Monday, 10 February 2014

Asus Transformer Book Trio

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With PC sales slipping at what seems an ever-increasing rate while tablet sales blossom like springtime, it's clear that a good number of users are discovering they can do all their computing on their iPads, Google Nexus 7 tablets, or even their big-screen smartphones.

But for many of us, the need for a good physical keyboard and Windows programs like Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop keep us tethered to a traditional laptop. Even if we wanted to opt for a Windows tablet with a keyboard, the rather lackluster (though improving) selection of tablet apps available for Windows 8 would have us envious of our friends with Android or iOS devices.

That's where Asus' latest convertible comes in. The Transformer Book Trio essentially takes an 11.6-inch Windows detachable, like the larger Transformer Book TX300CA priced at Rs.98,099, and puts the guts of an Android tablet behind the screen and the innards of a Windows laptop in the base. When the two pieces are docked together, you have a laptop that can run either Windows or Android, switching between the two with the press of a button on the function-key row. Remove the display, and it's an Android tablet. You can even use the two pieces simultaneously, plugging a monitor into the keyboard base and using it as a Windows desktop. Thus, the "Trio" concept: Windows laptop, Windows desktop, and Android tablet in one.

Design and specs

The Trio sports a sharp 11.6-inch IPS display (1920 x 1080) that impresses with vibrant colours and deep blacks, which look particularly alluring when the tablet's running in Android mode.

We were a little less enamoured with the black bezel surrounding the screen, which is a little too chunky for our tastes. It also picks up a fair few fingerprints, as would be expected on a reflective display of this type, but they were easy enough to wipe off.

As a tablet, the Transformer Book Trio is an 11.6-inch tablet that's powered by a dual-core Atom Z2560 CPU clocked at 1.6GHz. At 1.5lbs, it's light to hold, coming in fractionally heavier than Apple's iPad 2 (1.33lbs).

Unfortunately, that ultra level of portability stops in its tracks once the keyboard dock is attached, which isn't surprising as it houses the Trio's internal grunt. If you were to prise it open, you would discover a fourth-generation Intel Core i5 Haswell processor, a 64GB SSD, 4GB of RAM and a 500GB HDD.

Connecting the dock makes the device thicker and heavier, bulking up from 9.7mm at its thickest point to 13mm and going from 1.54lbs to 2.2lbs, putting it on a par with Apple's 11-inch MacBook Air (2.38lbs). It also converts it into a proper laptop.

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Ports and features

The Transformer Book Trio offers a multitude of ports. The tablet part of the device contains a micro-USB port, a microSD card slot and an audio jack.

The docking station offers one mini DisplayPort, two USB 3.0 ports (one of which is a USB charger), one micro-HDMI 1.4 port with 1080p support and an audio jack.

The Transformer Book Trio features a rear 5-megapixel snapper with auto-focus (which is still sadly lacking from Microsoft's Surface Pro 2) and 1080p full HD video recording. At the front is a 720p HD camera. It can go for up to 13 hours on a single charge in Android mode, according to Asus, which lowers to five hours when used as a laptop in Windows mode. Other features include an accelerometer, ambient light sensor, gyroscope and e-compass.

Keyboard and dock

The Asus Transformer Book Trio's chiclet keyboard isn't the best or worst we've ever used, meaning it isn't likely to win any awards in this category. There's decent spacing between the keys themselves, but they lack travel and feel a little rigid to type on.

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The PC base station packs in enough grunt to easily manage most menial tasks and then some. Here’s a breakdown of all the tests that we ran.
The Android tablet is equally powerful as well and easily manages to run most apps and games with ease. The UI is smooth and devoid of any lag, despite the skin. The Full HD display is great when using it in tablet mode as it makes video consumption a real treat. In terms of numbers, the tablet portion of the Trio is about as powerful as a Samsung Galaxy S3 and according to Quadrant, is quite a bit faster than Asus’s earlier Transformer Prime tablet.

Battery Life

The base station is fitted with a 33Wh battery, which lasted for 2-hours and 10-min on Battery Eater Pro. In real world usage, you should be able to squeeze out around 4-5 hours of usage time. The tablet is fitted with a 19Wh battery, which lasted for about 7-hours on video playback. Overall, the battery life for the PC station is average at best whereas the tablet does fare a bit better.

The Transformer Book Trio is a very compelling proposition if you’re hunting for a workhorse hybrid PC. With ability to use the notebook as a Windows 8 PC and the screen as an Android tablet – at the same time; is something that hasn’t been done before. This alone makes the Trio one of the best hybrids in the market right now. If we have to nit-pick then the battery life of the base station could have been better, the trackpad buttons are unusable and a backlit keyboard would have been a neat addition at this price. If you don’t fancy the detachable design then the Lenovo Ideapad Yoga 13 is another well spec’ed hybrid at this price.