The market for laptops that also think they’re tablets has suddenly become interesting.
Since Microsoft’s Surface Pro 3 came out, and Intel’s fanless Core M processor arrived on the scene, we’ve seen some great Windows 8 converti-tabs, such as Lenovo’s watch strap-hinged Yoga Pro 3. Now there’s another intriguing device with a personality crisis, and it goes by the name of Asus Transformer Book Chi.
In fact, it’s not one device, but three – the 12.5in T300, the 10.1in T100 and the 8.9in T90. All share the DNA of aluminium unibodies with diamond-cut edges and frankly ridiculous skinniness.
The T300Chi is the main event, packing a choice of 1080p or WQHD IPS screens (2560 x 1440), Intel Core M 5Y71 (1.2GHz) or 5Y10 (0.8GHz) processors, 64/128GB SSDs and 4GB or 8GB RAM. In laptop mode it’s 16.5mm thick, which makes it about the same as a MacBook Air (and it’s just 7.6mm thick without the dock). Of course it’s also touch-sensitive, and the resolution wipes the floor with that of Apple’s finest tiny-puter. Claimed battery life is eight hours on a charge, and there’s a 2MP camera for video calls.
The Core M is supposedly good for ‘everyday computing’, so unlike a Surface or a Macbook, you won’t be playing 2015’s games on the T300Chi. Still, Half-Life 2 should run just peachy on its Intel HD 5300 GPU.
The 10.1in, 1920×1200 T100Chi is apparently the world’s thinnest Windows 8 tablet at just 7.2mm, and it’ll keep going for 10 hours straight. Inside is a 1.46GHz Intel Atom Z3775 processor, 1 or 2GB RAM and 32GB or 64GB of storage.
The T90Chi packs the same processor as the T100, but has disappointingly low-res 1280×800 8.9in screen. However, at 7.5mm it is, according to Asus, the thinnest nine-inch tab you can buy, and it has a rear-facing 5MP camera to complement the 2MP front-facer.
All devices click together with their keyboard docks magnetically, but the two pieces actually communicate via Bluetooth 4.0, so they work together at a range of up to 20m.
One concern is that all models feature only a single USB3.0 port in type-B configuration (that’s the tiny one you use for charging). Certainly, not as versatile as devices such as Microsoft’s award-winning Surface Pro 3, although given the top-spec T300Chi clocks in at just $800 (nigh-on R9,400), it’s not surprising. The T100 starts at $400 (about R4,700), while the T90 costs from just $300 (around R3,500). All will be available this February, with the standard ‘travelling to Africa’ delay, and likely a price increase, on our side.