Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Why the Asus Transformerbook T100A isn't a work machine

These words might be redundant already, but I've seen it is still on the shelves, I have some words of warning as I lay my faithful Asus Transformerbook T100A to rest...

Recently, I upgraded to a Toshiba Dynabook N514/21K. To my eyes the specs between it and my Asus Transformerbook T100A are almost identical; dual core processor, identical screen resolution, Intel HD graphics (Skyrim on low settings with algoBoost seems to work OK on both), sizeable HDD disk space. However, what difference there is in specs has a huge impact on your experience.

The main difference between the machines is that the Dynabook came with an extra 2GB of memory, and doesn't have the 16GB SDD drive.

The 2 vs 4 GB problem is fairly intuitive for anyone who has had a few computers in their time, and to be clear 2 GB is not enough memory to run Windows 8 stress-free. If you utilize the machine for work then this becomes problematic whenever you want to browse and use other programs at the same time. Web browsers these days love to fill up the RAM, and websites are getting heavier all the time (my subjective feeling). If you're working then maybe you have a tab for your email, maybe even a music site to make the work experience more palatable, and in the foreground whatever office programs you might be using. Add in Skype, Dropbox, and a few other minor programs, and that is about the limit of the Transformerbook's abilities. I would invariably have task manager open in the background ready to zap Skype or any other program when the computer inevitably froze up.

The SDD drive is another problem that I didn't really anticipate since the Transformerbook comes with an extra, sizeable HDD. However, the OS is installed on the SDD, and every now and then you will come across a program that just demands to be installed on the same partition as the SDD. This lead my SDD to fill up within weeks of purchasing the computer and subsequent file juggling to keep it clear. A more careful person might not have this problem, but I like to think I'm not entirely careless either.

The added advantage of being able to use the Transformerbook as a tablet isn't enough to justify it as a work computer. In fact it is the very tabletization that made the Transformerbook a failure in this regard, mainly in that the SDD is too small, but also because tablets are so difficult to upgrade. My new Toshiba has accessible RAM and HDD slots (I'm not sure of how much RAM it can actually take, but 4GB is enough for me... for now).

Additionally, the webcam doesn't work correctly out of the box (this is fixable, mind), and the microphone is terrible, meaning even something simple like Skype requires using a microphone (I count myself lucky for having kept the mic+earphones from my old HTC tattoo).

That said, the Transformerbook can handle less intensive use very well, so long as you're not multitasking, it can manage MS Office, video, even games as recent as Skyrim (damn, is it 4 years ago already?) on lower settings. Plus, audio-wise, the Transformerbook sweeps the Dynabook off its feet (I now have a set of speakers, the first time I've felt compelled to by speakers for a laptop since 2007 - oh dear Toshiba, oh dear). The Transformerbook's reduced size also means it is much more portable for use with presentations etc. But not great for use on-the-go as the Transformerbook's screen doesn't tilt quite far enough backwards for comfortable use on the lap.

So my closing remarks on the Transformerbook: A great laptop/tablet for messing around, but a stress-magnet when you need to get things done.