Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA review

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Pros
  • Decent build quality
  • Good value
  • Good colour reproduction
Cons
  • Lack of storage space
  • Underwhelming performance
  • Too much bloatware

Key Features: 11.6 inch 16:9 WXGA (1366×768) Screen; Intel Celeron Dual-Core N3050 Processor; Windows 10 Home; 2GB DDR3L 1600 MHz SDRAM; Integrated Intel HD Graphics; 32GB eMMC Storage; Integrated 802.11ac; Built-in Bluetooth V4.1; 38 Whrs Polymer Battery; VGA Web Camera

Manufacturer: Asus

What is the Asus TP200SA?

We’re in the midst of a foldable frenzy. Companies are bending over backwards (sorry) to emulate the foldable laptop/tablet hybrid design, used perhaps most recognisably used by Lenovo on its range of Yoga convertible laptops.

There are several examples of the 360 degree hinge on the premium end of the laptop spectrum, but what about the budget ranges? Can you trust the design, let alone the performance, in a foldable hybrid that cost you less than £300/$450?

Well Asus reckons it can convince you that the answer is ‘yes’ with its Transformer Book Flip TP200SA. It’s an 11.6-inch foldable two-in-one with some nice extras, such as a USB Type-C port, to try to set it apart from the competition.

However, with a somewhat underwhelming Intel Celeron dual-core processor, will design flourishes and added extras be enough to detract from what’s likely to be disappointing performance?

Design

The 360 degree hinge is all the rage at the moment. It offers an alternative to the detachable screen setup found on other convertables, like the Surface Pro 4, and is a nice way of adding several different usage modes to the hybrid.

The TP200SA might not have the impressive ‘watchband’ hinge made of more than 800 parts that can be found on the Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro and Yoga 900, but it does exactly the same thing as its higher-end counterparts. Asus’ hinge is far from a marvel of modern engineering but it doesn’t need to be – it works. In the end, it makes you wonder why, with the amount of effort that goes into designing and producing a hinge with more than 800 parts, companies bother.

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You can get the TP200SA in two colours, Dark Blue and Crystal Silver. My review model came in the latter. The laptop is covered in a metallic finish which Asus says has a scratch resistant texture. It’s nothing amazing but it does go some way towards making the laptop feel slightly more premium than its price would imply. The bottom of the case is plastic but this doesn’t really take much away from the design.

Also, everything is rounded on this thing. Every edge and contour has been smoothed off which gives the device a kind of quaint feeling, as if it were made for kids who might cut themselves on anything more defined. It’s not exactly a bad thing, but when combined with the device’s fairly small size it does sort of feel like a kid’s laptop.

Still, overall the TP200SA feels pretty sturdy and actually seems tougher than some high-end laptops I’ve used. The screen doesn’t flex or bend when you use it, although it does wobble a bit when typing, and there’s no rattling to be heard from any of the design features. The company says it has ‘carefully trimmed every last gram of excess weight’ from the TP200SA, and at 1.2 kg it certainly feels lightweight for a laptop, while still retaining that robust feeling.

It is a little on the heavy side for prolonged use as a tablet but at 18.5mm thick, the TP200SA is still impressively slim. For comparison, the HP Pavilion x2 is 19.8mm thick and the similar-priced Acer Aspire Switch 11 is a fairly hefty 25mm. All these foldable laptops feel somewhat cumbersome in tablet mode and although the TP200SA is no different, it feels more natural to hold than its larger equivalents.

Asus does however seem to have succumbed to an irritating trend among many companies who seem to have a proclivity for surrounding their screens with the largest bezel they can. I’m not sure what it’s going to take for them to understand that it’s just not cool anymore.

Keyboard and Trackpad

The thing about laptops this size is that the keyboard is inevitably going to suffer. Packing full size keys into a 12-inch device isn’t easy but Asus has managed it quite well. It definitely feels a little cramped, but the keys have a decent travel to them and they don’t rattle around too much. It’s not going to be the best keyboard you’ve ever used, but at this price point it’s pretty good.

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The trackpad was surprisingly responsive too. Unlike a lot of laptops at this level, the pad made it easy to perform basic tasks. When using two fingers to scroll for example, a task which seems to baffle many low-end devices of a similar sort, it worked better than some higher-end laptop trackpads I’ve used.

The pad is also pretty big. Asus says it has made it 46% bigger than ‘other brands’. Which laptops they’re comparing the TP200SA with isn’t clear but I can certainly say that the size is more than adequate.

Screen

With a 1,366 x 768 resolution and 135 pixels per inch density the, TP200SA’s screen isn’t the best you can buy. It’s fairly standard when compared to other laptops in its range however, matching the resolution on the Acer Aspire Switch 11 and beating the 10-inch HP Pavilion’s x2’s 1,280 x 800 display. You’re definitely not looking at a 4K display here, and you’ll notice the individual pixels, but this is no worse than anything else you can buy for under £300/$450.

