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T300 Chi review

This is an early release of my review, put out for a bud that wanted to hear my thoughts. I will update once I’ve lived with it for a while.

After I bought a T100 Chi I got a shot at a refurb T300 Chi (I will refer to it as the T300 from here in to save typing, but be aware there is a T300 (non chi)). The regular price is 999 and I scooped it from nMicroVip for $569. At 999 I wouldn’t consider it but at 569 it is a real contender. After getting my Asus Vivotab note fixed a pen portable device was less important so I can now choose a larger screen. The one on the T300 is 12.2 Vs 10.1 inch on the T100, and the size increase is surprisingly noticeable. The T300 feels more rectangular. Asus stretched the size of the keys on the keyboard rather than reorganize them into a more normal orientation. The one I got is an English/French keyboard (unfortunately). The keys on the T300 are for the most part in exactly the same spot as the T100. With the exception of enter and the shift keys are larger on the T300 the keyboard is the same as the T100 (albeit bigger keys). The keyboard really does feel very good. It is a lot more rigid than that of the T100 (something I complained about on the T100). The track point however does not seem to be a multi point and lacks gestures. Even slide two fingers down as a page up/down doesn’t work. Very odd. The spacing and magnets of the T100/T300 are not compatible (meaning you can not put the T100 on the T300s dock. They actually magnetically repel each other. Another odd choice. But how many people are going to own a T100 and a T300 anyway so this is a who cares …

Like the T100 the connection between the dock and the tablet is magnets (ie no physical lock) and Bluetooth. So no connector to wear out as it did on the T100TA. If the T300’s dock is as good as the T100 I get weeks out of a charge. And the keyboard can be used while charging.

Comparing the two:
T300 – 12.2 Vs 10.1
T300 720g Vs 570g (without the keyboard The T300 is 1430g with the keyboard). The weight difference on the lap is quite noticeable. Not to say the T300 is heavy but it isn’t light either.

T300 317 x 191 x 16 mm) with keyboard 0.28 without
T100 265 x 174.5 x 7.2 / Dock – 265 x 174.5 x 13.2

Screen resolution is 2560×1440 which is terrific! The high resolution screen does have a downside, buttons to click are smaller in some cases then they ought to be making it harder to use as a touch screen. Sadly the on screen keyboard does not scale down well in cases like this, still taking a large part of the useable space.

Processor wise the T300 is a HUGE step forward from the T100. I have lived with anemic processors and memory for quite a while now. All in the interest of weight, size, heat and battery life. This was a compromise I was willing to make. The T300 uses a Core M processor, specifically a 5Y10C. The processor is a dual core, hyper thread enabled processor. The T100 is a quad core atom. Windows updates, app store installs all are noticeably faster on the Core M Vs the atom. A place where the atom really is dog slow. The speed of the Core M is quite good and quite noticeably faster than the Atom. Everything just moves. The Core M by the way is entirely passively cooled (ie no fan) so is a totally silent system. And since the dock is nothing more than a Bluetooth keyboard it is completely cool. The whole unit is a bit tippy given the top heavy tablet. Asus could have added a second battery into the keyboard dock or some dead weight to balance it out but they did not. The Core M also includes all instructions sets (while the Atom is limited). The Core M is really in a different class. CPUBoss does a good job of comparing. There are a number of architectural compromises that were made with the Atom that creates bottle necks, from what I can see the Core M does not suffer from there. For example on the T100 Chi I was only able to get 50MB/s off of a 122MB/s USB 3 flash drive. On the T300 I get full speed USB 3 (so got the 122mb/s the drive is capable of). This is especially important if you are going to try and use a USB 3 docking station with video and USB 3 ports. The T300 Chi could be used in this mode (while the T100 would be more limited).
cpu

Another area the T300 is head and shoulders above the T100 is memory. The T300 I bought comes with 8G while the T100 caps out at 2G. This additional memory just makes things smoother and opens up a number of possibilities including running VMs (possible because the Core M support virtualization, something the atom doesn’t but with only 2G of memory wasn’t happening anyway). Speed wise the memory interface according to Intel goes up to 25.6GB/s Vs 17 on the atom.

For all the nauseating levels of detail checkout the Intel product sheet for the 5Y10 and the Atom 3775.

Another architectural limitation of the Atom is that the SSD is what is called an eMMC. On the T100 this clocked in at 32MB/s write and 78.5MB/s read (which is competitive in this space). The T300 uses a Sandisk integrated SSD, an i110 128G. It clocks in at 177MB/s write and 175MB/s read according to H2TestW. This speed difference is a pretty noticeable boost. The Core M could have supported an even faster drive if Asus had wanted to. Everything is about choices and compromises. As they say in Mad Max speed is just a question of cost. How fast you want to go is just a matter of how much you wanna spend!

