Hands on with the super-thin Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi

Initial specs suggest that the hybrid device is slimmer than the Macbook Air

The Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi on show at Computex in Taipei on June 4, 2014

The Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi on show at Computex in Taipei on June 4, 2014

It was the briefest of chances to pick up the new Asus Transformer Book T300 Chi, a laptop and tablet hybrid that looks to rival the Macbook Air for thinness, but it was the only all week to examine one of the hottest products to be revealed at Computex.

For a few minutes on Wednesday, a prototype of the machine was left unguarded on the Taipei stage where a Microsoft executive had just delivered a speech about Windows. Quickly, a representative from either Microsoft or Asus rushed over and pulled it out of our hands, telling us "Sorry, I can't let you touch that" -- but we already had.

The Transformer Book T300 Chi is sleeker, cooler and much more impressive than its unwieldy name.

When I picked it up, it reminded me of the first time I picked up a Macbook Air. It's so thin, it's surprising and it made me wonder, "Could they really fit everything in there?"

Of course, the answer is no. Thinness comes with some sacrifices, like the lack of pretty much any of the ports and connectors you'd expect on a laptop. There is a single, lonely micro USB connector and that's about it. But if you think of the machine as a tablet with attached keyboard -- rather than as a laptop with detachable screen -- the sacrifice doesn't seem that bad.

Compared to other similar machines, so called "2-in-1s," the Transformer Book T300 Chi is an impressive tablet on its own. Usually you'll find a little bit of bulk to the screen half of the combo but the Asus machine is surprisingly thin.

The keyboard is also very thin, but is a little heavier than it looks. That's not to say it's heavy. There's just a little extra weight towards the top of the keyboard that you wouldn't necessarily expect to be there.

It runs Windows 8.1 and in the moments before it was pulled from our hands, the interface seemed fast and responsive. Of course, new machines without any additional software often feel that way so it's perhaps not as good a judge as a proper benchmark.

Asus hasn't revealed many specifications about the computer. At a news conference this week, it said the computer is 14.3 millimeters thick in laptop mode, and 7.3 millimeters thick as a tablet.

The latest Macbook Air is 17 millimeters thick and an iPad Air is 7.5 millimeters thick, so if those specifications hold for the production model, Asus will have a device that's thinner than Apple's products.

The Transformer Book T300 Chi has an unspecified Intel processor, 4G LTE support, and a 12.5-inch screen with 2,560 by 1,440 pixels resolution. 

Asus has also not said anything about the price or launch plans.

Martyn Williams covers mobile telecoms, Silicon Valley and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Follow Martyn on Twitter at @martyn_williams. Martyn's e-mail address is martyn_williams@idg.com

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