The Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300L is a nice looking Haswell powered laptop with a convertible screen, with a start-price of roughly $700 at launch (will get cheaper down the road).
I’ve told you a few things about this line before, now it’s time for a proper review. I’ve got my hands on a TP300LA model (top configuration, without a dedicated graphics chip) for the last two weeks and put it to test. It is a pre-production sample though, as the actual retail units will only hit the stores in a few weeks, but it is identical to what you’ll be able to find in shops.
The Transformer Book Flip is Asus’s mainstream ultrabook line for the rest of 2014 and the TP300 is the 13 inch model within this series, with 14 and 15 inch versions also available. They are meant to offer good value for the money, so if you’re on the market for a Haswell laptop and don’t want to spend a lot for one, these units should definitely be on your radar, next to the Lenovo IdeaPad U and Flex 2 series, to name just some of the direct competitors.
But is the Asus Transformer Book TP300 actually any good? Is there anything flawed about it and is it worth your hard earned buck? Well, keep reading and you’ll find out.
Update1: Added configurations and prices for both the TP300LA and the TP300LD.
Update2: Looks like this laptop is available from BestBuy as the Asus Q302LA 2-in-1 laptop, with a black (dark grey) case.
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300 video review
The specs sheet for the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300
|Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300LA|
|Screen||13.3 inch, 1920 x 1080 px resolution, IPS, touchscreen|
|Processor||Intel Haswell Core i7-4510U CPU|
|Video||integrated Intel 4400 HD|
|Memory||8 GB DDR3|
|Storage||128 GB SSD|
|Connectivity||Wireless N, Bluetooth|
|Ports||1 x USB 2.0, 3 x USB 3.0, SD card reader, HDMI, volume rocker, Windows Start button|
|Operating system||Windows 8.1 Pro|
|Size||22 mm think – 322 x 232 x 22 mm|
|Weight||about 1.75 kg (3.85 pounds)|
|Extras||stereo speakers, HD webcam|
Design and exterior
The TP300 will not take many praises for its slender body. In fact, it tips the scales at 3.85 pounds, is about 22 mm (0.9 inch) thick and its rectangular footprint is rather tall for a 13 incher, mainly dues to its hinge, but we’ll get to that in a second. On the other hand, the entire thing feels solid on the desk and in hand and quite comfortable to lug around, as long as you don’t plan to use it in tablet mode much. Because that’s when you’ll really feel the weight and bulk. Lifting a nearly 4 pounds tablet is really a killer for my arms.
Aesthetically, the TP300 is quite appealing. It has some scents of Macbook Pros and some standard Asus lines. Metal is used for the lid cover, a dark brushed sheet of metal that will catch fingerprints and smudges like crazy. No kidding! Metal is used for the interior as well, but this time it’s a simple hunk of sturdy aluminum, with straights edges. The bottom is covered by a soft and smooth plastic, which does offer good grip, but is also prone to retaining smudges.
On the sides you’ll find quite a few ports, including 3 USBs, HDMI, a card-reader, a Kensington Lock, the Power Button, plus a Windows button and a volume rocker. There are also some status LEDs on the front lip. So not much to complain of here, except perhaps for the lack of a proper Ethernet connector, especially since there are no adapters included in the pack, at least not with this test version.
Overall, the Transformer Book Flip TP300 feels great and carefully put together for a laptop in this price range, with few exceptions. The joint between the aluminum unibody and the plastic rear is not perfect and leaves some exposed sharp edges that might catch the wondering finger.
The hinge however is sturdy and allows the screen to lean back to 360 degrees, a form made famous by Lenovo with their Yogas. You won’t need a lot of effort to rotate the screen. The tablet mode however is flawed on this unit and hopefully that’s just because we’re dealing with a pre-production sample. The screen is is not properly fixed in place in this mode and tends to wobble when touched. On top of that, the keyboard remained active all of the time, which leads to accidental keystrokes, and the accelerometer was not working at all, so I could only rotate the canvas manually. These were highly annoying, but I’m confident Asus will get them fixed on the final retail units. They MUST!
