Asus Transformer Book Trio review

7

Daniel Bader

March 1, 2014 3:11pm

In the computing word, the term “hybrid” is often synonymous with “compromise” or “expense”. In the case of the Asus Transformer Book Trio, neither applies: it is a fully-capable computer with separate hardware for both an Android tablet and a Windows laptop/desktop. At $949, it’s also fairly inexpensive for the hardware you get.

While the device doesn’t fit into MobileSyrup’s usual purview, it was so interesting, we had to find a way to look at it — and we’re glad we did!

At its core, the Asus Transformer Book Trio is two separate products fused together. The “laptop” component sports an Intel Haswell-based Core i7 processor with integrated HD 4400 graphics, 4GB of DDR3 RAM, a 500GB hard drive, a 33Whr battery, 1x mini DisplayPort, 2x USB 3.0 port, 1x Micro-HDMI 1.4, WiFi-AC WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0. Of course, by default, it runs Windows 8 (upgradeable to 8.1 upon first boot).

The “tablet” portion is what passes for a typical Android tablet these days: a 1.6Ghz dual-core Atom SoC from the Bay Trail family, 2GB of DDR2 RAM, 16GB of internal storage, a 5MP rear camera, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean and a 19Whr battery.

Screenshot 2014-02-26 15.48.33

The devices share a single 11.6-inch 1920×1200 pixel IPS display, which actually houses the Android hardware within. This means the Windows portion won’t function unless the screen is docked, or an external display is connected via the mini DisplayPort.

The Android portion, on the other hand, can take advantage of the included keyboard dock (and its extra battery) for typing, but works independently.

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The whole thing screams “too much of a good thing,” but in reality they cohere quite well. There is a single button on the keyboard to switch between Android and Windows mode, and the transition is almost instantaneous, owed to the fact that the former is not emulated, but run natively on separate hardware.

When in Android mode and docked, for example, the PC hardware hibernates so as to use as little battery as possible.

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I used the Android tablet, undocked, far more than Windows laptop, docked, but both presented themselves extremely well. This is in large part due to the excellent 11.6-inch display, which sports fantastic viewing angles, excellent brightness, and little to no backlight bleeding.

Indeed, this is one of Asus’ best screens to date, and its 10-point multitouch was fast and responsive.

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The main issue with the Trio is that it will likely never be bought as an Android tablet alone: at 11.6-inches it is far too big, and at $949 it is far too expensive.

Docked together, the Trio is a hefty 3.7lbs; on its own, the tablet is under half that amount, but still awkward due to the large screen size. The average customer is going to see the Android tablet as a bonus addition, not a requirement. So it would stand that the Trio has to be a consummate Windows laptop — and for the most part it is.

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The keyboard is shallow and relatively quiet, but lacks the high-quality feel of a Lenovo or Apple laptop; the trackpad is good for a Windows PC — responsive and accurate — but, again, lacks the versatility of a MacBook Air.

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Finally, the hinge that positions the screen when the tablet portion is docked is the Trio’s biggest weakness; it is both heavy and immobile, and easily sways when knocked even slightly.

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The Asus Transformer Book Trio includes Android as more than an afterthought, but it is certainly not the main attraction here. Rather, it’s a value-add in a market where Android is increasingly commoditized, and presented with a bevy of choices that ultimately leaves them longing for another platform. The Trio certainly fills the Windows Store app gap by giving one-touch access to the Google Play Store, and a great way to type/game/interact with them.

It’s not going to appeal to everyone, but it’s a great choice for someone who doesn’t want to carry two specialized devices.

Recommended with caveats

 

7

Final Score

  • kph

    Is the Android file system accessible from the Windows side, and vice versa? Or do they not talk to each other at all? It would be great if you could be working on something in Windows and then seamlessly be able to access it from the Android side and take it mobile. I know using the cloud would accomplish this, but sharing a hard drive would make it even better in my opinion.

  • Theo

    When / where will it be available in Canada?

  • AReid

    Yikes! $949+tax.

    • J-Ro

      For that, I would get a Surface Pro 2.

  • Stuntman06

    This is something I am really interested in. I don’t need a new PC yet, but perhaps next year.

  • SV650

    Not sure I get this. While technologically kinda ‘neat’, other than the larger HDD, how is this an improvement over a Microsoft Surface? At least with the Surface one would not be switching between two operating systems each time the screen is attached or detached.

    • Noah Roesler

      Isn’t having Android and Windows better then just having Windows?

    • SV650

      What does Android bring to the mix not already offered on the Windows platform? Why go through the process of moving data back and forth, if made unnecessary by using a single comprehensive operating system?

      I understand using the tool appropriate for the job, and the Android OS has made great inroads to the mobile / handheld market, I am having difficult grasping why one would need two tablet operating systems effectively used in parallel.

    • Noah Roesler

      Why do people get Macs and Windows PC’s? Android has a lot of stuff windows does not. It goes the other way around too.
      Another question, why don’t people just get Windows phone for their Windows computer, iPhone for their Apple Computer and Android for their Linux computer?

    • SV650

      However, we’re not discussing phones here; this device is a laptop & rather large tablet. I already use a Windows tablet (one with the flip around screen) and except for weight, find little need to have multiple devices and manage more than one operating system. I do not use an Android device, so can not compare the breadth of the operating system and applications ecosystem compared to Windows, which is why I asked my still unanswered question.

      On your second question, I expect once Microsoft gets Windows 8, 9 or 10 figured out so it is palatable to consumers, enterprise will likely pick up more Windows Phones, as the interaction between the devices will (should) be smoother. If the quality of Windows Phone devices improves as well, there may be even greater uptake. It is likely many if not most owners of Macs have iPhones, and almost no one runs a Linux box, so no valid comparison to Android users is really possible. Android is also poorly tied to Linux on the desktop, and is far more integrated with the Google ecosystem than Linux, which is what Google wants – to bring folks to their home base.

      As I said earlier, I understand the convenience of having an Android phone, and a Windows computer; I can see utility in a small hand-held Android tablet and a Windows computer, due in large part to the portability of a mid-size tablet. However, there remain challenges of making the two ‘talk’ to each other. As the size and weight of the Android tablet approach that of a fully scaled Windows device, I am having difficulty seeing the utility of needing to switch OS when I wish to use the device in tablet mode versus just taking the device off the desk and continuing to use the applications I had open, and am familiar with.

      I’d still like to learn of tools available on the Android tablet platform which do not have a parallel on the Windows platform.

    • Noah Roesler

      Yeah it’s true that if they shared data that would be super useful. It would be cool if you could have the tablet run Windows and Android.

      Don’t the two price have their own data storages? So you would need to copy everything twice to store it on both parts?

    • 4u2nvinmtl

      The big difference is that one is based on open source the other isn’t. Sure you can dual but Linux but it’s not the same as Android at all. Off the top of my head I would use the Android part to play new games I read about in while surfing in windows. Smooth easy and no need to look for another device.

  • Balls O’Steele

    Id rather get a chrome book for $350 and avoid the windows 8 tax

  • Handheld Addict

    Great review. I like that you’ve expanded a bit to tech like this. Keep it up.

    After watching the video, I noticed a dent in the back of the tablet when you turned it around.