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Graham Smith

ASUS Transformer Tablet

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A friend recently picked up a new ASUS Transformer T100 with Win 8.1 installed. I've rigorously avoided Windows 8 due to all the issues it has had but from the tech journals I read, a lot has been fixed in 8.1 and it may be time to start looking at it.

I have no plans for replacing my main system with a tablet hybrid but from what I can see, the little T100 works pretty darn good as a road warrior Netbook. And before anyone says iPad, Android, or Chrome - there are a couple Windows programs that I need to run on this so they are out of contention from the start.

I've looked at the Dell Venue and a few others but there prices are up in the $500+ range where the Transformer is about $350 including a keyboard cover (such as it is).

I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has purchased one of these.

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If you're not put off by the tiny little 10.1" screen, I guess it's all right. Don't be fooled into getting the 64gb-only version; you'll fill that up VERY quickly. Get one that also has the 500gb hd.

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If you're not put off by the tiny little 10.1" screen, I guess it's all right. Don't be fooled into getting the 64gb-only version; you'll fill that up VERY quickly. Get one that also has the 500gb hd.

I'm not worried about storage. This won't be my primary computer and the bulk of the data I need will either be on SD cards or an external drive. Heck, my laptop only has 80gb worth of stuff on it including Win 7. I can put the whole thing on a microSD card.

One of the things I like about these new tablets is that it's so easy to connect them to a full size keyboard, mouse, and monitor. You can darn near use one as your main computer. Of course, the little Atom CPU in the less expensive units isn't going to win any speed contests but what the heck can I expect for $350

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You might consider the Microsoft Surface tablets as well.

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You might consider the Microsoft Surface tablets as well.

The lower priced Surface tablets only run Win8 RT. I need something that can run the full version of Win8.1 (that can run "regular" Windows programs). The Surface Pro 2 starts around $900.

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Correct. I would not recommend Windows 8 RT.

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RT is a closed environment. You can only use apps that come from the Microsoft App Store, whatever it is called.

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This whole Win8 vs Win8 RT (aka Metro) has caused no end of confusion in the market place. You have to be very careful when looking at any Windows Tablet to see what it has installed. When the ASUS Transformer came out, I thought it only had RT and even advised a friend away from it. That mistake was largely due to the price - it seemed too low for the full version of Windows.

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RT is flopping in a big way.

Rumor is that the start menu comes back in the next version of Windows. Dropping that to try to make Metro to happen was a bad idea.

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RT is flopping in a big way.

Rumor is that the start menu comes back in the next version of Windows. Dropping that to try to make Metro to happen was a bad idea.

The start menu is back and has always been there in the full version of Win8. The RT version won't have it and can't because it can't run non-Metro apps.

MS made a HUGE mistake when it assembled the team to do Win8. Their goal was to make a tablet centric version of Windows, which is what Win8 RT is. But while the team that did the Windows Phone basically got it right, the team that did RT got it wrong. And what they mainly got wrong was the name - calling it Windows 8 basically confused the hell out of the buying public. This was exactly the same mistake they have made in the past and failed to learn from.

Anyway, there's a whole new team in charge of the whole thing now and they are actually starting to make some progress. And one of the things that they have done is to make fix a couple big problems which makes devices like the Transformer and other Hybrid tablets work well. They can actually now run Metro-RT apps along side regular apps. This is important because in many cases, the Metro apps have some distinct advantages over traditional apps.

I don't expect RT to go away, but I rather expect to see some marketing work done. And the first thing that MS needs to do is create a bigger branding difference between the RT and regular versions of the Surface - calling it the Surface and Surface Pro is the same boneheaded marketing that helped get them into this mess in the first place.

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I've got some mad money left over from an unexpected job last month and have decided to get one. I want to play with it and see just how far I can push this as a laptop replacement. I've read a few articles about doing this and I think that I have everything I need to test it out. One thing that the Windows tablets have going for them is that they work with a mouse. I've tried using an iPad to do work on and the lack of a mouse just drives me crazy.

If it works, then I may start thinking about a better hybrid tablet, like the Dell Venue 11. Just what I need - another f*ing project to waste time on. <sigh>

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I didn't have a lot of time to work with this over the weekend, but I thought I'd provide some commentary as I worked through some things.

First on the hardware side. For a little Atom processor, this thing is quite perky. I do have some concerns that, being Windoze, it's going to slow down over time, but I'll get to that in the software side.

There is a microUSB port on the tablet that can be used to charge or as a USB 3.0 port - but not both. I thought at one point I was going to be able to make it do both using a powered hub but it doesn't seem to work that way. Pity.

The keyboard/dock is small but it's no worse than others I've seen. It has a USB 2.0 port and I've been able to connect a Tarus Universal Docking station to that just fine. The dock has 4 USB ports, a network port, an HDMI port, and a digital display port. I don't have a spare monitor handy right now but I will in a couple weeks. That will allow me to setup a little workstation with keyboard, mouse, and monitor. The tablet also has Bluetooth so I can use a Bluetooth mouse and keyboard if I want as well.

The tablet has a microSD port and I picked up a high-speed 64GB card for it. I'm taking it slow right now, but I'll probably be moving my user folders to that rather than leaving them on the main unit. I can also connect up an external drive to the dock that will have programs and data that I would only want to use when docked.

I'm getting most of this info from others on the InterWeb who are finding ways to use the tablet as is when undocked and as a regular computer when docked. Still some logistics to sort out but I'm not in any rush.