Wrapping it up, the Transformer Book TP300 feels very well made for the mid-range laptop and perhaps better polished and sturdier than the Vivobooks, the clamshell mid-range line of Asus laptops. But the convertible touchscreen, with the entire hinge mechanism, does add weight and bulk, and that might not be what some of you are looking for in a 13 inch ultrabook.
Keyboard and trackpad
Moving on, the keyboard is definitely good on this Asus laptop, with deep enough travel and proper feedback. The keys are completely flat, well spaced and a bit plasticky, so you can definitely find better keyboards out there, but not necessarily in this price range. It’s not backlit either, and the European layout does have its odd key placement (small Left-Shift key, tall Enter), but I can’t blame Asus for that.
The trackpad is fairly good as well, properly separated from the palm-rest by some beveled metallic cuts, smooth, accurate and comfortable to use most of the time, especially if you rely heavily on taps and not on actual clicks. Taping it harder or actually clicking it will result in clunks, and gestures aren’t always properly recognized (I had problems mostly with two finger right clicks), but overall this is not bad.
I just wish the touchpad were bigger, there’s definitely enough space for that on the palm-rest.
Decent keyboard and trackpad
For the screen Asus chose a 13.3 inch IPS touch panel, bright, sharp and with great viewing angles. Its HardwareID is CMN1361 and it looks like a new panel, not one of those Asus used on their previous laptops.
The 13 inch screen is definitely good for this price range
There’s little to no light bleeding and the color reproduction is also very good, as far as my eyes can tell when having this device next to a recent iPad. The 1920 x 1080 px resolution is just enough to offer crisp fonts and elements, without having to worry much about potential Windows scaling nuisances.
On top of these, the screen is highly reflective, so using the laptop in strong light could be annoying. But the fact that the display can actually bend completely on the back, and even more, does make the TP300 easy to adjust to pretty much any working environment, from a desk to a couch or a flight seat.
And the colors aren’t bad either (TP 300 – left, iPad 4 – right)
Hardware, performance and upgrade options
Of course, all these would be in vain if this laptop would not be able to properly cope with daily requirements. But that’s not the case. The Transformer Book Flip TP300 is going to be available in a bunch of different configurations. I have one of the beefiest ones for this review, with an Intel Core i7-4510U processor, 8 GB of RAM and an SSD for storage.
A rather small and slow 128 GB SSD , which does not leave that much room for your own content after installing Windows and usual programs, but the speed bump over a regular hard-drive is appreciated. And you can upgrade the laptop yourself if you want to, although that might be easier said than done.
As you can see in the pictures below, it’s quite difficult to get access to the RAM. The visible unit is covered by a silver cap and seems soldered to the MB. However, HWInfo shows a 4 GB module on this unit, alongside 4 GB of soldered memory and the spare DIMM is placed under the Silver packaging next to the CPU. In case you want to access and upgrade it, this post will come in handy, but I believe this slot can only take an up-to 4 GB module, and not a larger 8 GB stick.
The storage drive is accessible once you remove the few screws that hold it in place, and there’s no visible extra spare M2 connector for a caching unit. But it might be placed behind the motherboard as well, as Asus will probably offer this laptop with a HDD + Cache SSD combo as well.
Update: James noted in the comments that he tried to upgrade the storage drive on his unit, but encountered two issues:
“I’m trying to replace the hdd with an ssd and wow, I don’t think Asus wants you to do it. There is a warranty void sticker covering one of the screws for the hard drive caddy. Also, the hard drive caddy is wrapped around in protective tape.
I posted the image here: . The yellow sticker near the right edge of the laptop is what I was referring to. I used a blow dryer to slowly peel it off and then stuck it to wax paper. If I need to, I can reapply it at any time. Also that brown shroud covering the hard disk needs to be peeled off as well. Otherwise you can’t install an SSD.”
On that seal, Richard mentions that: “Yes it was on one of the screws. It’s basically impossible to remove the sticker, it had loads of radial cuts in it so as soon as I touched the sticker it pretty much disintegrated. I suspect if you had a hairdryer to soften the glue, a very soft touch and a lot of patience you could maybe get the sticker off in one piece, but it’s very obviously designed to make that almost impossible.”
So actually upgrading this laptop is unnecessarily complicated byt the warranty voiding aspect. However, that Yellow sticker might only be present on units sold on certain markets (US and UK have been confirmed, can’t say for sure about others). So if you try to upgrade the HDD on your TP300, let me know if you encounter similar problems or not.
