I was enthusiastic to find last week that I was going to get the new convertible Asus EEE PC T101MT on my desk. After all, this was a long awaited gadget and the first touch-netbook I would get my hands on.
Thus, expectation were pretty high, although I was aware performances can’t be too good, as the same N450 processor I’ve tested on the 1008P was present inside this device also.
Read the review bellow to see if the product managed to rise to those expectations.
In terms of specs, there’s almost nothing you could ask more from the T101MT:
- Intel Atom N450 1.66 GHz processor and GMA 3150 graphics
- 2 GB of memory
- 320 GB storage drive + EEE storage space available online
- decent connectivity: Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
- convertible 10.1 inch display (1024 x 600 px), matte and with a multi-touch resistive panel
- Webcam, 3xUSB slots, mic and audio out, Ethernet Lan
- 4 Cell 2400 mAh/35 Wh battery
- Windows 7 Home Premium
- measures 264 x 181 x 31 mm (10.4 x 7 x 1.2 inch) and weighs 1.3 KG (2.86 lbs)
So, the only things missing would be Bluetooth (update: the final version also offers Bluetooth, only the pre-sale lacked it) and a 3G Broadband modem, but you can connect one via USB if needed.
Design and build quality
The T101MT is one of the best looking EEE PCs I laid my eyes on, and that’s something, considering that all the Asus netbooks come with fancy looks. It does not offer the Seashell form factor, but a more bulky sharp-edged one, and that’s why I like it. However, having that touch-display ads to the lid’s size and makes the overall device a little bit thick (1.3 inches).
In terms of build-quality though, I can’t really find any flaw. And since this version comes in white (there will be a black one available too), I won’t even complain about the glossy case, as you won’t really see the scratches and fingerprints on this color (still, they shall be there anyway).
Check out the pictures below for more details on aspect and sides.
Keyboard + Touchpad
Like you can see in the picture below, the T101MT offers a chiclet keyboard with independent keys. They’re just perfectly sized and spaced (although the F keys on the first raw are smaller and more difficult to use), and if you add to this the fact that there’s nearly no flex, these qualities make this keyboard one of the best I ever saw on a netbook (still, I enjoy the metallic feeling from Toshiba’s NB305 keys more).
So while the keyboard is good and similar to the one on the 1005PE netbooks, Asus chose to change their dimpled touchpad used on their latest mini laptops with a more classic one, smooth and easily distinguishable from the rest of the body. Plus, you get multi-touch gestures.
So overall, the classic input methods on the T101MT score high marks.
Being the first 10 inch convertible netbook from Asus, I’ve been waiting to play with its touch display, really the one thing differentiating this device from the whole bunch of other 10 inch mini laptops. And it turned out to be quite good (on the final version i got, and not the pre-release one i tested initially).
First, I do have to say that I spoke to my guy at Asus who confirmed this is a pre-sale version. And it comes with some hardware problems, as the top inch of the screen is unusable. Thus I won’t insist on this problem. However, the rest of the screen ain’t too precise either, mainly because of the limitations imposed by the resistive panel.
Like i said, the above were only available for the early pre-release model. I got the final version, the one that will be available in stores soon. And it’s actually great, like i said above.
There are two different modes for this screen:
- finger mode – makes the click less precise but you can use the device with your fingers and perform all kind of gestures and actions
- pen mode – in this mode the screen can only be used with the stylus, but it’s very accurate and can be easily used for hand writing and taking notes (will do quite a great job in here, especially if calligraphy was one of you favorite classes in elementary-school – mine wasn’t and the device still recognized my writing most of the time)
Anyway, overall experience provided by this touch-screen when browsing, surfing through photos and files makes me realize I can really enjoy the benefits of this feature. Especially since you can switch the screen-aspect from Landscape to Portrait with only the press of one button (a good accelerometer to make this change automatically would have been nice though).
So all in all, the resistive touch-display Asus uses on the 10 inch T101MT is very good. Still, i can’t stop wondering if a capacitive one wouldn’t have been better?
Software and performance
Like I told you, this device comes with Windows 7 Home Edition and there are also a couple of Asus utilities pre-installed that should offer better interaction with the touch-display.
Asus also offers a customized interface accessible with just a press of a button (the same as the one mentioned above actually), but there are only a handful of applications available so far (browser, calculator, photo organizer, Internet Radio), more should be available in the future via Asus ApsBank.
However, all these applications manage to bring the system to its knees. As you know, the PineTrail platform ain’t known for performances, so by adding a bunch of extra programs from the start you won’t help it at all.
