Saturday, May 29, 2010

T91MT vs T101MT - Hands on Review

Earlier this month I talked about why I feel Asus's T91MT is a better computer than Apple's iPad. What I failed to mention in that posting is that in addition to the T91MT Asus also has a T101MT netbook/tablet hybrid. If you are in the market for a tiny tablet computer you might be like I was, torn between which of these two netbooks to buy - they are fairly close in price! After having owned both a T91MT and the T101MT I have put together the following compare and contrast of the two tablets that will hopefully help you decided which of the two to purchase.
Size and Weight -
Lets start with the obvious - how big these devices are. The average consumer will first notice that the T91MT is an 8.9" tablet that weights in at 2.1 pounds while the T101MT is 10.1" that weights in at 2.86 pounds. Which of these is better? Its a personal choice really.

Keyboard -
The T91MT has a flat key board while the T101MT has a chiclet keyboard (some space inbetween the keys). Coming from my old EEE 900A model/normal laptop the chiclet keyboard took some getting used to, but after a few days I was typing away on it with no issues. The image below is the T91MT keyboard on the left and the T101MT keyboard on the right:


Track Pad -
The track back on both the devices is essentially the same. Same look and feel, same silver mouse button. Neither supports multi-touch on the track pad and both support scrolling on the right side.

Screen Resolution/Design/Finish -
Both the netbooks contain the fairly standard 1024x600 resolution netbook panel. Both panels fully support multi-touch. For some reason though the touch layer is much more noticeable on the T101MT than it is on the T91MT. If you look at the screen from the wrong angle the contents appear blurry almost. Another thing you will notice right away between the two laptops is that the T91MT has a shiny finish on the back of it's screen - meaning it is a giant finger print magnet. The T101MT has a matted finish that tends to stay much cleaner.

Lastly the hinge on the T101MT is much smoother than the one on the T91MT. When closing the T101MT (or putting it in tablet mode) it has rubber stoppers that are designed to slip into slits cut into the screen so the keyboard part does not rotate out form under the screen while you are moving the device around. This was a much needed design additive as it always annoyed me that the T91MT screen does not sit straight on when the device is closed.

Processor -
The processors in these two devices are very, very different. The T91MT uses a Z series 520 chip that is clocked at 1.33ghz, while the T101MT sports an N series 450 chip that runs at 1.66ghz. Both chips have hyper-threading technology and of the two only the Z520 supports virtulization (just in case you wanted to run a virtual machine on your netbook). The extra speed of the N450 is decent noticeable. It is much "snappier" when multi-tasking than it's Z520 cousin.

RAM -
Both tablets come with 1gig of DDR2 memory and are upgradable to 2gigs. The only thing worth noting here is that the T91MT has a 1gig stick that you have to replace with a single 2gig stick in order to upgrade it's memory. The T101MT on the other hand has it's default 1gig of memory soldiered to it's mother board - meaning in order to upgrade it's memory you need to purchase a 1gig stick.

Hard Drive -
The T91MT comes stock with a 32gig SSD while the T101MT comes with a 160gig 5400rpm standard laptop drive. The T91MT hard drive uses a PCI mini port to connect - meaning if you want to change the drive in it you are somewhat limited on selection. The T101MT on the other hand uses your standard 2.5" sata hard drive connector so you can drop any mobile drive in it (personally I ordered an SSD with my T101MT, I feel a normal hard drive is just a bad idea in a netbook).

Webcam -
Both the netbooks come with very sad .3 mega-pixel cameras. Good enough to make a video call over Skype, but not a quality image by any means.

Graphics Card -
The T91MT comes with the Intel GMA500 graphics card while the T101MT has the more standard Intel GMA3150 graphics controller. An important thing to note here is that while the GMA500 is a physically faster graphics card, the drivers for it are decently horrid on all platforms (although they are the best under Windows 7). The GMA500 should do 720p video playback however do not expect it to be 100% smooth if this is what you want to play on the device. The driver issue with the GMA500 is largely due to the fact that Intel doesn't actually make the GMA500 chip, they just stamp their name on it.

Operating System -
The T91MT ships by default with Windows 7 Home Premium while the T101MT ships with Windows 7 Starter. Not a big deal right? Actually it is. Windows 7 Starter does not support multi-touch functionality regardless of your hardware. Meaning if you want multi-touch on the T101MT you will need to upgrade/change the Windows version installed on it. Both of the netbooks run Ubuntu quite well with a small bit of hacking (and have multi-touch with kernel > 2.6.33). If you are going to keep Windows 7 on the tablet however, do yourself a favor and make sure to upgrade the RAM to 2gigs.

Bluetooth -
The T91MT has a built in bluetooth controller while the T101MT does not. So if you are needing bluetooth on the larger tablet be sure to pickup a USB bluetooth adapter.