The CPU however is fast and the TP300 actually scored better in benchmarks than the Asus Zenbook UX303LN I tested a while ago, despite having less memory.
- 3DMark 11: P1004;
- 3DMark 13: Ice Storm – 44119, Cloud Gate – 4640, Fire Strike – 547 ;
- PCMark 08: Home Conventional – 2510, Work Conventional – 2820;
- CineBench 11.5: OpenGL 24.03 fps, CPU 2.92 pts;
- CineBench R15: OpenGL 23.58 fps, CPU 272 cb.
All in all, this Asus laptop will easily cope with most activities, including more demanding ones like running multimedia content or programming software. Modern games are out of its league though, as this unit only relies on an Intel HD 4400 graphics chip, but you can still play recent titles well enough on 13 x 7 resolution with details set to low. However, keep in mind there’s also a TP300LD version, with an Nvidia 820M dedicated graphics chip, which will show more oomph when tackling games.
Lower -end configurations might not get as snappy, especially if you opt for a Core i3 processor or a regular HDD instead of the SSD. The later can be further upgraded, but the CPU cannot, so make sure you’ll be picking the right hardware configuration for your needs.
Noise, Heat, Connectivity and others
The TP300 runs fairly quiet and cool. The single fan inside is always spinning, even when the computer is idle, so this device is never completely silent. But the Book Flip never gets too loud either. When running games, I measured a noise level of roughly 41 db at about 50 cm from the laptop, where a user’s ears would usually be. Not bad.
Update: A few users reported that on their versions the fan switches entirely OFF when using the computer lightly. That’s good news.
It doesn’t get too hot either, not even when performing rougher tasks. The pics below speak for themselves, showing you daily use and gaming temperatures. There’s not a big difference between them, but the laptop does get noisier when running games than when performing lighter chores.
The outer body remains merely warm. Air is sucked from the grill on the bottom, which is actually placed just on top of the heatpipe, so it’s important not to cover this. It is then blown out through the grill behind the screen’s hinge, which is rather unfortunate, because it means that hot air is blown mostly towards the screen. And as a result, the only part of this laptop that gets hot is the are just under the panel, around the Asus logo. I’ve never been a fan of this approach Asus have been using on many of their latest laptops and I’m not happy to see them implementing it on a new model either.
Hot air is pushed out towards the screen, from behind the hinge
Connectivity wise, the Asus TP300 offers a dual-band Wi-Fi AC wireless module for the top configurations (the base version however will have to settle for Wi-Fi N), plus Bluetooth. There’s no LAN either and my unit did not include any adapters in the package, like most Zenbooks do, but I can’t say for sure whether the final retail units will include some or not. It will probably differ from country to country.
The TP300 packs a set of stereo speakers, placed on the lower-sides and pushing sound towards the desk. The audio coming out of them is fairly good, natural sounding, but the volume is low and you’ll have a hard time with these speakers in noisy conditions.
Last but not least, there’s a HD webcam on the TP300 and an array of microphones hidden at the top of the screen, just between the glass and the metal frame, and these do their job well for occasional Skype calls, but don’t expect too much out of them.
The Transformer Flip is also quite a long-runner.
You should expect an average of 6 hours of daily use from its 50 Wh battery,while performing standard tasks: browsing, editing texts in Word and Excel, listening to some music, playing a few light games from the Windows Store, watching some movies stored locally or on YouTube. All these on the Power4Gear High Performance mode, with Wi-Fi ON and the screen at 40%. I did turn OFF the Auto-Brightness feature for my tests and having the brightness ay 40% is more than enough for indoor use, as this panel is quite bright.
You will get more than 6 hours if dimming the screen or switching to the Power4Gear Energy Saving mode. However, this mode tends to aggressively cap the CPU’s frequency (as seen in one of the pictures above), which leads to a choppy and mostly unusable experience, even when performing the lightest of activities, like a right click.
The laptop comes with a 45Wh power-brick and it requires roughly 2 hours and 30 minutes for a full charge (10 to 100 %), when not in use.
