Most budget hybrids stay under the $500 line by starting with a relatively small 11-inch screen. But the $499 Asus Transformer Book Flip TP300 is one of the few 2-in-1s to feature a 13.3-inch screen, not to mention a fairly speedy Intel Core i3 CPU. In other words, this could easily be your primary PC. The TP300 also benefits from a strong, simple design that looks and feels premium. Despite a couple of flaws, overall, Asus delivers more computer for the money than most of the competition.
The TP300 makes a good first impression for a budget 2-in-1 with its lovely aluminum lid and subtle black, brushed-metal finish. Inside, there's a 13.3-inch, 1366 x 768 touch screen attached to a single beefy hinge that runs across the back of the system. The matte-silver deck is highlighted by a shiny chrome finish, which shimmers around the outside of the touchpad.
On the right side is an HDMI port, a combo headphone/mic jack and two USB 3.0 ports, which is one more than you get on most budget 2-in-1s. The left side houses a single USB 2.0 port, an SD card reader and buttons for volume, power and home. Stereo speakers hide on the small diagonal edge between the sides and bottom.
The keyboard features a fairly standard 1.54 mm of key travel with a 63-gram actuation weight, which translated to a brisk 77 words per minute on the 10FastFingers.com typing test, smack dab within my typical 75- to 80-wpm average. The only issue I encountered was the deck itself, which flexed a bit too much in the middle while I typed. I liked that the TP300 took advantage of its size by offering a large 4.1 x 2.45-inch touchpad.
The biggest problem with the TP300 is the display's underwhelming brightness. It produced just 161 nits, which is not only dimmest out of six 2-in-1s we tested, but barely half of the 306 nits produced by the Dell Inspiron 11 3000. The touch screen's range of colors was squarely average at just 68.6 percent, and its Delta-E rating of 8.7 for color accuracy was far worse than the budget average of 4 (0 is perfect on this test). HP's $500 Pavilion x360 has a display that's 60 percent brighter (260 nits) and much more accurate (Delta-E of 0.78), although the color range is a bit worse at 64.2 percent.
This makes pictures and movies on the TP300 look washed out and hazy when compared with other 2-in-1s, and the limited viewing angles mean you have to carefully position the screen to get the best image.
Display aside, the TP300's stereo speakers were fairly powerful and filled up a medium-size room with ease, but like many budget 2-in-1s, there was an overall lack of bass.
Measuring 12.8 x 9.1 x 0.86 inches and weighing 3.8 pounds, the TP300 is noticeably bigger and heavier than its 11-inch competitors, which typically tip the scales at 3 pounds flat. But when compared with a 13-inch 2-in-1 such as HP's Pavilion x360 13t (12.89 x 8.8 x 0.89 and 3.77 pounds), the differences are pretty negligible.
2-in-1 Experience: Big, But Strong
Due to its somewhat boxy construction and large size, the Transformer Book is a little more cumbersome to use in tablet mode than its 11-inch competitors, but even with its heavy bottom half, it was quite stable in presentation and tablet modes. It took me a little while to get used to hitting the Windows button on the side of the machine. Because of its location, that meant that I inadvertently pressed it a few times when the machine was in tablet mode.
The TP300 came preinstalled with Windows 8.1 and includes Asus' FlipLock program, which disables the keyboard to prevent users pressing the button accidentally when it is in tablet mode. But you can, and should, take advantage of the free upgrade to Windows 10. Not only will you get the enhanced Start menu and Cortana assistant, the interface also automatically switches between laptop and tablet modes when you flip around the display.
Performance and Heat
While most budget 2-in-1s are powered by lower-power Pentium or Atom processors, the Flip TP300 packs a 1.9-GHz Intel Core i3 4030U CPU along with 4GBof RAM and a 5,400-rpm 500GB hard drive. The result was the second-best overall performance among six systems tested.
In Geekbench 3, which evaluates general performance, the TP300's score of 3,922 was slightly behind the Intel Core i3-5010U-powered HP Pavilion x360 13t's mark of 4,490. However, the budget 2-in-1 average was over 25 percent lower, at 2,834.
The TP300 followed up that strong showing with impressive results in our real-world multitasking test, which involves seeing how long it takes to open a 69MB Word doc in OpenOffice with a 1080p movie playing in the background. Its time of 34.8 seconds was faster than the budget 2-in-1 average of 44.2 seconds.
One of the few things that slowed down the TP300 was its mediocre hard drive speeds. The 500GB, 5,400-rpm drive's transfer rate was only 28 MBps, which was barely faster than the HP Pavilion x360 13t's 500GB HDD (25.8 MBps), but 30 percent slower than the 39.9-MBps budget 2-in-1 average.
In terms of graphics, I got nothing but smooth performance when I played Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft at 1366 x 768 on medium settings. The TP300's Intel HD 4400 graphics backed up my experience with a solid score of 18,912 in 3DMark's Ice Storm Unlimited benchmark; the average for budget 2-in-1s is 17,477.
The TP300 dissipated heat well, too. After 15 minutes of streaming HD video from Hulu, the hottest spot on the machine was the bottom at 85 degrees Fahrenheit, well below our 95-degree comfort threshold. The touchpad and space between the G and H keys were even cooler at 76 and 81 degrees, respectively.
On the Laptop Mag Battery Test (continuous Web surfing over Wi-Fi at 100 nits), the TP300 lasted 6 hours and 12 minutes. That was the second shortest time out of the six budget 2-in-1s we've tested recently, and about 15 minutes short of the 6:26 average. The HP Pavilion X360 13t lasted almost 45 minutes longer, with a battery life of 6:56.
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Out of the box, there's a bit of bloat on this Asus, such as Zinio Reader and Flipboard, and it comes with the WildTangent Games app, which doesn't add any value. You do get some helpful things from Asus, such as 500GB of WebStorage for a year and Asus Live update for making sure your drivers are current. I just wish the balance between good apps and bad were better.
Configurations and Warranty
Our $500 review unit is the starting configuration for the TP300, but if you like the no-frills design and want something with a little more power, a $700 model features a full 1920 x 1080 touch screen, Intel Core i5-4210U CPU, 8GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD from retailers such as Amazon and Best Buy. There's also a 15-inch Transformer Book Flip, which starts at $500 and features a 1366 x 768 display, Intel Core i3 CPU, 6GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD. Every Transformer Book Flip includes a one-year limited international warranty from Asus.
I really like what Asus has done with the Transformer Book Flip TP300. The system features a relatively large 13-inch display, a premium body with real metal and some of the best performance we've seen from a 2-in-1 under $500. The main thing holding the TP300 back is the screen's lack of brightness. For those who can afford to wait, a new Asus TP200 featuring Windows 10 is due out in September, but if you're looking for a 13-inch hybrid chock full of value right now, the TP300 is an attractive choice.