Battery -
The T91MT claims "up to 5 hours" and the T101MT claims "up to 6.5 hours". Off a full charge while streaming audio over the speakers from Pandora the T91MT gets just over three hours and the T101MT gets just under four hours. The T101MT has has a removable battery while the T91MT does not, personally I really like having a removable battery so I can carry a spare.

Follow Up -
I ended up keeping the T101MT and selling the T91MT to a friend. The two main deciding factors for me in this decision was the battery life and graphics card (the GMA500 is a giant pain under Linux). Which of these two tablet is right for you? How would I know! Hopefully if you have been trying to decide between the two of them this article helped you decide on one or the other.

~Jeff Hoogland

38 comments:

  1. Hello,
    I have a T101mt and it supports up to 3 fingers for gestures in windows 7. I don't know why your's doesn't support multi-touch but mine does in accordance with the ASUS description of the T101MT.

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  2. You have multi-touch on Windows 7 Starter? Everything I have read says you need a "better" version of 7 than Starter for multi-touch gestures to work.

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  3. He said the T101mt supports it not Windows 7 Starter

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  4. I'm using the version of asus T101MT distributed in Italy: Windows7 Home edition, 2 Giga Ram, 320 GB Hd. Everything's running smoothly. Multitouch with three fingers OK. Roberto

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  5. Yep. All Win7 versions other than starter support multi-touch. And the T101MT ships with starter...

    ~Jeff

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  6. "And the T101MT ships with starter"...in the USA that is, in Europe Windows 7 Home Premium, but that is also swiftly replaced by Linux >:-) on my netbook

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  7. Well GMA500 can play 1080P with a bit of work (only uses 60% cpu utilisation when playing h264 1080P), but flash on the other hand is a bit of struggle.

    Anyway I got T91 mainly because of the price ($229 on ebay :D), but I do think 10" is better for readability.

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  8. Jeff, you've confused the two laptops in the Operating System section, and possibly other sections too. T101MT, at least in Australia, ships with Win7 Home Premium.

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  9. @Last Anonymous

    I have not confused them. In the US the T101MT ships with starter... If you still don't believe me check http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16834220713&cm_re=t101mt-_-34-220-713-_-Product

    ~Jeff

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  10. Moin Jeff,

    Very well written review! Smart move from Asus selling the T101MT w/ Windows Starters. Apparently they thought the American market wouldn't care for multi touch :-D.

    I ended up buying the smaller T91MT, just because of it's size and the better screen.

    Currently I'm trying to get Ubuntu Netbook Remix running (yes, GMA500 is a pain ;-). Did you ever get Bluetooth & the webcam working on it properly? If so, could you tell me how, or point me to the thread/howto? Thanks!

    Greetings from a German sitting in a Spanish Hotel Lobby ;-).

    -> Mo

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  11. Mo, What application are you trying to use the Webcam in? I know it works OOTB with Skype and the KDE webcam booth, but I was never able to make it work with Cheese.

    Regarding the bluetooth - install Blueman on Linux and it should detect it for you.

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  12. Just doing an apt-get install blueman solved all my Bluetooth related issues... wierd, why don't they package it by default?

    And yes, the Webcam problem might in reality be a Cheese + this type of Webcam issue, just didn't bother to try anything else so far (But Skype is downloading, it's just that the WiFi at this hotel sucks bigtime). If it is, I'll file a bug report (if there doesn't already exist one) as soon as my vacation is over ;-)

    Thanks man!

    -> Mo

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  13. There is a KDE webcam booth application that does basically everything Cheese does that works with the T91MT's webcam.

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  14. Graphics now seems to work under ubuntu
    https://wiki.ubuntu.com/HardwareSupportComponentsVideoCardsPoulsbo/

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  15. Very good. Glad to see that POS graphics card now works under 10.04 - it was a pain having to keep 9.10 on the netbook

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  16. Well, the Poulsbo driver installation is pretty easy under Ubuntu now... yet the driver is not fully functional. 3D effects (Compiz) don't work and Xv neither (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X_video_extension), which means no fullscreen for flash videos, cheese crashes, skype won't work properly, etc.

    Thank you Intel...

    -> Mo

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  17. Where to find Linux driver to start with?

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  18. For anyone who cares: if you do an kernel update in Ubuntu, the GMA500 driver will break. To fix that you will need to start in recovery mode (since X will try to restart every 2 seconds in normal mode). Then you'll need to purge (not just remove) the psb-kernel-source package. Then you'll need to reinstall the poulsbo driver.

