The Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500 is a 15 inch convertible laptop with a touchscreen, capable Haswell hardware and a start price of roughly $650. The more powerful configurations sell for between $700 to $1000 at launch.
In this post I’m going to tell you what to expect from the standard version of the TP500 line, called the Transformer Book Flip TP500LA. Asus also has a TP500LN version in stores, which is identical to this reviewed one, but also bundles an Nvidia GT 840M dedicated graphics chip. So performance aside, the article remains a reference no matter which model you plan on getting.
I also reviewed the TP300 a few days ago, the 13 inch member of this Transformer Book Flip series, and you might want to check it out as well, especially if interested in a similar, but more compact device.
The specs sheet for the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500
|Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500LA
|Screen||15.6 inch, 1366 x 768 px resolution, TN, touchscreen|
|Processor||Intel Haswell Core i7-4510U CPU|
|Video||integrated Intel 4400 HD (*Nvidia GT 840M for the TP500LN version)|
|Memory||8 GB DDR3|
|Storage||1 TB 5400 rpm HDD + 24 GB mSSD|
|Connectivity||Wireless N, Bluetooth, Gigabit LAN|
|Ports||1 x USB 2.0, 3 x USB 3.0, SD card reader, HDMI, LAN, volume rocker, Windows Start button|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1|
|Size||22 mm think|
|Weight||about 2.35 kg (5.2 pounds)|
|Extras||stereo speakers, VGA webcam|
Design and exterior
The form factor sets this Asus ultrabook apart from most other 15 inchers out there. The screen folds backs to 360 degrees, allowing you to use the device in several different modes: laptop, stand, tent or tablet.
This particular approach is more practical with 11 to 13 inch machines (like the Lenovo Yoga 2 Pro) than on a large and heavy (roughly 5 pounds) device like this one, as actually using the TP500 in tablet mode isn’t exactly comfortable, but it’s just something extra you won’t get with many other laptops (the Lenovo Flex 15 offers a similar form-factor, but its screen only folds back to 270 degrees).
The keyboard does lock automatically when flipping the screen past about 210 degrees (you’ll get a small pop-up that lets you know the Asus FlipLock is activated) and the accelerometer does a well job at rotating the canvas to the suitable position. In other words, as long as you can get used to the bulk and the weight, you should be fine with this Transformer Book, even if you want to use it in any other mode than as a standard laptop.
Aesthetically, I’d say the TP500 is not bad. A dark brushed sheet of metal dresses the lid, while the body is cast from a single piece of silver aluminum and the bottom settles for a rough, simple plastic cover. The interior is smooth, simple and spacious and the hinge (which is also metallic) is rigid enough to hold the screen in place just as you set it up. Last but not least, the laptop also feels strong in hand, sturdy, although there will be some flex and some cranks when grabbing it firmer.
Around the sides you’ll find a good set of ports, with 3 USB slots (only one of them is USB 3.0 though), HDMI, headphone/mic jack, card-reader and an RJ45 connector. There are also some status LEDs on the front flip, and a few other just on top of the keyboard, towards the right. The Power Button is placed on the left edge, next to a volume rocker and a dedicated Windows button, which might come in handy in tablet mode.
All in all, the Asus Transformer Book TP500LA looks and feels great for a sub $1000 laptop. It might not ooze the same premium impression as the Dell XPS 15, the Zenbook NX500 or the Retina Macbook Pro do, but let’s not forget it is a lot cheaper than those. I do have two gripes with it though: the dark metal sheet easily catches smudges and fingerprints, and when having the laptop in tablet mode, the screen does not lock properly in place and tends to wobble.
Let’s turn our attention towards the display. There’s a 15.6 inch touchscreen on this unit, with a TN panel and 1366 x 768 px resolution, which I could probably call alright for indoor use, but the panel quality is rather mediocre next to an IPS panel. It’s fairly bright and the colors are fine, but the contrast, pixel density and viewing angles are poor, like with most TNs.
Asus will bundle this particular screen with the cheapest version of the TP500LA. The other versions will get a 1920 x 1080 px touchscreen with a TN panel, and buyers seems to complain about the poor viewing angles and contrast. I haven’t seen it in person, so I can’t tell for sure how bad it is.
Update: David mentions in the comments: “I purchased an Asus TP500LA-ub51t from the Microsoft Store this week and found out my unit is NOT IPS. The viewing angles are horrible. Just to clarify, my unit is the 1920×1080 resolution one, so it is NOT the case that all models that are FHD are IPS as well.”
Update2: The FHD configurations come with an AUO36ED panel, at least in the US, which is indeed TN. Thanks KJT for mentioning it in the comments.
I’ve yet to see any reports of FHD units with IPS displays, but stay tuned, I’ll keep you updated.
Keyboard and trackpad
The keyboard and trackpad are similar to what we’ve seen on some other Asus laptops in the Vivobook line (like the V551 that I tested a while ago). There’s no back-lightning, but the travel and the overall feedback are quite good. There’s an European layout on this version, with a tall Enter and a small Left-Shift, but the US layout is going to be slightly different.