Colour reproduction is surprisingly good. Colours stand out without seeming overly vivid, and blacks, while not the deepest you’re likely to see, certainly don’t look washed out. The highest brightness level is also pretty good, although it didn’t match the top brightness of my Macbook, which is to be expected. Basically, you might have some issues using the TP200SA outside on a sunny day but the screen does the job otherwise.

You will notice a lot of reflections in the screen but this is hardly an issue specific to the TP200SA. The last laptop I reviewed, the Lenovo Yoga 900, had the same problem with a distinctly glossy screen and that device costs more than five times the price of Asus’ budget machine.

In terms of tablet mode, the display is responsive and accurate. I had no issues using the TP200 as a tablet and found it just as usable in terms of touch sensitivity as the more expensive foldable hybrids.

Performance

This is where Asus’ otherwise decent device falls down. The Intel Celeron chip really doesn’t like being asked to do too much. At times, Windows was so slow I wondered whether there was an issue with the trackpad not registering my clicks, only to be surprised by 3 different windows opening when the chip eventually caught up and registered what I’d clicked on.

There were even slight pauses when opening tabs in Chrome and trying to visit web pages with loads of pictures and content will mean waiting while the TP200 catches up. Clicking on the battery icon on the task bar, an excruciatingly simple task, became one of the most frustrating. Every time I wanted to check how much battery the machine had lost, it took two or three seconds after clicking on the icon for the info to pop up, and sometimes longer. At first I just thought Windows wasn’t responding so I would click again. This would then get rid of the pop up when it eventually decided to load, and I’d have to reclick. It’s a negligible issue when you think about it, but when combined with loading pauses in other software and the annoying amount of pop ups from the mounds of bloatware included, it becomes pretty irritating.

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I had the TP200SA for a couple of weeks. It worked during that time and I could carry out word processing, basic internet browsing, and movie-streaming and the TP200 felt as though it was just about capable of keeping up. But after a few months, as the hard drive fills up, I dread to think how slow this thing could become. It would all depend on how well you maintain your system, but for the average user looking to fill up the hard drive with various files, just be aware that the TP200 could very well become that painfully slow Windows laptop you never use.

The review model I had included 2 GB of DDR3L 1600 MHz SDRAM, and a 32GB eMMC hard drive. You can increase the storage to 64GB eMMC or go for the full 128 SSD version.

And this is where the TP200 reveals one major issue. The 32GB eMMC storage arrived almost full, with only about 4GB available. This meant that installing the benchmark software proved to be something of an ordeal as I tried to uninstall enough of the bloatware to be able to add 3DMark. It got to the point where, after the installation failed for the thousandth time, I was forced to give up trying to install 3DMark. The same was true of PCMark which couldn’t even begin installing because of the lack of memory. Beware, if you want to actually, you know, use your laptop, the 32GB model of the TP200 is just not going to cut it.

On the performance tests we managed to carry out, the Intel Celeron Dual-Core N3050 processor proved why Asus’ laptop is not going to wow you in this department. On the multi-core Geekbench test the TP200SA scored 1,637 which is the lowest score I’ve seen for a while. It puts the device in the range of the Acer Iconia Tab 8 tablet, which scored 1,805. But the TP200 did come in far above the its cousin, the Asus Transformer Book T100HA which scored 587. Despite this, 1,637 is a decidedly low score so don’t expect to be doing any major gaming on the TP200. Although you needn’t worry as it probably won’t let you install any games anyway.

Software

Unfortunately, this machine comes with a lot of bloatware. Asus has packed it with extra programmes, and not just the ones that sit quietly in the start menu, but the type which will hound you for registrations and updates.

I’m not sure whether this list is exhaustive, as it seems likely some programme hidden in the depths of the hard drive was just waiting to interrupt me, but the bundled software included Asus Live Update, Asus WebStorage, Asus Giftbox, eManual, Asus On-Screen Display, Asus Install, Asus FlipLock, Splendid Utility, USB Charger Plus, WinFlash, and of course that app you can’t do without, Asus Five in a Row. Is it too much to think that Windows could function perfectly well without all these helpful-sounding yet perpetually irritating apps?

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On top of this, the performance issues make all the notifications that much more likely to induce an aneurysm. Waiting for the slow CPU to open a window you clicked on is annoying enough but waiting for it to load a window you didn’t even want to open is trying to say the least.

And it’s not just Asus programmes. Evidently the company has teamed up with Dropbox and is intent upon making you aware of this. Pop-ups asking me to register were sometimes interrupted by other pop-ups from McAfee, whose LiveSafe Internet Security also comes with the laptop. You’ve also got Flipbook, Netflix, Trip Advisor, Twitter, Evernote, Candy Crush Saga, and more pre-installed, although these apps didn’t actually interrupt me with notifications. It’s all a bit much really.

What’s more, this laptop feels like it’s pushing the limit in terms of being able to run Windows 10. It manages it, but with the frequent pauses it feels as though if you lowered any of the specs even slightly, this thing would be unusable.

That said, it’s nice to have a budget machine, particularly a hybrid, which will run Windows 10. It’s just a shame that it the OS can gets so slow at times.

