So, my tired old TF101 Transformer tablet finally bit the dust last week and I went looking for a replacement. I really wanted something that had a decent display and could act as a laptop replacement if so desired, as I hate carrying my full on (and heavy) laptop around, but would still function as a tablet. Oh, and it couldn’t cost more than $200. Well, while at Wal-Mart, I stumbled across this little gem for only $180. It runs Windows 8.1, so it’s actually a full laptop with a display resolution of 1280 x 800.
The keyboard detaches from the screen so you can use it as a tablet as well. It runs Win 8.1 pretty well, considering the limited RAM (2 Gb) and has an SD card slot for expanding the built in 32 GB of storage. There are two cameras on the display half, front and rear facing, that are each 2MP, they’re obviously for video conferencing, you’re not going to be using them to take pictures with. The speakers aren’t bad, located on the rear of the display half, in the lower corners. I’ve found the best way to get good sound out of them is to hold the unit in such a way that your hands redirect the sound forward, but frankly, most people will use headphones.
The Windows App store is a bit light on some things, particularly Google apps, but there are reasonable substitutes for most of the applications I use on a daily basis. The latest version of Internet Explorer is pretty good, I’ve not yet had a reason to install Chrome to get anything to work. So far, the biggest lack I’ve seen is a Metro app for Google hangouts, they work in Internet Explorer, but only in desktop mode. It’s not a real problem, though, I tend to use my phone for those anyway. It will, surprisingly enough, run Minecraft (in desktop mode) well enough that it isn’t unbearable to play, but you still aren’t going to buy this for its gaming ability.
The keyboard isn’t anything to write home about (or with [I’m not writing this on it for instance]), but it is serviceable for light duty. The touchpad is, in my opinion, the weakest link, it can be tricky to click on things, I find myself using the touchscreen or an external bluetooth mouse instead.
There is a micro USB to Go port on the display half, along with a microSD card slot, headphone connector and a micro HDMI connector. There are two USB ports on the keyboard half, but they don’t provide a lot of power, so don’t expect to plug something like a USB hard drive into them without a powered hub in there as well to provide the added juice they need. Speaking of power, the battery so far has lasted me all day, with intermittent reading, web surfing and watching video. The charger is a 5V 2.5A unit with a barrel plug, so you can’t use just any old USB adapter to charge it, more’s the pity. However, finding (or making) a proper USB to barrel plug adapter should be possible.
All in all, I’m pretty happy with the unit, it is somewhat hackable and it should be possible to run Linux on it, which I plan to try in the future. I’m also interested in the possibility of putting ChromeOS on it and running it as a Chromebook. For now, though, I’m going to stick with Win 8.1 and see how well I adjust to it. There is an 11″ version with essentially the same specifications, except for 64Gb of storage instead of 32 and a backlit keyboard. It runs about $50 more, and for me, wasn’t worth the additional cost.
If you’re in the market for a new computer and are on the fence over whether you should get a laptop, or just a tablet, this may be the computer for you. It’ll easily handle basic word processing, etc. as well as web surfing, videos and basic photo editing. It’s not a gaming machine, but it doesn’t claim to be, and frankly, hardcore gamers will spend more on their video card alone than this machine costs, but it is a good all around, everyday use machine that can be used as a tablet or a laptop as the situation requires.