Other than that, there’s enough room for a Num-Pad area, with the keys here being somewhat narrower than all the others. I’m not a big fan of NumPads on a laptop, but if you deal with numbers, you’ll probably be glad to have it.
The touchpad is nice as well, with a large and smooth surface, separated from the palm-rest by some beveled edges. It tends to be accurate and reliable most of the time, with occasional hiccups, and it handles well taps, gestures and actual clicks (I could say that physical clicks are somewhat clunky, but that’s a minor detail).
Hardware and performance
Hardware wise, my test unit is competent, packing an Intel Core i7-4510U processor, 8 GB of RAM, and 1 TB 5400 rpm hard-drive with a 24 GB MSSD for caching and no dedicated graphics, as that’s reserved for the Transformer Flip Book TP500LN version.
But despite the punchy processor and the amount of RAM, the TP500LA is not incredibly fast, especially when it comes to launching apps, installing software and moving content around. It does boot fast though and resumes from sleep almost instantaneously. Now, I’s probably somewhat subjective here as I haven’t used a HDD equipped laptop in quite a few months (all my devices pack SSDs and all the ultrabooks tested lately had SSDs as well), but the slow 5400 rpm HDD inside this laptop is clearly a bottleneck here. Luckily, it can be replaced with a 7mm 2.5 inch SSD.
Removing the screws that hold the back panel in place and popping it aside (this might be tricky, you need to use a sharp object to clear one corner of the panel, and then pull firmly to release it, as it has quite a few plastic clams holding it attached) will get you access to the internals.
The HDD resides toward the left in a cage hold in place by a few screws, so it should be quite easy to get out and replace with an SSD. The mSSD is hidden beneath the SSD Card at the right of the HDD, so accessing it might be a bit more difficult.
At the same time, the TP500 series offers 4 GB of RAM soldered on the motherboard, and an extra DIMM that can take an up to 4 GB memory module (equipped with a 4GB stick in our case; an 8 GB module might work as well, but based on the experience with the Vivobooks V551 series, I believe the slot is limited at only 4 GB, but this needs to be confirmed/infirmed). However, just like on the TP300, this DIMM is hidden behind the Silver packaging on the left-side of the CPU, which you’ll have to remove if you want to upgrade the RAM. This guide shows you how to access the spare memory slot.
Last but not least, you’ll notice here the battery, which is fixed in place with a few screws and replaceable, if needed. And there’s also the vertical CPU-heatpipe we saw on the TP300 line. The speakers are placed towards the front on this unit, thus somewhat closer to the user.
- 3DMark 13: Ice Storm – 46277, Cloud Gate – 4818, Fire Strike – 539 ;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2548, Work Conventional – 3064;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 23.83 fps, CPU 2.73 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 24.27 fps, CPU 251 cb.
Back to the everyday experience, this tested TP500 is fairly fast, but not as fast as some of the premium ultrabooks available out there, and again, that’s mainly due to bundling a HDD. Even so, this laptop can take care of most tasks easily, from the basics (browsing, chatting, movies and videos) to the more complicated ones (programming software, image editing). It can handle light gaming as well, just not the latest titles and not on high details, due to the Intel HD 4400 integrated graphics.
The TP500LN models, with the Nvidia 840M graphics chip, are going to be far more capable when it comes to games. I did review the Zenbook UX303LN with an i7-4510U + Nvidia 840M configuration a while ago and you can see here what to expect from this bundle.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity and others
On the other hand, this simpler configuration runs cool most of the time, even when performing more demanding tasks, as shown in the pictures below. The palm-rest, the underbelly and the area beneath the screen, around the Asus logo (the exhaust is hidden behind the hinge, thus hot air is pushed towards this spot), do get warm in this case, but they never get hot. So you can easily use this laptop on your lap if you want to.
You will however hear the fan. While gaming, I measured a noise level of 43-44 dB at 50 cm away from the laptop (where a user’s head would usually be), which isn’t very loud, but definitely not quiet either. When performing light activities the fan is going to be mostly silent (not OFF though), but I did notice some sort of high-pitch wine coming out of it from time to time. And of course, the physical hard-drive is something you’ll constantly hear in a silent environment.
I expect the TP500LN to reach somewhat higher temperatures, but even so, there’s enough room inside this 15 incher, so you should not worry about the body or the components getting too hot. At least not as hot as on the sleek and compact Zenbook UX303LN, that’s for sure.
The speakers are placed on the belly, but towards the front-side, and fire decent sound, with good volume. Still, I’d say that both the audio-quality and the volume are just above average and definitely not impressive.
Connectivity wise, the TP500 offers Wi-Fi N only (no AC speeds here) and Bluetooth 4.0 , plus Gigabit Lan via the RJ45 connector on the left side.
There’s also a rather mediocre VGA webcam on top of screen, capable of taking decent images in good light, but very grainy ones in dim conditions.
