A New Device…Asus T100 Transformer Windows 8.1 10″ Tablet
I have been working on selling my Acer Iconia W3 8″ Windows tablet that I have owned for a few months. The W3 served its purpose in my life; it let me see how Windows RT and Windows 8 (then 8.1) worked. I even used the tablet for a little bit of Finale and Notion work, but it became clear that I would need a Bluetooth mouse or some kind of (additional) external keyboard with a trackpad to get any serious music notation work done on that computer. In that time, two different things happened. First, Asus released a new transformer tablet, not based on Android, but on Windows 8.1 for $399; and second, Acer released a W4 tablet to deal with the shortcomings of the W3…mainly a better screen and a faster processor. It took a while, but I sold the tablet to someone over Craigslist. I paid $290 for it shipped, and took $250 for it. The tablet was in mint condition, so I feel like I did okay, and that the buyer also got a good deal.
I have been looking at the T100 for some time, as it comes with a detachable keyboard with an attached trackpad. Best Buy had a 32GB model on sale for $299 a few weeks ago, but I knew I wanted the 64GB version. I have been bidding on eBay for the tablet, but prices were regularly rocketing above $400 for a $399 (MSRP) tablet. New Egg was selling them for $379, but is now selling them at $399 (and are out of stock), and even Amazon is selling the tablets for $439 (used!) right now.
Why is this tablet so popular? Because it is basically the Microsoft Surface Pro 2, minus the digitizing pen, with a keyboard, for over $600 less. If you are looking for a Windows tablet, the T100 is the best bargain you will find, and battery life is excellent–at iPad levels–something the Surface Pro 2 can’t try to match.
At any rate, I was looking online and saw that my local Wal-Mart has a T100 in stock for $379, so I went to Wal-Mart to do our weekly shopping and found out that they had one T100 left, which I bought. For the record, this is the T100-C1, which is the 64GB version. There is also a T100-B1, which is a 32GB version.
This is a 10″ 16:10 aspect ratio tablet. The T-100 comes with the trackpad keyboard, which connects directly to the tablet, so it is not a Bluetooth keyboard. There is a Micro USB port, a Micro HDMI port, and a Micro SD card on the device (like the W3), but the keyboard also has a full USB 3.0 port on the keyboard. So although this tablet is $89 more expensive than what I paid for the W3 (not including tax), the faster processor, bigger screen, better screen, and USB 3.0 port make it a far better computer.
As with all Windows 8.1 tablets, you get the schizophrenic relationship between Windows RT (tile world) and Windows 8.1 (Desktop). Windows desktop, overall, is the same thing Windows has always been; Windows RT is a joy to use, but it just lacks apps that iPad or Android tablet owners would be looking for. If you are a musician, there is no PDF music reader for Windows RT. You can use a traditional PDF reader, but page turns are up and down, not left to right. You can buy PDF music readers for Windows 8.1 (Desktop), but these applications generally won’t take advantage of the tablet interface, and in fact, buttons may be too small to accurately press without a stylus–something that isn’t going to happen in a rehearsal or performance. Windows really has a good thing with Windows RT on its hands…they should be shipping the major OS developers big loads of cash to develop apps. Once people use Windows RT, they will like it. But if the OS lacks app, people will not come to the platform. Apple set the standard, opening with a huge array of apps (both for the iPad and iPhone/iPod Touch) on the first day of the iPad, and even Android is still struggling to catch up when it comes to tablet apps. My fear is that Windows will have to abandon RT before its benefits are known.
That said, like all widescreen tablets, it is strange to look at music on the 16:10 screen. You either don’t see enough of the screen (landscape), or the music appears too narrow and there is a space at the bottom of the screen (portrait). When it comes to viewing music, this is a reason I prefer the iPad or a 4:3 Android tablet like my “hacked” HP Touchpad or the Kuno. I don’t think you can find a 4:3 Windows tablet. Even though the 16:10 screen might be better for movies, I would prefer the 4:3 for working on documents and for sheet music.
The T100, like many other Windows devices these days, also comes with Microsoft Office Student and Home. In the world of GAFE and iWork in the Cloud, this is no longer the incentive it once was.
At $399 (MRSP) and likely under $379 for schools, this device would be appealing to me beyond a Chromebook in education; you can certainly run any Google App for Education on this T100 (it is just as fast as any Chromebook, save for the high-end Pixel), and you can run Google Chrome and all Chome Web apps on this device. For those people that still need Flash (you have to wonder about the web designers who are sticking with Flash in this day of mobile technology that doesn’t run flash), Flash will work on the T100. And if a few developers could be lured to the RT platform, the device could be separated from its keyboard and used in classes that just didn’t need a substitute for writing papers by hand or typing them on a typewriter.
Granted, the T100 will face the challenge of malware, which does not exist on iOS, Mac, or Chromebooks; and implementation of a T100 1:1 program would be as intensive as any Mac, Windows Notebook, or iPad implementation (Chromebook implementations are supposed to be the easiest to manage). But for $180 more than a barebones Chromebook, you get a device that can potentially do a lot more. So if your district is considering Chromebooks, you might want to check out the T100 first.