Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500LA-SB31-CB Review

Rating:

Lenovo’s original Yoga convertible, with its 360-degree hinge that allows the screen to fold all the way over against the laptop’s bottom, allowing the touchscreen laptop to function like a big tablet, is successful enough that several PC makers are offering similar devices. HP has their Pavilion x360, Dell sells a similar Inspiron 11 3000, and Asus joins the game with the Transformer Book Flip.

This model, the Flip TP500LA-SB31-CB, has a 15.6-inch screen and weighs just under five pounds. So it’s definitely not as portable or lap-friendly in tablet mode as an iPad or even a Microsoft Surface Pro. But it does work reasonably well as a large-screen tablet at a desk or table, while also functioning well as a regular laptop when you want to use the keyboard.

At $750, it’s more expensive than Lenovo’s Flex 2 15D, which also has a fold-over hinge (though it doesn’t fold as far). But the Lenovo Flex 2 is thicker and heavier, and clad in black plastic, while Asus’ Transformer Book Flip has a nicer brushed metal shell (though the bottom is plastic). And with an Intel Core i3 processor and 6GB of RAM, the Transformer Book Flip also performs better than the Flex 215D, while getting much better battery life.

If you’re looking for a device that’s a good laptop first, and a large (and heavy) touchscreen tablet-like device to use around the house or at work, the Transformer Book Flip is a good choice in this price range.

The main downside is the screen. Like many budget and mainstream laptops, it has limited viewing angles. In particular, the image washes out when looking from a low angle, with the screen tilted far back, or with the device in tablet mode and the screen lying flat on the table. The Flex 15D and HP’s TouchSmart 15-p067ca share similar screen issues as well though, so the Transformer Book Flip isn’t alone. Generally you’ll have to pay much more for a high-end convertible with an IPS screen or a very good LCD screen to avoid viewing angle issues.

Common screen problems aside, the Transformer Book Flip TP500LA-SB31-CB is the nicest convertible laptop I’ve tested in this price range, with good performance and battery life, a nice metal shell, and a reasonably slim 22mm profile that makes it easy to slip in a bag. Just note that there’s no optical drive here. So if you need to occasionally play a CD or DVD, you’ll need to purchase an external drive that connects via USB.

Asus transformer book flip

Design

The Transformer Book Flip’s black brushed-metal lid looks and feels more appealing than plastic, but it also easily picks up fingerprints, so you’ll want to keep a cleaning cloth handy. The laptop’s bottom is made of plastic, but doesn’t feel cheap. The battery is sealed inside the system, as is increasingly common these days—especially in thin devices.

If you only keep the Transformer Book Flip for a few years, this shouldn’t be a problem. But if you want a laptop to last several years, you may want to consider a device with a removable battery instead, like HP’s TouchSmart 15-p067ca. Batteries often lose their ability to hold a charge after a few years of regular use.

You shouldn’t have any connectivity complaints with the Transformer Book Flip. There are three USB ports (two 2.0 ports on the left edge and a 3.0 port on the right), along with an SD card slot, an HDMI port, an Ethernet jack, and a headphone/mic jack. The left edge also houses the slim metal power and volume buttons, and a Windows button for bringing up the Start screen in Windows 8.1.

Both the keyboard and touchpad are roomy and comfortable. I wouldn’t have any major complaints using this keyboard as my main typing device—and I tend to write thousands words a day. The only (minor) annoyance I noticed with the keyboard layout is that Asus chose to shrink the left Shift key down to about the size of a regular letter key. This caused extra typos at first, but after a few hours of typing I was thoroughly familiar with the keyboard.

The large touchpad also worked well. I didn’t notice any unwanted cursor jumping, and multi-touch gestures worked as expected. I also like that the touchpad is nearly flush with the metal wrist rest, which makes swiping in from the sides (to switch between running apps or bring up the Charms Bar) less jarring than on laptops with recessed touchpads.

Asus transformer book flip - screen

Hinge

I’ve already touched on the viewing angle issues of the screen. The LCD’s 1,366×768 resolution and limited viewing angle issues are pretty standard for a mid-range laptop, though they’re more noticeable when trying to use the device as a tablet.

