On paper, the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA laptop has it all. It’s thin, light, has great battery life, a 360-degree flip screen for tablet mode and a full-size keyboard for typing, all for as little as £249. See all our budget laptop reviews
This is an affordable, immensely portable solution for those who want an lightweight laptop but don’t want to ‘make do’ with a tablet and a Bluetooth keyboard, or spend an awful lot more on an Ultrabook.
It sounds too good to be true, and for many it is: there are some serious performance issues. But if you can live with them it’s something of a bargain.
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA: Price
The Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA costs £309.99, but we’ve seen it for as little as £249 from John Lewis. Asus doesn’t offer lots of different versions that might confuse people. All you have to decide on is whether you want it in dark blue or silver. Asus offers alternatives such as the Transformer T100HA, reviewed, which has a fully detachable screen, but in the UK at least, you can’t customise the amount of RAM, power or storage the laptop has.
As we’ll see later, this is a slight shame, but means it’s an ideal high street purchase. So if you see the TP200SA in PC World, you’ll be looking at exactly the same machine we did.
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA: Design and Build
We don’t expect too much style from a very affordable laptop, but Asus clearly thinks of the Transformer Book Flip TP200SA as a ‘lifestyle’ device. It looks and feels much better than its price might suggest.
This is not a prosaic plastic laptop. It has a slick-looking brushed aluminium top to its lid, and a matched finish on the plastic keyboard surround. Asus may not have branded the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA with its top-end ‘ZenBook’ badge, but it has more in common stylistically with that range than something like the practical-but-plain Asus E402.
The reason why is obvious: hybrid (or 2-in-1) devices like the Flip TP200SA have to stand up to comparisons with tablets as well as laptops.
Hybrids aren’t one thing, of course, but a spectrum. And this one is much closer to the ‘laptop’ end. The screen doesn’t detach. Instead, its hinge lets the display flip all the way around to the back of the keyboard. Don’t expect too much from the TP200SA as a tablet, though, unless you’re going to prop it up on, say, the kitchen counter. It feels thick and clumsy to use iPad-style.
As the hinge moves freely, you can also prop the screen up in what’s usually called the ‘tent’ position. This makes the machine’s footprint tiny, letting it perch on tiny surfaces like flip-out train seat tables.
This comes in handy for watching films on long journeys or browsing the web. As you’d expect, the 11.6in screen is a touchscreen with a fairly thick bezel, letting Asus fit in a full-size keyboard while also being very rucksack/bag friendly. It’s small, weighs just 1.18kg and is 18mm thick.
Some entry-level hybrids of this style end up a little chunkier or cheaper-feeling than we’d like. But the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA impresses. It has a self-assured low-key design that really seem to benefit from Asus’s years of experience making similar devices.
This even extends to its connections. As with its tablets, Asus has plugged forwards-looking bits into the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA. It has a USB-C port (likely to become the standard for mobile devices fairly soon) as well as a USB 3.0 port, USB 2.0 port, microSD, and a microHDMI to let you hook up with another display easily.
There’s no full-size SD slot, which is a pain for any photographers, but it doesn’t warrant ruling out the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA when a USB SD reader costs just a few pounds.It’s just not as convenient as having one built in.
It has enough connections to work as the brain of an at-home desktop PC, but it functions best as a very-light-duties road buddy. Its key appeal over some Asus hybrids is the full-size keyboard. We’ve been using the TP200SA for work for more than a week, and while not perfect the keyboard is comfortable enough to type on for hours at a time.
We can’t say the same for most 10-12 inch 2-in-1 keyboards, which are just too cramped on the whole. Key action is naturally a little shallow and less well-defined than the MacBook Pro 13 and Dell XPS 15 we’ve been using most recently. But the fact we were happy using it for long-form writing tells you it’s pretty good. At this price it almost goes without saying that it isn’t backlit.
The trackpad is a little weaker. The size and position are great, but its buttons do not feel all that responsive some of the time. Their sensors are built into the pad rather than having separate zones, much like an Ultrabook, but at times the fiddly feel left us tapping on things using the touchscreen instead.
We’ve found ourselves doing the same with the Surface 3 keyboard too, though (its trackpad is rather small).
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA: Performance
Issues with trackpads in budget laptops are common, but it’s performance you need to worry about at this level.
Power comes courtesy of a dual-core Intel Celeron N3050 CPU with 2GB RAM. While that’s an up-to-date Braswell-generation chipset, its power is very limited and such a lowly amount of RAM does its day-to-day performance no favours.
