Review: ASUS Transformer Book Flip TP200SA

ASUS have always been fairly ahead of the curve in terms of form factors for laptops and tablets. I pounced on the original ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF101, as the idea of having a tablet with a dockable keyboard was fantastic. That style of device has become commonplace in the five years since the TF101 came out – now there are even more innovative form factors for tablets and laptops.

The line between tablet and laptop has blurred significantly today, as devices take features from both form factors. The ASUS Transformer Book Flip TP200SA is one such hybrid that takes the flippable form. Let’s take a look at this two-in-one Windows machine.

What’s in the Box?

TheTP200SA ships in a very plain cardboard box with the ASUS logo and their tagline “In Search of Incredible” on the top.

Lifting the lid will reveal the laptop in a protective fabric sleeve along with a power adaptor. That’s all! I was a little surprised by the minimalism. On the one hand it doesn’t scream excitement while you’re opening it, however, it does beg the question, “What more do you need”?

Specifications

Priced at just $349 (and available for considerably less if you look around online), the TP200SA is designed as a low-cost, portable hybrid and the specs outline just that with one or two nifty exceptions.

  • 11.6” 1366 x 768 touchscreen display
  • Intel Celeron Dual-Core N3050
  • 2 GB DDR3 RAM
  • 32 GB storage
  • 1x USB 3.0 port
  • 1x USB 2.0 port
  • 1x USB Type-C port
  • 1x Micro-HDMI port
  • 38 Whrs battery

The low-res display is expected for a laptop of this size, however, in the tablet world we’re starting to see more full-HD displays emerging, so you could argue that the TP200SA is a little behind the curve. It’s tough to argue about the asking price, but I’ll cover some concerns with the hardware in the performance section below.

First Look

The device comes in two varieties, dark blue and crystal silver. We’ve got the silver version to hand. The shiny, metallic coating looks really smart and gives the computer a fairly premium appearance. The ASUS logo sits in the middle of the lid.

The speakers are on the bottom facing down which I found to be an interesting choice.

There’s a dual-hinge on the back which allows the display to flip 360°. The design of the hinge feels durable while being unobtrusive and allows for the laptop to lie completely flat.

On the left side of the laptop, from back to front, sit the power socket, volume rocker, power button, micro-SD card slot, micro-HDMI port, USB 3.0 port and the USB Type-C port.

The right side has the headphone/mic jack and the USB 2.0 port. There are three LED indicators on the front for power, charging and caps lock.

Getting Up and Running

After unboxing the laptop I connected it to the mains and allowed it to charge. With a full battery the laptop was turned on and the setup guide for Windows 10 eventually took me through the desktop.

The first thing I’ll mention about using the ASUS Transformer Book Flip is that its identity is rather confused. Let’s start with the buttons. I rarely see laptops with physical volume buttons on the side. While this is something found on virtually every tablet – and therefore would make sense here – I found the button orientation to be the reverse of what’s expected. Even though I’m accustomed to using the soft volume controls on laptops, I would use the physical volume buttons on the Flip even in laptop mode. The volume up button is towards the front while the volume down is at the back. I assume this is due to the fact that when you flip the keyboard under the back of the display the volume up is now on top. The rocker is now, however, on the bottom left side of the device which was an unusual location for the buttons.

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Volume buttons aside, with the keyboard flipped behind the display, Windows made the intelligent decision to switch into tablet mode and the keys and trackpad were disabled. There were a few occasions where the transition needed a little extra effort by telling it to be in tablet mode but for the most part, this worked well.

Being able to use the laptop in portrait mode for reading is great. It’s convenient to use the Flip as a tablet but having quick, seamless access to a physical keyboard offers real versatility.

The keyboard keys are shallow and have decent resistance, making typing easy and responsive. However, the trackpad feels a little cheap and flimsy. I am still waiting to find a Windows-based laptop with a trackpad that I really like, so this is less of a criticism regarding this machine and more for Windows laptops globally.

One element to consider when buying a 2-in-1 device is whether you’re going to use it mainly in tablet or laptop mode. The versatility is welcome, but convertibles do come with some design compromised. As the keyboard is permanently attached there is a reasonable weight when using the device with one hand. On the other hand, the fixed hinge allows the screen to be placed in significantly more orientations and you don’t need to think about two separate parts.

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Performance

Overall, in terms of smoothness, I experienced few performance issues but the low-cost, limited specifications of the Transformer Flip did cause some frustration. Switching between applications was reasonably nippy, with little delay. The only time I noticed any real lag was after reopening the laptop and waking it from sleep; but the lag was short-lived.

When using just Google Chrome to browse the internet, read articles and write in WordPress I found that Chrome would reload tabs about 50% of the time when I swapped between tabs. I only had three or – at most – four tabs open at once. This was probably the main area of frustration during use.

The internal storage capacity is 32 GB, which may be sufficient on Android or iOS devices, but with Windows, that leaves little room for personal files. With just Chrome and one or two other applications installed, and virtually no personal files on the laptop, I didn’t have enough space to install the latest Windows updates. With the microSD slot it is possible to store personal files externally, which is a welcome and much-needed addition.

Video-wise the laptop did well. Watching HD videos was clear, jitter-free and the colours were vibrant. As a mobile media device, you’ll have few complaints, although the sound quality from the integrated speakers was underwhelming. They really struggled to produce much volume and, as I mentioned before, the speaker placement was a little strange. When using the device as a tablet (i.e. folding the keyboard behind the display) the keyboard would cover the speakers, decreasing the little bass that could be mustered.

Summary

For the price, the ASUS Transformer Book Flip TP200SA is decent device and offers some decent features. Overall, I found the performance to be lacking but there is a great deal of convenience with this design. With a USB Type-C port, micro-HDMI port and microSD slot the laptop offers a good deal of connectivity. The TP200SA could appeal to non-power-users seeking quick, easy access to a Windows laptop that can be used in a range of positions. As a reasonably priced commuter convertible or second screen for the sofa, the TP200SA will excel, but manage your expectations on performance.

 The Asus Transformer Book Flip is currently available at Amazon at approximately £200/$279.

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