboard, and users are paying well over $1,000 for the Surface Pro 2, compared to $400 or less for Asus’ offering.

Microsoft built a Wacom active digitizer into its tablet, and includes a Pen to control it. This makes the touchscreen pressure sensitive, a boon for those who want to use their tablet to take notes, sketch, or draw. The T100 has the typical touch-sensitive screen, but it’s not pressure sensitive.

In terms of accessories and software, the Transformer Book T100 takes first place, coming equipped with a keyboard and Microsoft Home and Student 2013. The Surface Pro 2 comes with the Surface Pen, but users will have to purchase the keyboard and Microsoft Office suite separately, which will just increase the already high price. Therefore, even without a pressure-sensitive screen, we have to hand it to the T100 for its accessories and software, which makes it all that more impressive when considering it all comes in under $400 for the 64GB model.

Battery Life

The Asus tablet wins in battery life. The Surface Pro 2 is good for about 6 hours with average use, so it can be stretched out to a full workday, but not easily. While users can get a Power Cover keyboard case for the Surface Pro 2 that adds additional juice, it costs $200, adding on to the already high cost of the product. The Transformer Book T100 battery, on the other hand, lasted roughly 8 hours in regular use.

Asus Transformer Book T100Those who need a device that will last them the entire day, without having to spend $200 to get an extra battery, will appreciate the Asus tablet’s staying power.

Conclusion

Overall, considering the performance and price of the Asus Transformer Book T100, we have to give it first place. The Microsoft Surface Pro 2 is undoubtedly a beautiful machine, but when looking at the best option for average users, the Asus is hands down the beter alternative.

The result is different for power users who also have deep pockets — they should go with the Surface Pro 2, which offers superior performance when it comes to heavier computing needs, but costs nearly three times what the T100 does.

But when it comes to daily tasks such as email, using the Microsoft Office Suite, using apps, and playing basic games, it’s hard to beat the price on the T100. Asus built a sturdy, budget-friendly device, that doesn’t force users to make any major sacrifices on performance or style just because it’s priced lower than its competitors.

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9 Comments

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  1. dirtyvu

    Wow. This review is borderline ridiculous. I actually own both machines. The only people I feel the T100 is appropriate for are people who are on a tight budget and don’t use a computer much. It simply has too many compromises to be useful for real computing needs.

    I don’t recommend the T100 at all for any actual studying/work. It’s good for what it is: a budget Windows 8.1 tablet. But the only thing I actually liked about it is better web browsing than the original Surface RT. And I also like that it’s very light in pure tablet mode (with no attached keyboard). Other than those 2 features, I don’t like the T100 at all. I own the Surface RT, the Transformer T100 (64 GB model), and the Surface Pro 2.

    If I had to choose between the Asus and the original Surface RT (completely excluding the newer, faster, better Surface 2), I’d take the Surface RT. not in a complete holistic manner. but purely as a work/study machine.

    Here are the problems with the T100 (especially for someone who does a lot of studying or a lot of work):

    The keyboard for the T100 is way too small to type for extended periods (tiny netbook keys).
    The screen is not bright even at the highest settings (and pales compared to the Surface RT, let alone the much better screen of the Surface 2 or Surface Pro/Pro 2).
    The tablet in the dock will tip over regularly because all the weight is in the tablet, not in the keyboard.
    The trackpad is horrible (so is the Surface trackpad).
    The dock is just cumbersome. When you have the Surface in hand, like when you’re standing, it’s really easy to take off the keyboard and put it away. Or you can wrap it around to the other side. it’s really hard to take off the keyboard on the T100 midair. I always have to use two hands to separate the tablet and the keyboard dock with the T100 and it has to be on the table to do so. And it doesn’t store away easily like Surface keyboard which is more portable.
    The USB port on the T100 is in the dock which is really inconvenient because every time I need to use the USB port, I have to dock it. Sure, you can get a microUSB to USB adapter but that’s another dongle to worry about.

    And while the bang for your buck is great with the T100, the build quality is really inconsistent. We bought 10 of the machines as Christmas gifts as rewards to employees. Two of them were DOA and had to be exchanged. Another one of them, the user got the power button stuck under the lip of the surrounding case and we had to use a box cutter blade to dig the button out from edge. Three of them stopped using the device because they didn’t like the dock, the tiny keyboard, or the screen. It’s a great value for the price for a full Windows machine but they really cut corners.