    Short:
    sudo apt-get purge psb-kernel-source
    sudo apt-get autoremove
    sudo apt-get install poulsbo-driver-3d

    Thank you Intel... (did I mention that before? ;-)

    -> Mo

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  19. While reinstalling the drivers is one way of resolving this issue, as I mentioned here - http://jeffhoogland.blogspot.com/2010/05/howto-linux-mint-8-on-t91mt.html, a quick recompile of the kernel module also does the trick.

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  20. The poulsbo script appears to be offline, yet your point remains valid... i should read more of your blog ;-]

    -> Mo

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  21. I am getting T91MT after much tinkering with my brain(!) 'cause I already have Lenovo S10-3t which I am very happy with - only thing I missed out is resistive touch screen allowing me to write and take notes (one note/journal) which you can never do with precision with a finger!

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  22. I went with the T91MT, 1 gig, lighter weight, good screen, multi touch, 7 Home Perm. WinJournal & OneNote, Word 2010; skinned the shinny black back; added Blue Dolphin; disabled win glass, hide the task bar. I use this daily for business notes, hand written, Rss Reader, Email, web browsing - Firefox, appointment calendar, mindmap, etc. Love it. Big step up from my old Lifedrive pda and easier to carry around than my HP Pavilion.

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  23. Excellent Review!

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  24. Nice review, how is the touchscreen on the 101mt for notetaking and writting formulas?

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  25. Works fantastic to this end Jordancolburn. As a math student this is 90% of what I use my T101MT for.

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  26. I purchased the T101MT and the expressgate has been pretty useless and I've been going crazy using windows7 StArTeR *shudder*.

    I'm for sure putting Ubuntu on it, but something i was looking into was Android on netbooks...
    what with the touch display i think that it would be a good replacement for that silly splashtop thing.
    Everything i've read thusfar suggests that expressgate is located somewhere in asus.sys

    any ideas?

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  27. Something to add: T101mt has the Intel Atom N450 processor (a stated before) which is 64 bit capable where the T91mt has the Intel Atom Z520 processor which is limited to 32 bit.
    BTW, I'm hopelessly split on my decision between the two. Too close to call!

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  28. Can the T101MT play HD video reasonably well? I'd be getting it with 2GB loaded and probably running more win7 than ubuntu.

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  29. Does 720p just fine like all netbooks, 1080 not so much.

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  30. well, i bought mine in Brasil. It does have BT, wlan, lan, windows 7 home premium latam and mtouch, both on screen and tab
    all from factory.

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  31. I don't really understand the windows 7 starter thing either. Why? Could there possibly be a worse OS? I don't know if they think people in the US buy this for their kids (just because they're a kid, they don't need a functional OS?)...whatever.

    Anyway, I'm a 35 year old kid and purchased the T101 for myself and I actually use mine to do real work. I did have to install linux, works great. Hulu at 360 in full screen is completely fine...not sure why you'd want/need 1080p video on that little screen.

    Thanks for the article.

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  32. Hi, I am clueless regarding computers. If I buy the European version of the T101MT, am I able to use it in the US without having to change anything? I want the thing ready to go, out of the box. I don't want to have to install or upgrade anything. OR...on th T91MT, is the 32 HD good enough? I have a Dell laptop that I can store everything on. The ASUS would just be for surfing, watching videos, that kind of thing.
    Thanks for the article!
    Beth

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  33. Yes - the EU version of the laptop will work fine state side. 32gb of storage is typically enough so long as you are not storing lots of movies locally on the computer (AKA just watching them over the internet is fine).

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  34. I like the keyboard on the 101MT.

    Do you remember Ubuntu LPIA? By using Atom specific compiler flags, you can get a 10/15% CPU efficiency boost. It was a distribution of Ubuntu for netbooks with Atom processors where everything from the kernel to Firefox was optimized at compile time.

    Nod for life. Down with GDI.

    - Jon

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  35. Just a couple of quick points. I've read a lot of reviews about the Asus Eee T series netvertibles and many of them mention a non-multi-touch Windows 7 Starter. I've bought and set up more than half a dozen T101's (and still use one of them - using it now). Not one of them had Starter Edition and all of them were multi-touch (on the screen AND the trackpad) out-of-the-box with no upgrades required. I also still own and use a T91 which I got the moment they became available - it is likewise multi-touch on the screen AND the trackpad. The T101 is faster and supposedly has better graphics and yet Microsoft's Surface Lagoon (the multi-touch screensaver featuring fish which scatter when you "run your fingers through the water") doesn't run on any of the T101's I've set up and yet runs on all the T91's I've used. I love these machines. Having said that, I only recently came across a T101 which has no Bluetooth (every other Eee T series I've used has Bluetooth), and another which has a dual-core N570 (all the others use an N450).

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  36. Richard are you in the UK/Outside the US? If so I believe those modules do come with the higher version of Win7

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