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Audio

What’s interesting about the TP200’s sound quality is that despite producing audio that is devoid of low-end, at higher volumes the speakers still cause the whole case to rumble. Listening to music on the two stereo speakers, which are placed near the front of the underside of the laptop, I noticed that the sound was pretty uneven and that certain frequencies seemed emphasised.

Not only this but the TP200 struggled to play music without the sound cracking up. Listening to music on Youtube proved impossible as the sound from the laptop frequently went into meltdown, fizzing and crackling as the sound card failed to do its job. What’s more, the bloatware popups made themselves even more irritating by playing a tone every time they appeared. This meant that even if the laptop had managed to play the tracks without the sound issues, the songs would constantly be interrupted by various dings and bleeps as the TP200 reminded me to install this or that extra software.

Basically, this isn’t a laptop for listening to music on, what with the poor sound quality, performance issues affecting playback, and the numerous notifications interrupting you. You probably won’t even use it for watching any videos if the sound issues persist. And if these problems are common across all these devices, and not just unique to my review unit, this could even be a deal breaker.

Camera

Although it’s nice that the TP200 comes with a built-in webcam, don’t expect dazzling images from the 640 x 480, 0.3 megapixel front-facing camera. It’ll do the job for Skype sessions and alike but as you can see from the below, images will be fuzzy and washed out.

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This isn’t surprising. Cameras are an area where budget laptops and hybrids tend to skimp on specs and the TP200SA shouldn’t be singled out for a low quality camera. Just bear in mind that this is not going to produce Insta-ready selfies.

Battery

Asus claims that the TP200SA will last eight hours on a single charge and I can attest to this. The 38 Whrs Polymer battery is one of the laptop’s standout features. When watching a movie continuously with the screen brightness set at 50%, the laptop lasted just over eight hours and lost an average of 12% battery per hour. That’s pretty good for a laptop of this size and means you can easily count on the TP200SA to last you all day, even when you’re on a Netflix binge.

For average use (word processing, web browsing etc) with the screen brightness at the halfway point again, the TP200SA lasted just under 11 hours, losing around 9% battery power per hour. That’s pretty good considering the HP Pavillion’s performance, which came in at five hours and 57 minutes on the Powermark test. It puts the TP200SA above Toshiba’s Satellite Click Mini L9W-B-100 tablet which lasted for nine hours and 35 minutes which is impressive for a machine larger than most tablets.

Charge times were good too. The laptop went from 0% battery to 100% in around two and a half hours. Essentially, the TP200 lives up to the manufacturer’s claims and will be more than adequate for prolonged use.

Ports

Asus’ machine packs in quite a lot of ports for such a slight device. On the left hand edge of the TP200 you will find the power port and power button, alongside a volume control. Next to these there is a micro-SD card slot, a micro HDMI, a USB 3.0, and the USB Type-C port. On the right hand side you’ll find the combo mic/headphones jack alongside a USB 2.0 port.

The addition of a USB Type-C is another of the TP200’s little extras that help it to stand out. It essentially means that the laptop is future-proofed as more and more companies begin adopting the new connection type.

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It would have been nice if Asus had continued the commitment to higher-end features by adding a full-sized HDMI port. As it stands, you’ll need an adapter to connect the TP200 to an external display.

Overall, the range of ports offered on the device is more than adequate for the average user, and is even fairly generous by budget-range standards.

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Should I buy the Asus TP200SA?

It’s a shame that the TP200SA’s performance problems are so numerous. I initially found it a nice little laptop to work with. For word processing and a bit of internet usage, it did the job. It might make you wait a second to open a new tab or switch windows, but when you consider its low price there’s a lot to like.

It feels pretty sturdy, unlike a lot of budget laptops which feel as though they’re barely holding together as your fingers hit the keys. Add to that the ability to use it in tablet mode and the TP200SA is a pretty good deal in principle.

However, the reality is that you’re still shelling out £300/$450 and you would expect the machine to be able to run the OS properly for your money. Sadly, the TP200’s issues with performance and the tiny internal memory means that you’re unlikely to feel you got your money’s worth. Sure, you can increase the internal memory, but the fact that you can even buy this thing with a 32GB hard drive is pretty absurd these days. And what with the array of bloatware included it pretty much makes an upgrade mandatory. Even then, you’ve only got 64GB and 128GB options available.

This means that Asus can essentially advertise the laptop as starting at one price when in reality, if you want to be able to use it for anything more than the most very basic of tasks, you’re going to need to pay more to either add a new hard drive or buy one of the models with more storage. This, combined with the inferior processor and the audio problems makes the TP200SA feel like, even at this price, it should be better than it is.

Verdict

A well-made two-in-one convertible with some nice features which is let down by disappointing performance and laughable storage sizes.

Scores In Detail

Battery Life : 8/10
Build Quality : 8/10
Design : 7/10
Heat & Noise : 8/10
Keyboard : 8/10
Performance : 4/10
Screen Quality : 7/10
Touchpad : 8/10
Value : 7/10

(trustedreviews.com)

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