The hinge will let you position the screen at pretty much any angle, from open like a laptop, flipped back to let the laptop stand in an A-frame-like configuration (which can be handy for watching movies or giving presentations), to flat like a tablet.

I just wish the hinge had a little more resistance. In some orientations, where the screen is subject to gravity pulling it down, it can move when you tap or swipe on the touchscreen. It’s not a big problem out of the box, but it a serious issue if the hinge loosens over time.

Asus transformer book flip - keyboard

Performance

The Transformer Book Flip’s dual-core Core i3-4030U processor, 750GB hard drive, and 6GB of RAM deliver performance that’s easily good enough for media playback, Web browsing, and mainstream productivity tasks (Microsoft Office and image editing). And the system stacks up favourably against competing touchscreen laptops as well.

I ran a handful of benchmarks, including PCMark 8 (to test overall performance), Cinebench (which tests CPU ability), and 3DMark (which measures gaming performance). On all these tests, the Transformer Book Flip outperformed HP’s TouchSmart 15-p067ca and Lenovo’s Flex 2 15D, both of which are powered by AMD chips (but also cost less). All three of these machines deliver a similar level of performance generally. But the Asus Transformer Book Flip has a slight edge overall, with a stronger lead in CPU-specific tasks, specifically.

If you’re planning on doing things like video editing, serious media creation, or more than light (mostly casual) gaming, you should look for a more powerful machine with an AMD A10 processor or an Intel-based Core i5 or i7 machine with a dedicated graphics chip.

The Transformer Book Flip boots to the Windows 8.1 log-in screen in just over 10 seconds, and it generally felt snappier than the competing Lenovo Flex 15D that I also reviewed. But if you want a laptop that really feels responsive, you’ll want to pay more for a system that has either a solid-state drive (SSD), or an SSD cache drive that’s paired with a standard hard drive. A fast solid-state drive will, in general, do more to make a computer “feel” fast and responsive than a more powerful processor. Still, while the storage here isn’t exactly fast, it is fairly spacious, at 750GB.

The Transformer Book Flip’s battery life isn’t as epic as you can expect from some smaller, higher-end laptops (like theMacBook Air), but it is better than you’ll get from many thicker, heavier low-end laptops. When looping a 1080p video file, with the screen at 50 percent brightness and earbuds plugged in, playing back at 50 percent max volume, the Transformer Book Flip lasted 4 hours and 26 minutes. That’s an hour longer than the Flex 15D, which conked out after 3 hours and 18 minutes on the same test, and the HP TouchSmart, which lasted 3 hours and 22 minutes. You can expect somewhat longer battery life if you’re just writing emails or doing light Web browsing.

If battery life is a priority, though, higher-priced laptops with smaller screens, like Lenovo’s ThinkPad T440 or the aforementioned MacBook Air will last a lot longer between charges. The Lenovo ThinkPad also has a removable battery. So you can carry an extra one with you, or buy a larger battery for real all-day longevity.

Conclusion

The Asus Transformer Book Flip is first and foremost a comfortable, attractive, and fairly thin laptop that gets good battery life for its price range. Its 360-degree hinge means it can also do double duty as a large tablet for using touch-based apps in your lap or at a desk.

But the Transformer Book Flip is a much better laptop than it is a tablet, thanks largely to the screen’s vertical viewing angle issues which, while frustrating, are also common with laptops and convertibles in this price range. If you need a laptop, but want the option to occasionally dabble with touchscreen apps, it’s a good choice.

If you think you’ll use touchscreen apps more than the keyboard, you should opt for either both a laptop and a lighter mobile tablet with a better screen, or something like Microsoft’s Surface. All models of the Surface are much lighter than the Flip, have better viewing angles and with the optional snap-on keyboard, they work fairly well as a laptop-like device as well.

Included in the Box:
Laptop
Power Cable
Basic setup papers

 

 

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Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500LA-SB31-CB
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Matt Safford

Matt Safford spends his days testing gadgets and writing about technology. He has written for Popular Science, Smithsonian, Consumer Reports, and Wired.

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