Expect 6+ hours of battery life from this one
Price and availability
The Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300 will be available in stores in Europe and other regions by the end of June 2014. Prices are going to start at 550 pounds in the UK, 650 Euros in France/Germany/Italy and roughly 700 USD in the US (my intial prediction was a bit lower, but looks like I was wrong). There will be quite a few different configurations available for this unit. Some of them are listed below (estimates, based on the prices in my country):
- Intel Core i3-4030U, HD 4400 graphics, 500 GB 5400 rpm HDD, 4 GB RAM (on-board), 1366 x 768 px TN touchscreen, Wi-Fi N, Windows 8.1 – roughly 650 euro (~$700 in the US);
- Intel Core i5-4210U, HD 4400 graphics, 500 GB 5400 rpm HDD, 4 GB RAM (on-board), 1920 x 1080 px IPS touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 750 euro (~$800 in the US);
- Intel Core i7-4510U, HD 4400 graphics, 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD, 6 GB RAM (4 GB on-board), 1920 x 1080 px IPS touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 900 euro (~$900 in the US);
- Intel Core i7-4510U, HD 4400 graphics, 128 GB SSD, 8 GB RAM (4 GB on-board), 1920 x 1080 px IPS touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 950 euro (~$1000 in the US).
Those above are all for the Transformer Book Flip TP300LA. If you want to get the TP300LD with the dedicated graphics, here’s what to expect:
- Intel Core i5-4210U, Nvidia 820M, 500 GB 5400 rpm HDD, 4 GB RAM (on-board), 1920 x 1080 px IPS touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 800 euro (~$900 in the US);
- Intel Core i7-4510U, Nvidia 820M, 1 TB 5400 rpm HDD, 8 GB RAM (4 GB on-board), 1920 x 1080 px IPS touchscreen, Windows 8.1 – roughly 950 euro (~$1000-$1100 in the US).
Follow this link for more details and up-to-date prices at the time you’re reading this post.
That being said, there’s a small difference between similarly configured TP300LA and TP300LD version, about 25-50 euro or so. Also, keep in mind that the most affordable version in this series, comes with a 1366 x 768 PX TN screen and Wi-Fi N only, while all the other feature the IPS panel described in this review and faster Wi-Fi AC.
At the end of the day, there are plenty of reasons why this could be your next laptop. It looks alright and it is solid built, it offers a good keyboard, trackpad and touchscreen, it sports powerful hardware and lasts for quite a while on each charge. Last but surely not least, the price stands by its side as well.
On the other hand, the Transformer Book Flip TP300 is bulky and heavy when compared to other 13 inch ultrabooks and that’s actually my biggest gripe with it and perhaps it’s only potential deal-breaker. Yes, it lacks a few other things, like a backlit keyboard, a proper way of outputting higher than 1080p resolutions and so on, but I for one would probably learn to live with those just fine.
After all, let’s not forget that we are talking about an entry to mid-level ultrabook here.
There are plenty of reasons why the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300 could be the ideal laptop for you
The price is a bit higher than I would have hoped and just too close the the Zenbook UX303LA, which lacks the convertible display, but is much sleeker and lighter. But the market will take care of that and the TP300 is going to get more affordable in a few months.
Long story short though, the Asus TP300 sacrifices the light-weight for the convertible form factor, without actually excelling as a tablet, so you should ask yourself if that’s a choice you would be happy with.
If yes, go and check out this laptop in stores, you won’t be disappointed.
If not, there are other options for you out there. The Lenovo Yoga 2 13 and the Dell Inspiron 13 7000 series are its closest matches, selling for pretty much the same amount of money, each with their pros and cons.
This list of the best 13 inch ultrabooks out there is a good place to start your search, alongside this other list of affordable ultrabooks that sell for under $800. Asus also have a few other interesting devices in stores, like the brand new Zenbook UX303LA/LN (without or with dedicated graphics), the sleek Zenbook Infinity UX301LA or the more affordable Vivobook S301/Q301 series. Or if you really want a compact and cheap laptop, you might look at these options or at these Chromebooks.
Either way, the TP300 is imh a solid laptop for the money. But I’d love to know what do you guys think about this Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300, so make sure to leave your opinions below and your questions, if you have any; I’ll be around to reply.