Asus Transformer Book Flip TP550LA-CJ127H laptop-tablet hybrid review

Asus Transformer Book Flip TP550LA-CJ127H review: A laptop-tablet hybrid that does neither job well

A laptop-tablet hybrid that does neither job well, we review the Asus TP550LA-CJ127H. (Also see: Best laptops 2015 and best tablets 2015.)

Asus has been swept along by Microsoft’s dream that people want laptops that can be bent back into huge and clunky tablets. That’s what the arrival of the new Asus TP550LA-CJ127H is telling us, a 15.6-inch lump of laptop weighing 2.6 kg that can transform itself in a trice into a touchscreen tablet that still weighs 2.6 kg. Also see: Best new tablets coming in 2016.

Lift the heavy tablet lid of the TP550L and you find an all-plastic laptop that is trying to pass itself with having metal construction. The silver-painted plastic top deck borrows cues from high-quality products, keeping the extraneous buttons-and-lights count mercifully low. See all tablet reviews.

There’s a large tiled keyboard in black with white italic-capital typography, with added number keypad to the right to help fill the width of the chassis. This keyboard works accurately and we found it would allow fast, accurate typing.

Below is an Apple-style buttonless trackpad that tracks mouse pointing by finger accurately enough, although its mechanical click does make a resonate plastic quack from the flexing case. See all laptop reviews.

Asus Transformer Book Flip TP550LA-CJ127H review: Outside

On the right of the laptop/tablet is a tray-load optical drive, able to read and write to DVDs and CDs, but not Blu-ray. Two USB 2.0 ports dwell here, but if you need high-speed connectivity you’ll need to turn to the left side to find a solitary USB 3.0 port. This sits between an SD card slot and HDMI port, with trap-door gigabit ethernet port and 3.5 mm headphone jack completing the port array. Note that the card slot is specified up to SDHC cards only, meaning a maximum 32 GB capacity.

Surprisingly the main power button is at the front of this line, alongside a volume rocker button. The positioning of these makes more sense when the screen has been wrapped around the back and you’re trying to use the TP550L in its tablet mode, but they’re quite handily placed for laptop use too, once you’ve remembered where they are. Also see: Tablet Advisor.

The display is a low-resolution shiny gloss panel with nothing in the way of reflection-reducing coating. So here the 2 in 1 aspect reveals the handy double duty as personal mirror under most lighting conditions.

Confounding its usability much further though, is Asus’ choice of low-grade TN technology panel. Besides its poor colour reproduction and lousy contrast ratio (just 62 percent sRGB, and 80:1 contrast ratio, in our lab tests) it has abominably narrow viewing angles. That’s bad enough news for a laptop; but an effective deal breaker for any device with tablet pretensions where you’ll be routinely viewing from different sides.

Used as a laptop touchscreen, it wobbles back and forth in a disconcerting fashion whenever you tap with your finger, eventually settling down after a few seconds’ oscillation. Also see: Laptop Advisor.

Asus Transformer Book Flip TP550LA-CJ127H review: Inside

The Asus TP550L is powered by a 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7; not the usual quad-core that the label ‘Core i7’ may evince but a simpler dual-core processor. For memory, there are two 4 GB modules for a total of 8 GB, and storage is courtesy of a 750 GB hard disk, a traditional 2.5in SATA type.

For wireless connectivity there’s the usual Bluetooth 4.0, and an Atheros AR946x Wi-Fi card which looked to be 11n-capable and single 2.4 GHz band only from our tests.

Asus Transformer Book Flip TP550LA-CJ127H review: Performance

With its dual-core Intel processor, good usable speed is not in doubt. We recorded Geekbench 3 results of 3112 and 6375 points for single- and multi-core mode operation.

Cinebench 11.5 scored the Asus with 1.42 and 3.29 points, while v15 of the benchmark showed 122 and 304 points.

When measured with real-world tests in the PCMark 7 benchmark test, the result was a more middling 3136 points. The new Dell XPS 13 with Infinity display we tested has the same Intel 5500U processor and scored 5090 points in this test, demonstrating the importance of fast storage over slow hard disks.

In the PCMark 8 suite, the Home test returned 2575 points (3082 points when accelerated by GPU), and 2873 points in the Work module (3881 accelerated). The little Dell was slightly behind here, with 2219 points (Home) and 2472 points (Work).

Some limited gaming is possible from the on-board Intel graphics. We saw an average of 34 fps playing the Batman: Arkham City benchmark level at full 1366 x 768-pixel screen resolution and High detail; Tomb Raider 2013 similarly showed 34 fps with Normal detail, tumbling to 20 fps when we switched to High detail.

The 38 Wh lithium-ion battery pack is not user removable, and here enabled the TP550L to run for 5 hr 33 min in our standard battery test using a looped HD film played over Wi-Fi.

Asus Transformer Book Flip TP550LA-CJ127H: Specs

  • 15.6-inch (1366 x 768) TN gloss touchscreen
  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7-5500U (2C, 4T)
  • Intel HD Graphics 5500
  • 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 750 GB 2.5in SATA HDD
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/n single-band (Qualcomm AR946x)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • tray-load DVD±RW drive
  • 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • HDMI
  • Kensignton lock slot
  • SDHC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.3 Mp webcam
  • built-in mic
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • UK tiled, black with white italic san-serif caps
  • 104 x 73 mm, buttonless trackpad
  • 38 Wh lithium-ion, non-removable
  • 45 W wall adaptor
  • 380 x 260 x 27.5 mm
  • 2618 g
  • 15.6-inch (1366 x 768) TN gloss touchscreen
  • 2.4 GHz Intel Core i7-5500U (2C, 4T)
  • Intel HD Graphics 5500
  • 8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3 RAM
  • 750 GB 2.5in SATA HDD
  • gigabit ethernet
  • 802.11b/g/n single-band (Qualcomm AR946x)
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • tray-load DVD±RW drive
  • 1x USB 3.0, 2x USB 2.0
  • HDMI
  • Kensignton lock slot
  • SDHC card slot
  • stereo speakers
  • 0.3 Mp webcam
  • built-in mic
  • 3.5 mm headset jack
  • UK tiled, black with white italic san-serif caps
  • 104 x 73 mm, buttonless trackpad
  • 38 Wh lithium-ion, non-removable
  • 45 W wall adaptor
  • 380 x 260 x 27.5 mm
  • 2618 g

OUR VERDICT

The 2 in 1 computer, as Microsoft promotes it, is a mobile computer that is neither fish but all too often quite foul, a jack of few trades and master of none. There may be some application for a wobbly screened 15in tablet cum laptop weighing the wrong side of 2.6 kg, but we struggle to think of it. It’s doomed as a tablet in no small part by its low-grade and low-resolution TN display, and as a regular laptop is bested by non-touchscreen models at half the price with better specifications.