    The software I would’ve loved to use on the Surface RT but can’t (like Acrobat) don’t run well enough on the Asus either and the screen on the Asus is smaller than the Surface. It’s weird but the tiny difference between the Surface screen and the Asus screen is noticeable to the eyeball. Granted, the Asus is a little faster but in real-world usage, it’s not a huge difference especially if your main goal is Office work. You can’t run Acrobat. You can’t run Photoshop. You can’t run Premiere. You can’t run Visual Studio (well, you technically can but it’s not a good experience). You can’t run any CAD software. So it kind of defeats the purpose of having “full Windows”.

    The keys of the T100 keyboard are tiny! Netbook sized keys. There’s virtually no chance of fast touch typing on this keyboard. it’s for the hunt and peckers or children. Not only are the keys tiny, the resistance/stiffness is quite high and you have to expend more energy just to type. And because you have to strike harder to get the keys to register, combined with the fact that they’re tiny, the error rate is really high. It’s a night and day difference between the T100 keyboard and the keyboards on the Surface machines which are near full size keys. My fingers are actually barely able to stay on the key and actually often hang off the lower edge of the T100 keyboard. So when you’re trying to type 80-110 WPM (my speed range, after errors are accounted for), it drives you mad how little room for error there is on this keyboard. A lot of the employees we bought the T100 for complained all the time about the keyboard. They ended up hooking a traditional USB keyboard or a bigger Bluetooth keyboard. No one I know likes the tiny keys of the T100. You can speed type on the Type Cover 2. You can’t on the T100 keyboard. Not even the petite girls can speed type on the T100 keyboard. There’s no way you want to go 4+ hours of lecture typing on the T100 keyboard or writing more than half a page of an essay in a sitting.
    I own these devices myself. It’s very easy for me to compare them. I’ve bought 10 T100’s so it’s very easy for me to get first-hand accounts from each of the employees/friends. So when you’ve touched almost all 10 machines personally, you get a very good sense of the build quality. Not saying the T100 is terrible. But you do get what you pay for. for what the T100 costs, you get a lot of bang for your buck but it’s not a machine you want to use an entire day and not a machine you want to depend on for work or school.

  2. dirtyvu

    now that I got my points out of the way, let’s tackle the review…

    The Surface is not polycarbonate plastic. It is a magnesium alloy (a metal). The only issue is if you put it in a bag with things that can scratch the alloy pain, you’ll see the silver underneath.

    The reviewer fails to neglect to mention that the T100 works poorly on the lap because it is so top-heavy with all the weight in the tablet and not in the keyboard so it is not closer to a notebook than the Surface. In fact, I have to have my T100 closer to 90 degrees to prevent tipover. You always have access to the USB3.0 port on the Surface as it’s in the computer body. With the T100, it must be docked which becomes really annoying when I’m using it as a tablet and want to just copy some files.

    The reviewer completely ignored the brightness and just went off of specs for the displays.

    The T100 with 500GB storage in the dock is not an SSD. It is a HDD.

    The article should be more appropriately geared toward budget users. Not “average users”. In fact, this basically demeans “average users” as the T100 is clearly a netbook class system. If you think the T100 is an average PC, then this is basically mocking the entire Windows PC ecosystem because you’re saying the T100 is a benchmark.

  3. dirtyvu

    and one last thing. the T100 does not come with any SSD. It comes with an eMMC solution for storage which isn’t the same level of speed than an SSD. It’s closer to the speed of flash drives than SSD.

  4. walter

    Thank you for your insightful comments dirtyvu. I feel better about passing on the T100. Based on your observations the T100 does not deserve an average rating of 4 stars on Amazon.

  5. dirtyvu

    @walter. I think the reason why the T100 reviews well is because of the spec sheet. For $400, you get “full Windows”, Office 2013, an included keyboard, etc. Sure, if bragging points is what you want, the T100 is fine. But real world usage isn’t that great. Again, I’m not saying the T100 is bad. My criticism may suggest that. However, I do like the machine. But it’s a machine I dabble on when it’s lying there and I want to go web browsing or check email. It’s just not a machine I can use when I want to study or do real work. I use the T100 almost 100% as a tablet (which makes me sad that the USB port is in the dock and unavailable when you’re using it in tablet mode). I would take the T100 over any Android tablet (I have 2, a regular one and the Amazon one) or even the iPad 2 (which I enjoyed back in the day). I find the keyboard dock too cumbersome and unusable. Now, if you’re getting the T100 as a tablet, I can recommend it as it’s very good. Much more useful than my dad’s iPad Air 16 GB machine which cost $550+ after tax.