If you’re considering the Asus TP200SA as a portable companion to a higher-end desktop or laptop, you will find its app load speeds quite slow, and that it begins to stutter a little as soon as you ask it to juggle tasks. Even the rendering of more complicated web pages is clearly impacted.
The same is true of any current ultra-affordable Celeron-powered Windows 10 laptop with 2GB RAM. Our disappointment here is aimed more at Intel than Asus.Intel’s latest generation of Celerons seems to have prioritised increasing efficiency, thereby lowering power consumption. As we’ll see later, this really helps battery life, but does mean you need to keep your expectations in check. An ultra-plain laptop with a Core i3 CPU and more RAM will run a lot better.
There’s even significant basic interface lag if you use the TP200SA while it’s trying to install a data-heavy application. Windows 10 may be a multi-tasking demon, but this laptop certainly is not.
However, it’s perfectly fine for word processing, browsing the web, watching Full HD video, using Netflix and so on. It’s also capable of playing undemanding games, but only at a level that might make you pick this instead of a Chromebook. For example, Skyrim is playable at the lowest graphics settings, but even then the frame rate is inconsistent.
The limited storage puts a severe cap on how much you can install. It has just 32GB of eMMC solid state memory, and only about 20GB is available to you. That may be ok for a tablet, but when games like Skyrim take up 8GB+ (and other titles much more), make sure your needs aren’t much greater.
One benefit of using solid state memory rather than a hard drive is that, along with the fan-less design, it makes the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA totally silent. It doesn’t have fast memory, though, writing at up to 68MB/s and reading at up to 157MB/s. It may sound like the TP200SA has the equivalent of a tiny little SSD, but it really doesn’t in performance terms.
Benchmarks support our observations about iffy performance. We saw scores just 1631 in Geekbench 3 (908 single-core), which is a pretty pathetic result for any Windows 10 device. Even the Transformer T100HA doubles its score, by using four cores instead of two.
Looking at these numbers makes it something of a surprise that it can handle games like Skyrim at all.
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA: Display
If you’re going to be turned off by limited performance, it may be time to walk away. Still here? There’s more good stuff to cover.
The most important way the TP200SA trumps the similar Lenovo Yoga 300 is that it uses an IPS display rather than a TN one. While plenty of low-cost laptops still use TN panels, it’s really unsuitable for a hybrid, where looking at the display from a wide variety of angles is part of the appeal.
TN screens universally suffer from contrast shift, making the display colours appear ‘inverted’ from certain angles. The TP200SA’s screen is much more tablet-like, looking just fine from any angle.
Fairly good calibration means the display looks good in person too, even though our colorimeter says it covers just 68 per cent of the sRGB colour gamut. That’s typical of an entry-level IPS screen and means it can’t display those really deep reds, blues and greens, but the in-person impression of the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA is not one of an undersaturated screen.
Display architecture is slim too, so it doesn’t appear there’s a gap between the surface and the screen image, and the max brightness is a solid 285cd/m2. However, the screen image distorts under fairly minor pressure, and there’s some backlight bleed in one corner. This is a decent screen, but not a great one.
The display also wobbles a bit in use because the hinge that a little give to it, and the glossy finish means it’s prone to reflections. Even with these issues, it’s one of the best, most suitable screens in this class.
Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA: Battery Life
The other element that marks the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA out as perhaps the best machine in this low-performance, low-price category is battery life.
Asus says it’ll last for eight hours off a charge, a good result for a laptop if not a tablet. Using it as our main work computer, largely for writing, browsing and emails, we found it lasts for around 7.5 hours with brightness at around 60 percent of maximum. That’s a comfortable level in a reasonably well-lit coffee shop.
For a less anecdotal take on its stamina, we left the laptop playing a 720p MP4 film on loop with the screen set to 120cd/m2. It lasted for an impressive 11 hours 10 minutes, significantly outperforming Asus’s own claims. Isn’t it nice that Asus’s numbers reflect real-life use, not an ultra-low-demand scenario?
Just as the screen is a lot better than the rival Lenovo Yoga 300, the stamina is too. It will be dead hours before the Asus. Part of this will be down to the battery unit, but the Asus Transformer Book Flip TP200SA also has a terribly efficient 14nm, 6W TDP CPU. It may not be powerful, but it is efficient.