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Asus' transforming T100 tablet promises 11 hours of Windows 8 for just $349

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Gallery Photo: Asus Transformer Book T100 hands-on pictures
Gallery Photo: Asus Transformer Book T100 hands-on pictures

At the 2013 Intel Developer Conference (IDF), Intel is primarily promising two things. One, cheaper tablets, and two, silicon fast and power efficient enough to give both those tablets and a new class of "2-in-1" hybrids a fighting chance in this Apple-obsessed world. If those are the trends, then the new Asus Transformer Book T100 is the poster child: it's a 10.1-inch transforming tablet that runs the full Windows 8.1 operating system for just $349.

The T100 puts Intel's new quad-core Bay Trail Atom processor into Asus' trademark detachable form factor, giving you what appears to be an undersized laptop at first, but once you press a button you can detach the screen and walk away with a fully-fledged tablet computer. Since this particular model's trying to hit a lower price point, you only get a low-res 1366 x 768 IPS display and 32GB of storage for your money (a 64GB model costs $399) but the tablet portion only weighs 1.2 pounds, around the same as the company's Android-based slates. That's pretty impressive for a device that runs full Windows and comes with a detachable keyboard dock. Asus says it will arrive in the US on October 18th.

It feels like Asus might have made really decent tradeoffs here

We just got our hands on a prototype T100 at an Asus event, and came away reasonably impressed. There's no question that it's a budget device, with fairly cheap-feeling materials everywhere, from the fingerprint magnet of a glossy rear cover to the exceptionally hollow feeling of both the tablet and its keyboard dock. Both give quite a bit if you squeeze them, at least on this prototype. The touchpad and keyboard are as small as ever, too. And yet, it feels like Asus might have made really decent tradeoffs for this price point and form factor. Windows 8 feels fairly responsive, including the touchscreen experience, and both the keyboard and touchpad feel usable. There's a microSD slot for more storage, and a USB 3.0 port on the dock. The speakers get surprisingly loud, though it's hard to tell how good they sound at an event, and despite the low resolution of that 1366 x 768 resolution screen, it's got solid viewing angles.

We're looking forward to putting the T100 through its paces soon.