In conclusion, I do have to say this is the most sluggish Atom powered device I ever got my hands on. And I’m not talking about doing fancy stuff; just basic changing between screens or opening a new application takes countless seconds, thus ruining the overall experience.
I tried to run PCmark05 but i failed to get a final score unfortunately. As for Windows rating, this device got a 2.4, very much similar to the one of the 1008PE Karim Rashid. However, these scores can’t show how sluggish overall the system is, only a real life test would.
In order to keep the device light, there was only enough space for a 4 Cell 35 wAh battery. On paper, this should be enough for up to 6.5 hours of life. In real life tests, things are not that good :
- Continuously playing a DivX movie with Wi-Fi off – around 3.5 hours
- Writing in Microsoft Word with screen Brightness set to 60% and Wi-fi Off – nearly 5 hours
- Browsing while listening to music (on headphones), with Wi-fi On and brightness set to 60% – around 4 hours
So, this device does not impress with stellar battery life (like the 1005PE for instance), because of the pretty small battery it comes equipped with. Still, it does not disappoint either: 4-4.5 hours of real life autonomy sounds decently good to me. Plus, since the battery is switchable, you can easily get a replacement one and connect it in place when needed.
Although processor runs pretty busy all the time, the device does not get too hot on its back, thus you can easily use it while holding it on your lap. That’s because of the 4 big vent slots present, two on the front, one on the left and one on the back. Still, i don’t have a thermometer to provide exact figures, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.
Noise is also not a problem, the only thing you’ll hear inside this T101MT being the hard-drive’s cranking from time to time (more often than you’d want, actually).
As for speakers, I can’t say I’m impressed by them, but they’re not bad also: pretty good volume and quality, but still I’d rather use a pair of good headphones.
Prices and where to buy
There’s no exact info on how much will this Asus EEE PC T101MT going to cost. Also, we don’t know for sure when Asus is going to finally bring it in stores, but this is expected to happen sometimes in the next two months.
As for the price, the smaller relative of this device, the T89MT currently runs for $489 on the US, so I’d reckon this one will go for somewhere between $550 and $600 (probably closer to the last one). I’ll update this part when I’ll find more details.
Update: The T101MT can be yours right now for $446.
However, the version available for this kind of money in the US is not identical to the one i tested. The good part is that the device comes with a matte case and palm rest. Also, it’s only available in black for now.
The bad part is that you get only 1 GB of RAM, 160 GB storage and Windows 7 Starter. That means that you won’t be able to benefit from multi-touch, this entry level of Microsoft OS doesn’t support this feature.
So, you can get the T101MT for $450 right now, but will less capable hardware and no multi-touch.
Or you could wait for a better version to enter the market. It will cost at least $50 more, but if you want such a tablet netbook, the price difference will surely be worth these money.
I also managed to shoot a video review of the Asus T101MT, and this time it’s the final release, not the early pre-production version. Check is out in this post or below.
And a followup with extra details on performances and web-browsing.
Like I told you before, this is the first tablet netbook I got my hands on. I’ve seen other tablet PCs before, but those were a lot bigger and bulkier (not to mention more expensive). This one is actually nice to use in tablet mode, although I won’t mind it being thinner and lighter (you can’t hold it with one hand with ease unless you’re a good friend with the gym – not like me).
So overall, the Asus T101MT offers all the goodies found in a regular netbook, a premium one I might say, plus the benefits of a convertible touch display.
However, one cannot let unnoticed the fact that such devices are still in their early days and many things still need to be improved before they will be able to satisfy a good number of potential clients.
First, the touch interface could get more precise and responsive, especially when using it with your fingers. Then, you’d have to get more potent hardware inside, as I’m pretty sure few would enjoy a sluggish new device. And last but not least, there’s the price matter: for $600 (the price tag I reckon the device will have – no official pricing has been released yet), this 10 inch mini laptop costs almost twice more than a standard netbook without the touch-display. And I’m not sure that is worth that price, not yet for now.
So, did I liked the Asus EEE PC T101MT? Overall yes, but because of the poor performance, I wouldn’t buy one just yet. Maybe in time, with some improvements in terms of software. Maybe with a lighter OS on it that would speed up applications. We’ll just have to wait and see.
But did it open my appetite for touch-enabled netbooks? Or maybe for touch-tablets? Definitely. And I’m sure many of you would go for such devices in the near future, as they’ll get better, lighter and more affordable.