    For real work, there’s no way I would take the T100 over the Surface Pro line, the Surface RT/2 line, or more traditional notebooks (I love the Acer Aspire S7 as well!!!).

  6. Ed Hardy

    @dirtvu said, “For real work, there’s no way I would take the T100 over the Surface Pro line, the Surface RT/2 line, or more traditional notebooks.”

    I believe that’s why Sarah said in her comparison: “Power users who also have deep pockets … should go with the Surface Pro 2, which offers superior performance when it comes to heavier computing needs, but costs nearly three times what the T100 does.”

  7. dirtyvu

    @Ed. Again, equating the T100 to regular users and Surface Pro devices to power users is a disservice to regular users. You do not have to be a power user to realize the problems with the T100. Again, if you limit the scope of what you use these machines for (i.e., studying, working in office, web browsing, email, etc.), the Surface RT and Surface 2 machines can come out ahead of the T100 even though the T100 has “full Windows.” In fact, the only area I find the T100 superior to the old Surface RT is the web browsing experience (as web browsing on the Surface RT is painfully slow).

    And the Surface Pro machines do not cost 3x as much either. The going rate for a 64GB T100 is $400. There was a time when the Surface Pro was $500-600. The Surface Pro 2 was also recently discounted as well. And now there is a Surface Pro 3 that starts at $800 which is only 2x what the T100 is and many magnitudes better as a computing device both on a performance level and an quality of experience level.

  8. SyntaxError

    Ok, so I’m not saying that the Asus T100TA is better than the Surface Pro 2, but I feel compelled to inform readers that it is significantly better than dirtyvu makes it out to be. It has a 4 out of 5 star average rating on Amazon because it deserves it!

    “The keyboard for the T100 is way too small to type for extended periods (tiny netbook keys).”
    I am typing this on my T100 right now and am having no problems typing on it. In fact, I develop games and type code on this tablet regularly. Sure, I can’t pull out 85 wpm like I can on my desktop laptop, but I can type as fast on this thing as I can any typical laptop keyboard, which is at least 60 wpm. I mean, if I can code on this thing… I’m not sure what your problem is.

    “The screen is not bright even at the highest settings (and pales compared to the Surface RT, let alone the much better screen of the Surface 2 or Surface Pro/Pro 2).”
    I can’t speak on how the brightness compares to the Surface Pro 2, but I have yet to find a time that the screen isn’t bright enough. Are you trying to use it in direct sunlight? I’ve done it, but it is a bit hard to see.

    “The tablet in the dock will tip over regularly because all the weight is in the tablet, not in the keyboard.”
    Ok, so I am really confused on your stance with this. How does this make it worse to use in your lap than the Surface? The Surface uses a kickstand… ever try using a kickstand in your lap? So, despite the fact that the T100 isn’t as easy in the lap as an actual laptop(I might disagree as you don’t have the weight and heat that you get from laptops), it is still far easier to use in your lap than a tablet with a kickstand. I didn’t even mention the hassle of trying to use the keyboard in combination with the kickstand in your lap.

    “The trackpad is horrible (so is the Surface trackpad).”
    The trackpad works just fine for me. I did read about some issues that the trackpad had when first released, but they updated the driver and all is well now. Don’t get me wrong, this thing isn’t top dollar track pad, but it responds to 99 percent of the input that I give it.

    “The dock is just cumbersome. When you have the Surface in hand, like when you’re standing, it’s really easy to take off the keyboard and put it away. Or you can wrap it around to the other side. it’s really hard to take off the keyboard on the T100 midair. I always have to use two hands to separate the tablet and the keyboard dock with the T100 and it has to be on the table to do so.”
    I’ll give you that. The keyboard dock can be a little tricky to remove if you don’t have a surface to place it on. The thing is though, if I have the dock on it… I likely had it on a surface. It is definitely a two handed job, but I don’t find that it is a major hassle. You didn’t mention this, but I will point out that putting it in it’s dock can also be tricky, until you learn the trick. That trick is to palm the dock portion of the keyboard and press it into the tablet. That way works flawlessly for me.

