I’m traditionally a desktop PC person. Since 1999, I’ve been building my own desktops, but since 2011 when I lost everything for blowing the whistle on Bank of America, I had to switch to a laptop due to power constraints living in the van.
Unfortunately my laptop was left plugged in and turned on during my second jail term over whistleblowing, and it died, leaving me with a need for a computer to complete my work on.
Since I lost four months of income and fell behind on my bills because of this frivolous case, I was left with few options. I decided to downgrade to a dedicated work tablet and purchased an Asus Transformer T100A.
The Asus (rhymes with Dr. Seuss, not aces) T100 is extremely lightweight, and Windows 8.1 is easily my favorite mobile OS so far, due to the familiar Windows desktop. The dumbing-down of operating systems and rise of SaaS (software as a service) applications over the last decade is disturbing to me.
Windows 8.1 runs quite smoothly on the Transformer tablet, and being able to switch back and forth between both touchscreen and keyboard/touchpad inputs, along with using both class Windows desktop and mobile homescreen is a nice way to keep my brain active.
I had to remove quite a few unnecessary preinstalled apps, disable Internet Explorer, and install VLC Player, uTorrent, Chrome, Firefox, and Steam, which actually wasn’t as bad as when I initially unboxed the Samsung laptop. Proprietary software has always been a pain with retail computers, which is why I always built my own rigs.
Windows allows you to use split screen, which can be useful in some situations, though it’s no replacement for a desktop dual-monitor display. Also, I can’t change the screen orientation during split screen so I have two widescreens stacked on top of each other while holding the tablet in portrait (which would’ve been AWESOME for watching video content while working or browsing the net).
Microsoft Office returns to Windows. It seems the antitrust lawsuits of the 90’s and early 00’s no longer plague Microsoft now that Google and Apple are running the OS game. I still have a few copies of older Office versions just in case I decide not to subscribe once my free year runs out.
Overall, the Asus Transformer T100 isn’t a terrible machine, though I quickly learned it’s not meant to be a primary computer and can’t replace a laptop, much less a desktop.
It seemed like a removable keyboard/touchpad dock would be a great idea, which it can be, but overall it’s kind of a pain in the ass. When moving around, Windows constantly thinks the keypad is undocked, then redocked. forcing me to constantly finagle and jiggle things around to get the keypad working. As a professional writer, it’s a bit of a nuisance when I can’t depend on the keyboard.
Typing on the touchscreen is actually more difficult than on my phone, as Swype isn’t included, and I have to turn the screen from landscape to portrait in order to see enough of the screen to be useful.
Using a secondary keyboard is possible, though the only USB input is on the dock, and if that were reliable, I wouldn’t need the secondary keypad.
During two Windows updates, I had issues with either the touchscreen or keypad not being recognized, forcing me to reinstall the drivers. One great thing about the Windows OS is how easy it is to perform such simple maintenance that would’ve required a factory reset on Android or iOS.
The Asus T100 charges through USB, which is nice, though it’s very picky about how it charges. When plugged in to an electrical outlet with the supplied charger, it only takes a few hours to charge while off, but with uTorrent, VLC, and Shadowrun Returns running, the charge barely held even.
On top of this, the cable barely stays in the micro-USB port of the tablet, so any movement risks unplugging the charger, again limiting mobility of a supposedly mobile device. The tablet also had trouble charging off the 2.1-amp port on my iBattz 20400 Optimus Battstation until I turned the brightness down almost completely.
Hard drive space is limited, and I didn’t spring for the 500GB dock, as I already have a 1TB external USB drive I assumed I could use on the T100 the same as I did on my laptop, but I’ll cover that more in the ugly.
With less than 20GB of usable space on the internal hard drive, I bought a 32GB micro-SD card. Steam installed easily on the SD card, and aiming uTorrent downloads to the SD card kept the OS from freezing from a full hard drive. Unfortunately I couldn’t install Smite, League of Legends, or Hearthstone on the micro-SD drive.
Running videos from the micro-SD drive is normally smooth, but when downloading torrents while watching, the video can get glitchy and freeze. The problem worsens when the device is used in hot conditions.
I’m willing to deal with the Asus Transformer’s downsides, but a few of its glitches would be dealbreakers if I had the luxury of still being able to access my desktop machine.
The biggest problem happened a few days ago, when the docking issues took out my external hard drive. The constant issues with undocking make it impossible to use any hard drive that’s not solid-state. Thankfully I have tons of USB thumb drives, but I did lose a LOT of data that I’ll not be able to recover with the tools I have available on the road. This severely limits my access to important files and seems like a forced push toward cloud storage.
Gaming on the Transformer is also not worth it. Aside from not being able to install any worthy freemium titles, the frame rates while playing simple Steam games like Shadowrun Returns and Plants vs Zombies is dismal. Watching video content while working only lasts a couple hours before VLC inevitably crashes. This seemed to happen regardless of whether I stored the video file on the internal hdd or the micro-SD card. Watching video from the external USB drive isn’t even an option.
**Update – By mid-November, the device completely died, and I took it apart. Turns out this piece of garbage was less stable than even the cheapest pay-as-you-go phone or toy laptop for toddlers. I’ll never buy anything Asus ever again after using this unreliable junk. Here’s a pic of the tablet disassembled.
Overall, the Asus Transformer is a fun device to have. The keypad dock and storage space are minor issues, though, as described above, they can make things ugly quick.
The iPad and Galaxy tablets have a bit more power and reliability, but I do enjoy having the removable keypad dock, despite its issues. Just make sure to keep the device on a flat, solid surface when typing or using USB storage, and don’t expect to run the latest video games or process audio/video files on this toy.
It’ll get me through E3 though, and hopefully at the end of the month I can afford to get a Lenovo Yoga to see how well that compares. Perhaps two secondary devices can perform the work of one destkop. If not, I’ll have to spend the fall building another custom rig inside the van.
Brian Penny is a former business analyst and operations manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer. His work has been featured on Huffington Post, Fast Company, The Street, Hardcore Droid, and Cannabis Now.