There are countless trends competing for attention in the gaming notebook and laptop space but not all of them are either useful or benefit the core gaming experience.
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500LN-CJ035H hybrid laptop
You can turn this 15.6in notebook into a tablet, but the question is: why would you want to?
- Useful as a notebook
- GeForce 840M allows for a bit of gaming
- Poor screen
- Slow storage
- Button placement
Price$ 1,200.00 (AUD)
Even big notebooks such as the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP500LN-CJ035H are getting the hybrid treatment these days. This isn’t much of a surprise coming from Asus. It was Asus, after all, that transformed an 18.4in screen for its all-in-one desktop system into an Android tablet. This time around, the TP500LN is a 15.6in notebook that has a 360-degree hinge so that it can be used in more ways than just a notebook.
Turn the screen around
The Transformer Book Flip TP500LN-CJ035H is a funny product in the sense that it just looks (and feels) so cumbersome when you flip the screen all the way over in order to transform it into a tablet. It’s large, it’s heavy (2.3kg), and there is perhaps no real reason why you should even need to turn this type of notebook into a tablet, other than the fact that you can.
If the TP500LN had a better screen, then we might be all for its transformation from notebook into tablet, but the panel Asus has used is a cheapie that doesn’t support wide viewing angles -- it’s not meant to be a premium notebook, but the screen is bad regardless of this fact. When you turn the notebook into a tablet and use it in your lap, you are forced to lift it slightly so that it doesn’t rest at too wide an angle from your eyes. If you don’t angle it up towards you, then you can’t see exactly what’s on the screen and the user experience is not a good one.
Strong hinges are required if the screen is to sit at the angle you desire, especially if it’s not a mostly upright angle. While Asus has installed hinges are that are decent, the screen’s weight means that they aren’t capable of holding up the screen when its angle is set to around 45 degrees. If you have the screen sitting close to that angle, heavy taps can cause it to move and sometimes fall all the way back. Then there is the rocking back and forth that the screen will exhibit when it’s tapped at such an angle; it can be annoying.
Perhaps the worst aspects of the screen are its low resolution of 1366x768 pixels, which wastes a lot of screen real estate and multitasking opportunities, and its colour output, which is limited in the levels it can display. When viewing videos and photos, subtle colour gradients won’t be rendered properly, and instead will look blocky. This will be especially noticeable in photos that have a lot of sky in them. Don’t pick up this laptop if you’re intention is to do any work with photos and videos.
When folded all the way back and in tablet mode, the keyboard remains exposed at the bottom of the unit. It’s disabled, though, so any keys pressed from holding the unit or resting it on a table won’t actually be registered. You just have to remember to rest it on clean surfaces so that dirt and other nasties don’t end up in between the keys; even though they are chiclet, there is still a small space between the keys and the chassis for things to possibly enter.
The hinges allow the tablet to be used in a ‘stand’ or ‘display’ mode, in which the keyboard folds under the product instead of sitting in front of the screen, making the screen the focal point. In this position, the screen is best placed at about 70 degrees, and it’s meant to be used when you mainly want to sit back and watch videos. However, as we’ve already mentioned, the poor viewing angles and colours don’t make for a good experience.
Read more: Dell Precision M2800 mobile workstation
Performance and battery life
We found that the Transformer Flip served us best as a regular notebook computer. Its cornerstone is a fourth-generation Intel Core i7-4510U CPU, which is an ultra-low voltage CPU that’s meant to be used in thin notebooks. The chassis on this notebook is about 15mm thick, which is on the slim side for a 15.6in unit. The CPU is accompanied by 8GB of DDR3 SDRAM, graphics are boosted by an NVIDIA GeForce 840M graphics adapter, and there is a 1TB Seagate SpinPoint hard drive installed, which has a 5400rpm spin speed.
The GeForce 840M is an entry-level graphics adapter, but it can be used for a bit of gaming. Using the native 1366x768-pixel resolution of the screen, as well as a low quality setting, we obtained 40 frames per second (fps) in the Metro 2033 Redux benchmark. At high quality, this dropped to 32fps. In 3DMark, a score of 1318 was achieved in the Fire Strike test, 4889 in Sky Diver, and 5185 in Cloud Gate. Basically, you can use this notebook for some gaming, as long as you stick to the lower graphics settings for most games.
We found the storage to be slow compared to what we’re used to seeing from most laptops these days. It couldn’t even crack the 100 megabytes per second (MBps) barrier in CrystalDiskMark, instead returning a sequential read rate of 93.23MBps, and a sequential write rate of 90.25MBps.
It’s definitely not a speed demon of a computer, but it can get the job done if your job is everyday Web browsing, online communications, and running an office suite. As mentioned, it can also be used for some gaming action.
You can get quite a bit of life from its battery, depending on how you use the notebook. This didn’t surprise us considering there is space for a big battery, and also because the CPU is ultra-low voltage and the screen has relatively few pixels. In our battery rundown test, in which we disable power management, enable Wi-Fi, maximise screen brightness, and loop a Full HD MP4 file, the 48 Watt-hour battery lasted 4hr 50min.
The keyboard and other features
Because of the large size of the notebook, the keyboard and palm rest have plenty of space to spread out. There is ample room to rest your wrists, and the keyboard has full-sized keys for the most part, and includes a number pad. It’s one of the few convertible laptops on the market to have a number pad, which should get accountants excited. It doesn’t have a full-sized zero key, though, and this is because some extra space has been given to the arrow keys (which is good).
For long sessions of typing, we found the keys to be a little too stiff, requiring a firm hit in order to leave their mark. It’s something we didn’t mind once we got used to it, but we still would have preferred keys with a lower resistance.
A touchpad with a size of 104x73mm sits just off-centre from the space bar, and doesn’t get in the way while typing. It's an adequate touchpad that didn't give us any tracking problems, and its two-finger scrolling was set to our preferred direction by default (not reversed). One thing that's annoying is that the three-finger swipe gesture for going backwards and forwards in a Web page, didn't work for us in Firefox and Chrome. This has been an ongoing problem with Asus Smart Gesture touchpads (we last noticed it when we reviewed the Asus Zenbook UX303LN Ultrabook). The gesture works in Windows in general though.
Ports and slots on the right side of the notebook’s base include Gigabit Ethernet, a full-sized SD card slot (though cards sit halfway out), full-sized HDMI, a USB 3.0 port, and a headset port. On the left side there are two more USB ports, but they are of the USB 2.0 variety. If you need to copy stuff off a USB 3.0 hard drive as quickly as possible, then you will have to plug the drive into the right side.
Since it’s a notebook that can be used as a tablet, the power button has been placed on the left edge of the chassis, rather than above the keyboard. It sits next to volume buttons and a Windows Home button. These buttons can be a little too easy to press when moving the notebook around. We often found ourselves accidentally putting the notebook into standby mode. We think the power button should be a slider instead.
Wi-Fi is provided by a single-band, 802.11n module (Mediatek MT7630E), you get Bluetooth, and there is a webcam. Its speakers are basic and face downwards, so you’ll need headphones or a connection to a Bluetooth stereo for proper enjoyment.
A tablet form factor for a 15.6in notebook like this one is unwieldy, and we’re not sure why anyone would want to use the TP500LN in such a way. We could understand it better if the screen was any good, as it could then be a candidate for budding artists to work on a greater-than-A4-sized surface. However, the screen that’s installed on this notebook is poor, and it hinders the overall experiences that the tablet and stand capabilities are meant to provide.
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