Now, about Windows 8... I can see what the designers had in mind and it's not all bad. But their big mistake was in trying to make the whole thing touch-centric - BIG mistake. One of the few few strengths of Win8 or Win7 is it's ability to be both a tablet platform and a workstation platform using the same hardware. In trying to make the user interface simpler and more consistent, they actually made it somewhat more complicated. More complicated because can now be less simple to setup programs. Once I learn better how to use the interface and create groups and shortcuts, I'll be more comfortable.

Then there's "The Cloud". Everything now expects you to use the internet for data storage. That seems to be the main strategy behind justifying the smaller on-board storage. I happen to have already been using DropBox as a simple way of keeping stuff available for multiple computers, but I'm now faced with Microsoft wanting me to use SkyDrive and ASUS wanting me to use their WebStorage. The reasons are simple - they want you to become dependent on them so you will pay your monthly fees when the generous trial period runs out.

The two long term things that concern me most right now is the tendency of Windows to accumulate crap and slow down. It's a problem they have always had and have been able to ignore as long as there was a lot of disk space and memory and a public that wanted a new, clean, computer every 2-3 years. Not sure that strategy is going to work so well with the Win8 Hybrids. We will see.

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As to the last point about Windows slowing down over time, Windows 8 does have a couple of features to "Refresh your PC" without affecting any of your program files. If it functions as advertised it should clean up the crap without affecting too much of what you care about. I haven't tried it yet but it's a nice idea if Windows is what you use.

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The main problem with Windows is the f&^*ing Registry; with the Master File Tables running a close second. These both get so cluttered up with time that it's no wonder things slow down.

Edited by Graham Smith

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Here is one observation I've not seen elsewhere. Running a Metro app and running a regular Windows program are different in one major respect that I'm just seeing. The Metro apps are intended to be run on a tablet and are generally scaled accordingly. Windows aren't and may be hard to scale correctly and may require either an external monitor or real good eyes. Got to do more reading about this.

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you can add a bluetooth wireless mouse to an ipad as well as a keyboard. Not that I am an Ipad fan. I have one issued by my employer that is near useless to me except to check news and email. I run an asus tablet with keyboard as a desktop replacement.

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Keyboard, yes, mouse, no, I don't think so. iOS has no mouse drivers built into it. There is no on-screen pointer (arrow) to control, so no mouse, not even Apple's, will work with it.

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I am currently running a T100 64 gb with a micro SD 64 gb installed. I have been very happy with the performance of this tablet hybrid. I purchased it before X-mas and have been using it as my main computer ever since. It came with a MS office which was a huge $ saver and some apps for Kindle and Netflix pre-loaded which attracted me to it as well. I leave it attached to the Keyboard all the item and have disconnected it less than a handful of times just to use it as an e-reader. It also has a reading mode which is nice as well. For the money I don't think you can beat it. The only cons I can find is the touchpad isnt the most responsive and sometimes it acts up. Also going from shutdown to startup it goes into a sleep mode and you have to hold the on button again for it to startup. I don't think your going to be disappointed with it.

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you can add a bluetooth wireless mouse to an ipad as well as a keyboard.

iPads don't have mouse support.

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you can add a bluetooth wireless mouse to an ipad as well as a keyboard.

iPads don't have mouse support.

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Let me rephrase this. An iPad that hasn't been hacked doesn't support a mouse.

And we really aren't talking about iPads anyway.

Edited by Graham Smith

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Just out of curiosity, is anyone using Win 8 on a tablet of any kind? Is it RT, 8.1 or Pro?

Here's another thing that I have found out. I knew that the ASUS (and likely most ATOM tablets) come with either Win 8 RT or "Home" rather than Pro. Pro adds full network and domain support plus virtual drives and a few other high end things which would up the price. But what I didn't know is that the "Home" version (I wish they would put that back in the damn name) is locked down in a number of ways that could hinder it's use as a desktop replacment.

Any how, the first one to bite me about this is that Home lacks access to a Policy Editor, which keeps me from adding in a couple security items and also keeps me from moving my profile to an SD card to save space on the main memory. For the average user, this may not be a big thing but it could hinder my experiment of setting this up as a "workstation replacement". Mainly, what it makes me do is rethink my approach, which is probably a good thing.

Still, I have to keep reminding myself, that I got this for about less than half of what a Pro tablet would cost. Less, in fact, than a MS Surface 2 RT (on sale) with the same memory and no keyboard. This is mainly about figuring out what I can accomplish on a tablet. Which brings me to another interesting point...

I had a Kindle Fire when it first came out and the 7" screen was fine for a lot of things but too small for others. But there are a lot of tablets this size, including a few running Windows. A 10"-11" screen seems to be much better in general, although it's still a little small to "work" on and some web pages can be hard on old eyes. But 10"-11" seems to be about the largest you can go in a tablet and still have it be handy as a tablet. A 10" diagonal screen is about the size of a trade paperback (half sheet, like the USPSA rule book) which is a really comfortable size for most people to read and to hold in one hand. Any larger and it starts to get bulky. But this has always been an issue when it comes to balancing portability vs utility.

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Speaking of Bluetooth Mice, anyone have any suggestions (other than the Apple Magic Mouse)? There don't seem to be a lot of good choices and a lot of them are pretty darn expensive.

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I wouldn't suggest an Apple Magic Mouse for a windows machine anyway. I've seen this at the microsoft store:

http://www.microsoft.com/hardware/en-us/p/arc-touch-mouse/RVF-00052

It may be ideal for a small-form machine such as yours, as it (how's the best way to say, not "fold"...) smashes out flat to slip into your computer bag and take up very little room.

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