    “And it doesn’t store away easily like Surface keyboard which is more portable.”
    That I can’t agree with. The way that the tablet can dock and then fold up like a clam shell laptop makes the keyboard MORE portable. The tablet and it’s keyboard now go in the same spot that my Nexus 10 tablet used to go, and now I don’t have to use the pocket that I carried my keyboard for the Nexus 10 in. That pocket is now free for other accessories, such as my retractable 6 foot HDMI cable.

    “The USB port on the T100 is in the dock which is really inconvenient because every time I need to use the USB port, I have to dock it. Sure, you can get a microUSB to USB adapter but that’s another dongle to worry about.”
    You know, I’ve had some conversations about this one with people, and I believe this is a matter of preference. I actually prefer the full USB port to be in the keyboard. The only time I use the full USB port is when I have the keyboard dock on. Typically that is because I have the keyboard dock on for any productivity work. Now, I do have a MicroUSB to USB dongle that I carry in my tablet bag, though I can’t think of a situation where I used it. I bought it a couple years back when I got my Nexus 10, but I don’t think I have used it once with my T100TA.

    Again, I am not claiming that the T100TA is the winner here, though it certainly won for me. I just wanted to clarify that this tablet is significantly better than dirtyvu makes it out to be. Not only does it run all of the software that I need, even for development(Unity3D, Monodevelop, Eclipse, GIMP, etc.), it can also run several PC games that I own on low settings. Don’t sell the Asus Transformerbook T100TA short! It is work all 4 of those stars that it has on Amazon.

  9. David Tran

    A bit late since it’s a bit over a year, but with the amount of reads in this article I decided to chime in on my own experience.

    I don’t own the T100, but I do have a Dell Venue 8 Pro with similar specs. And I can safely say that while it is still no match for Surface 2 Pro builds, I feel that some of the criticism exhibited in the T100 is a bit harsh. Yes, the device with the Atom processor is considerably slower than the Core i processors, but it can handle more than what is stated.

    The fact that the T100 can use full Windows is still good, and not at all misguided. It won’t handle the programs designed for 64-bit users of course, but it can handle Photoshop or even a bit of video editing just fine (provided you a) know your limitations and b) you don’t come into using a tablet like the T100 expecting full desktop speeds.). I don’t video edit very often, but in experimenting with the Dell Venue, I found that it can handle simple edits fine, even more than I thought. I’d surmise that you can push it further, but only to find either issues in memory or length of time to finish the project.

    Also, the Dell Venue 8 Pro, while being much smaller, was not that big of a compromise in terms of work and study. Well, depends on the user of course – I’m a part time student along with being a writer, so the duties I typically do (Word and Office applications, along with some GIMP/Photoshop and QuickBooks) can work with the Dell Venue just fine. Even gaming with older 3D games (Oblivion and even Mass Effect and Diablo 3) works fine too, though there may be throttling issues for some and you do need to tone the settings down considerably.

    If only I had a worse laptop, then I might even safely consider using the Dell Venue 8 Pro as a primary device. However, I do have my needs with a more powerful machine that I already have before getting the Dell (I also have a Core i3 ultrabook on hand) and I think that the tablets like the T100 and Dell Venue 8 Pro are better considered (accurately) as a complimentary device as well as a backup should a powerful machine (desktop or laptop) break down for some reason.

    I only want to write this out to smooth some rough edges on the T100’s perception – it’s not a world-beater, and it won’t fit everyone because of the size and specs. (Dell Venue 8 Pro, if you’d guess, is much smaller than the T100 and I needed the Bluetooth Keyboard to make desktop use more readily possible.) And one thing I do agree on is that ‘average users’ do not equate ‘budget users’ – and that the latter is best described on the T100/Dell Venue 8 Pros of the world instead of the former.

    But hey, as a budget machine, the T100 (or tablets similar to this one) aren’t so bad. And nowadays there are Cherry Trail variants that have 64 bit OS’s (meaning 4GB ram, making it more versatile) and graphical performance is much better though performance in CPU is marginally improved.