The 10.1-inch Asus Eee PC T101MT straddles the netbook and tablet worlds. Although it looks like a pretty standard netbook, it has a touchscreen display that can be swivelled around and snapped back against the keyboard to convert it into a tablet. The T101MT is available from Laptops Direct and other vendors for around £430.
Measuring 31mm deep all around the chassis, the T101MT is much thicker than an ordinary netbook. It's heavier, too, weighing in at 1.3kg, whereas most networks top out at around 1.2kg. This extra weight is especially noticeable when you're using it in tablet mode, cradled in your hands. It really feels like it's weighing you down after a while.
The T101MT doesn't look great either. Despite Asus' efforts to jazz up the design by adding a few chrome highlights here and there, the rest of the chassis is finished in matte black and looks dull. At least the swivelling mechanism of the screen feels quite robust, so it should stand up to a fair bit of punishment.
When it comes to connectivity, this machine adheres to the traditional netbook template. You get three USB ports, a VGA socket for connecting it up to an external display, and a memory-card reader. There's no HDMI port sadly. The T101MT has an Ethernet port and 802.11n Wi-Fi support, but unfortunately there's no Bluetooth connectivity. The T101MT has a pretty roomy hard drive by netbook standards, offering 320GB of space for your files.
As with Asus' other recent netbooks, this one has a keyboard with isolated keys. The keys are reasonably large and there's a decent amount of space between them, so it doesn't feel too cramped to type on. The layout is generally good. The return key is large and Asus has even found space to fit in dedicated cursor keys. But there's a fair amount of flex in the middle of the keyboard, so it doesn't feel quite as comfortable to type on as, say, some of Samsung's newer models.
Screen makes you scream
With a tablet device like this, you'd expect the screen to be its main strength, but, unfortunately, it's the opposite. There are so many issues with this display that it's difficult to know where to begin. For example, its vertical viewing angle is very tight, so, if you hold the T101MT at an angle, colours either look very washed-out or descend into a sea of black.
Even worse, though, is the fact that the screen always looks smudgy, as if there's an extra layer of plastic film sitting over the top. As a result, when you move the screen around, the surface of the display seems to shimmer, which makes it hard to read documents and Web pages.
It's a shame because the touchscreen is very responsive and reacts even to the lightest touches. It also supports multi-touch gestures, so you can pinch your fingers together to zoom into pictures in Windows Live Photo Gallery or Internet Explorer. Given its small size, the display also has a pretty good resolution of 1,024x600 pixels.
But there's another problem with using the T101MT as a tablet -- Windows 7 just doesn't offer anywhere near as slick a touchscreen experience as you'll get from dedicated tablets like the Apple iPad or Android-based Samsung Galaxy Tab. For example, text in menus can be difficult to tap accurately with your finger, so you often have to reach for the stylus, which is tucked into the side of the display. Also, multi-touch functions, such as a zooming, are jumpy rather than smooth.
Under the bonnet
The T101MT mostly uses standard netbook components. For example, it's built around an Intel Atom N450 processor that's clocked at 1.66GHz. Unlike most netbooks, however, the T101MT runs Windows 7 Home Premium, rather than Windows 7 Starter. As a result, Asus has been able to kit it out with 2GB of RAM, rather than the 1GB maximum that Microsoft sets for netbooks with Windows Starter. The extra RAM helps the machine to feel more responsive than a normal netbook, but it's still a long way from the performance you'd get from even a budget laptop. It also feels much more sluggish than ARM-based tablets, such as the iPad.
This is reflected in its results in the PCMark05 benchmark test -- the T101MT managed to rack up a score of just 1,431. As with most netbooks, its graphics performance is also dire. In 3DMark06, it scored a mere 156, which means that only the very oldest games will play at any kind of decent frame rate.
When it comes to battery life, the netbook's performance is more impressive. In the intensive Battery Eater Classic test, it managed to keep going for 3 hours and 43 minutes before it needed to be recharged. Under real-world conditions, you're likely to get close to the 6.5-hour battery life that Asus quotes for this model.
We're underwhelmed by the Asus Eee PC T101MT. The screen is very poor and the overall touch experience in Windows 7 still leaves much to be desired. The machine's hybrid approach may sound like a good idea on paper but, in practice, it's not. We'd advise you to opt for a dedicated netbook or tablet instead.
Edited by Charles Kloet