Microsoft’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.
The 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. This 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.
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.
Most 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.
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.
While 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.
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.
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.