The Asus TP500LA packs a 48 Wh battery which for me, was able to push the laptop for about 5 hours of daily use. That includes everyday standard activities (browsing with 10 or so opened tabs, occasional music, editing texts, listening to music), with Wi-Fi ON, Balanced mode selected and the screen at about 50% (I turn OFF automatic brightness adjustment on my laptops). You should also expect around 5 hours of 720p video playing in similar conditions.
Now, one could probably squeeze more out if this laptop when choosing the Power Saving mode, but this caps the frequency and makes the laptop just too sluggish for my taste. But it’s worth knowing you could get 6 and maybe more hours of life on a charge from this laptop. You could also lengthen the autonomy when ditching the HDD for an SSD, especially for activities that tend to write/read a lot of data on the drive.
Price and availability
In Asus’s tradition, the TP500 will be available in stores in a bunch of different configurations for both series, an neither of them is identical to my test unit.
For the Transformer Book Flip TP500LA they’ll have these:
- Intel Core i3-4030U, HD 4400 graphics, 500 GB 5400 rpm HDD, 4 GB RAM (on-board), 1366 x 768 px TN touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 600 euro (~$650 in the US);
- Intel Core i5-4210U, HD 4400 graphics, 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD + 24GB MSSD, 6 GB RAM (4 GB on-board), 1920 x 1080 px touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 750 euro (~$800 in the US);
- Intel Core i7-4510U, HD 4400 graphics, 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD, 8 GB RAM (4 GB on-board), 1920 x 1080 px touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 850 euro (~$900 in the US).
Some versions of the Flip TP500LA are already available in stores, and they are actually cheaper as mentioned above. See this link for up-to-date prices and configurations.
And these for the Transformer Book Flip TP500LN, with the dedicated Nvidia 840M graphics:
- Intel Core i3-4030U, Nvidia 840M graphics, 500 GB 5400 rpm HDD, 4 GB RAM (on-board), 1366 x 768 px TN touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 700 euro (~$750 in the US);
- Intel Core i5-4210U, Nvidia 840M graphics, 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD + 24GB MSSD, 6 GB RAM (4 GB on-board), 1920 x 1080 px touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 850 euro (~$900 in the US);
- Intel Core i7-4510U, Nvidia 840M graphics, 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD + 24GB MSSD, 8 GB RAM (4 GB on-board), 1920 x 1080 px touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 950 euro (~$1000 in the US).
Those EURO/USD prices are my own estimates based to the exact prices for my country, so they might not be 100% accurate. Also, different regions might get different configurations, other from those listed above.
Notice that the Core i3 options are the only ones to pack the 1366 x 768 px TN panel. They also lack the 24 GB caching mSSD, so expect these to be slow.
Besides this, here’s (roughly) a 100 euro difference between a similarly configured TP500LA and a TP500LN, or in other words, the dedicated graphics are going to cost you about 100 EURO/USD. It’s up to you if that’s worth it or not.
Although there’s nothing majorly wrong with this laptop, I do find it somewhat tough to recommend right now, at launch, because it is rather expensive, especially when looking at its competition.
Let’s take the top version of the TP500LA for a second. $700 will get you a Vivobook V551LA with a Core i7-4510U processor, 8 GB of RAM and 750 GB HDD these days. An Acer Aspire V5-573 goes for around $700 as well and bundles an Nvidia 720M graphics chip too. The TP500LA is $200 more and the only major difference is the FHD screen and the form factor.
And then there’s the TP500LN, with the top configuration going for a bit over $1000. Well, Asus also sells the N550JK, with a non-glare IPS panel, better sound system and Nvidia 850M graphics for roughly $1000 to $1100. Lenovo has the IdeaPad Y50 for around $1150 with GTX 860M graphics, or the IdeaPad Y40 with Radeon R9 275 graphics for about 900 bucks. And Acer has a few aggressive priced units as well.
All these lack one thing: the convertible form factor, so that’s pretty much the main reason you should choose the TP500 over any of the aforementioned options. Otherwise, you can get similar configurations for less, or better ones for pretty much the same kind of money you’d pay on a Transformer Book Flip.
But is the form factor worth the premium? Well, you might feel different, but for me it does not on a 15 incher like this one, that weighs North of 5 pounds. I agree, having a foldable screen sounds good in theory, but actually means little in practice. I only flipped it back once or twice during these last 2 weeks of testing and that was to show some friends this particular feature. I kept it as a standard laptop for the rest of the time, no matter where I was using it. And I believe the same would happen to most users.
So, to wrap this up, the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500 is a good laptop, with plenty of positive aspects and no major gripes. It just needs to get cheaper, which will for sure happen in a few months. In the meantime, you can have a look at some other 2-in-1 laptops, or check out my lists of the best 15 inch ultrabooks of the moment and this other list of the top ultra-portables you can get for under $800 these days.
Anyway, there you have it, this was my review for the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500. Let me know what you think about this laptop and make sure to share this post around if you find it useful. And of course, the comments section below is open and waiting for your feedback and questions.