The charger on the T300 has gone back to a proprietary barrel charger pumping out 19V 1.75A or a whopping 33 watts. Compare this to the T100 5V 2A 10 watts.

Since I bought refurb I am not sure if the cables I got were the ones Asus shipped or not, but what I got was a standard USB 2 OTG cable. Testing revealed it slowed the USB 3 interface down significantly (down to 35MB/s Vs 122 MB/s the USB flash drive I was testing was capable of). Fortunately I had my own USB 3 OTG cable to get around this issue and they are cheap. It’s worth purchasing and a MUST if your going to use a USB docking station. It also came with a micro USB to micro USB cable long enough to go from the tablet to the dock, allowing you to charge the dock from the tablet or both at the same time. Something that was missing from the T100. Thanks Asus! The cable does not allow you to use the dock as a USB device however so in an environment like a plane where Bluetooth is not allowed, you will be without a keyboard. Seems to be something Asus didn’t think of.

There was no pen included. I have seen some reviewers comment about it coming with one. Not sure if this is decided country by country or not. The pen is compatible with the Acer active stylus or the Dell Venue 8 pen, so I would guess a Synaptics. The pen works the same as on these other devices. It is a little slow to start doing palm rejection and then once the pen gets close enough it is fine. It leads to errors, some frustration and misclicks. It’s not horrible but by no means anywhere near as good as the Waacom based pens (or the one on the Surface). Compared with the T100 and the Dell Venue 8 pro I would say the palm rejection on the T300 Chi is actually the worst šŸ˜¦ In doing some reading I found out lots of people are complaining about the palm rejection in Windows 10 where I did my testing. It seems to be different/worse than in Windows 8. There is a crude by effective work around to the issue. If you wear a glove on the hand you write with it totally eliminates the issue.

Port wise there is a proprietary charge port, a micro USB 3 port (for USB OTG, does not charge from this), a micro HDMI port (yay), and a standard 3.5mm head phone jack. There is a micro SD slot oddly located on the bottom of the tablet. It is accessible with the dock on it but it is in such an odd spot I had to looking for it. As with pretty much every tablet I’ve played with the micro SD slot is limited to around 25 MB/s (likely a USB 2 connection internally). So don’t go out spending money on super fast micro SD cards because this tablet will not use it.

For some odd reason the recovery partition which is usually 4G is a whopping 15G. So of the 128G, it starts out at 102G and with everything up ends up with 84G free. Lots of space but worth noting. Once you have created a recovery drive you can delete the recovery partition and recover 15G if needed. 128G really is a comfortable size for an SSD for my use. Honestly, anything 64 and above is.

The T300 is only the second device I have seen that comes with hibernation enabled. Very nice. As always it is missing from the start menu but can easily be added.
hibernate
Once in hibernate the system consumes no power so can stay indefinitely, but coming out of hibernate takes a bit so you only want to have it go into hibernate when needed. Asus had it set to go into hibernate after 2 hours on power or battery. Why you would bother with hibernate when on power (much slower to boot) is beyond me, so I turned that off.

This tablet supports hibernate, sleep, and hybrid sleep. Hybrid sleep is turned off by default. From sleep it took about 1-2 seconds to come on, and from hybrid sleep 2-4 seconds. I’d never heard of hybrid sleep this article explained it (sort of).

This tablet does not support connected standby which on Atom allows the computer to do notifications when new mail comes in while the computer is in sleep. This same connected standby without hibernation can lead to dead batteries. I’ve always preferred the old style standby anyway. It’s worth noting a few implications of not having connected standby. Mail/calendar are not kept up to date constantly. They are updated only once the device is woken up. The device will NOT wake up from a bluetooth keyboard button press.

This system woke from hibernate in about 10 seconds which is pretty quick. Likely attributed to the fast SSD. Given the system supports old style standby which can last somewhere between days to weeks I am not sure I see a point in using hibernate on this machine.

Asus were super focused on the weight and thinness of this device. So much so you see people comparing it to iPads. The trade off on this is battery life. In about 3 hours of use writing this article, web browsing, some installing and the like the battery went from 100% to 38%. That would project the battery life to be about 4.8 hours. Not as bad as I had read but nowhere near as good as Atom which on the T100 was about 8 hours. This is the price you pay for the power of the Core M on a super thin tablet. The performance difference between the Atom/Core M as well as the 2G Vs 8G is really quite noticeable, though I must say … Battery size on the T300 despite being a 12.2 inch tablet is roughly the same size as on the 10 inch T100, 31000 (Vs 29000) mWh.

The tablet went from 35% back up to 95% in 1.5 hours which projects to a full charge in 1.5 hours. This is stunning in comparison to 7 hours on the T100. Clearly the high wattage charger is doing wonders to reduce charge time and justify the proprietary charger.

I had a chance to try this tablet with an Lenovo ThinkPad 3 dock. The tablet was able to drive three monitors. I didn’t live on it for long but it seemed to work just fine. Theoretically you could support a fourth but I wasn’t able to try that.

Of all of the tablets I have played with of late the T300 Chi is by far the most stable/reliable device I’ve used. Yes including the surface. Inevitably other devices would fail to wake up, blue screen or need a reboot to fix an issue. In over a month since using the T300 it has done this only once and it was the Bluetooth keyboard failing to connect that needed the reboot. Even the WIFI is rock solid. Impressive.

I tried to load Ubuntu 15 on my T100/T100 Chi and got nowhere. Asus decided to put only a 32 bit UEFI on the tablets in spite of it being a 64 bit processor. Even getting around that Ubuntu install hung, so I never got Ubuntu on the T100/T100 Chi. The T300 on the other hand loaded Ubuntu well. Shockingly in fact. The touch screen worked, and Ubuntu even has a crude on screen keyboard (no auto correct or word prediction). The on screen once tailored works reasonably well. The main stumbling block I ran into using Ubuntu on the T300 is I could never get the keyboard/mouse of the T300 dock to connect. Kinda a key thing. That and after using it for a short period the touch screen entirely stopped working. Odd.

The T300 being used in two different physical layouts (a tablet and a laptop) means finding a case a bit of a challenge. And having to remove the case to use it as a laptop and put it back on to use it as a tablet is clumsy and inconvenient. So much so it impeded my use of the device as a tablet. I first bought a ASUS T300 Chi Case – MoKo Slim-Fit Multi-angle Folio Cover Case from Amazon. I like the case and it worked the way I like a case to work as a tablet but was too tight to quickly and easily remove it. When I tried to use the T300 as a laptop with the case still on the weight of the case made it way too tippy to be usable. So scratch that idea.
asus-transformer-book-t300-chi-0771S8s2KmYiL._SL1500_

Next up I decided to try ASUS T300 Chi Case – MoKo Ultra Slim Lightweight Smart-shell Stand Cover Case again from Amazon. This worked out a whole lot better. With the case on the bottom part of the tablet that makes connection with the keyboard is exposed making it possible to still dock the tablet. The laptop will not close with the case on the tablet however I found a simple solution to the issue. I put velco on the bottom of the tablet side of the case and on the outside of the flap. Now when the case is attached and I am docked the flap comes around the back and stays in place. The weight added is not enough to make the laptop unstable and the laptop can easily be closed. Slip the tablet out of the dock unleash the Velcro and you have a case for both uses. I put two pieces of Velcro about 1/4 in on both side of the tablet. I had tried it in the middle but it got in the way of comfortably carrying the device. So all in it solved my issue.
81CLBQPXfoL._SL1500_

So in the end do I like it? I do. The big bright screen is amazing. Performance is wonderful. Pen is acceptable for occasional use. The low battery life is offset by fast recharge times. The keyboard is wonderful despite the poor touch point. I like the Bluetooth dock (no issues with mechanical connections, Vs trade off of having to charge a second device). All things considered, I would have to say the T300 Chi is the best two in one device I have used to date, including the Surface 3, and will become my main computer in the house.

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December 12, 2015 - Posted by | Windows tablets

2 Comments »

  1. Hey John, nice review of the Asus T300! I recently bought one it’s a huge improvement over the T100. I discovered that Asus installed Windows 10 as an update to the Windows 8.1 previously installed, not as a fresh install. After a week of updates, removing unwanted apps and tweaking settings I discovered that there was a HUGE 20GB file called windows.old (the original Windows 8.1 installation) that can be removed via Disk Cleanup, check it out:
    http://windows.microsoft.com/en-us/windows7/how-do-i-remove-the-windows-old-folder
    http://www.laptopmag.com/articles/delete-windows-old-folder
    Eric

    Comment by Eric | February 24, 2016 | Reply

    • Thanks for the kind words. Share the blog with your friends! Spread the word …

      Comment by johngalea | February 24, 2016 | Reply


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