We have been talking about convertibles, hybrids and 2-in-ones for some time now. But can one device really be an Android tablet as well as a Windows 8 notebook and desktop PC at the same. That is exactly what the Asus Transformer Book Trio claims to be capable of. While this device is exactly a year old, it is only recently that the it has become available in India. We test this all-rounder to see if a multi-purpose computer is really practical.
Design: The Transformer Book Trio looks like any 11-inch notebook and weighs much more than most of them. Open up the clamshell and you will realise that this is no ordinary notebook and the hinge stands up a bit. Just under screen is a buttons that unlocks the screen, or the tablet to be precise, from the keyboard or the Windows 8 computer. The device as a whole reminded me of a lot of other notebooks from Asus. It has two USB ports and a micro-HDMI port. The power button is a part of the keyboard. But you pull the tablet out and things become anything but the ordinary. This one has another power buttons on the side and a volume button which is almost of the back flap. On its own the tablet is not very heavy and can be handled easily despite its large size. There are micro-SD and micro-USB slots. The docking mechanism is really smooth and easy, and that is a big plus considering most of the other hybrids have struggled with this aspect.
The Android Tablet: The 11.6-inch 16:9 IPS Full HD touchscreen of the device can pull out and become a standalone Android Jelly Bean 4.2 tablet. Despite the size, the tablet is easy to handle. But this is not the sort of size at which you can carry it all over the place. The smooth brushed metal finish at the back could also put you at a disadvantage. It works better when you are in the home or office, safely seated.
However, the tablet does not leave scope for other major complaints as it performs reasonably well thanks to a 1.6Ghz Intel Atom processor. The interface is easy to navigate and the Full HD screen adds to the entire app experience. Multi-tasking works well, and thankfully we did not feel the device heating up when stressed. The benchmarks placed it just about the Samsung Galaxy S4, which is quite good. However, that might not suffice for serious work.
The tablet side has just 16GB storage, out of which the system takes up close to 5GB. So, you better use a large micro-SD cards to store your media and save the apps.
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The Notebook: When the tablet is docked on to the keyboard it work as both an Android tablet, with the added luxury of a keyboard, or a Windows 8 notebook with a touchscreen. The latter is what you will need to use for more professional stuff, at least those that require you to be within a secure Microsoft environment.
The keyboard is full size and the trackpad is smooth. So you will have no complaints of this front. On the top row is a Android buttons that lets you switch back in a few seconds. There is also a start button for you to come back to the homescreen and the 1080p will only add to the utility on this front.
However, the switchover is not always smooth. I did this once with a video playing on the Android YouTube app. I was on the Windows 8 homescreen in ajiffy, but could still hear the audio play in the backdrop. This is because the Windows OS is running from the keyboard side and is powered by a Intel Core i7 processor. It just hijacks the screen and does not switch off the Android process while doing so. This can be beneficial too, like listening to music from an Android app while you slog away on an Excel sheet. But this split personality also means that the Windows device is many times more powerful that its Android appendage. What you can’t do there, will be completed here with ease. You should be able to work on this one for over 8 hours on a full charge.
The Desktop: This is one part of the Trio that I wasn’t all that sure about as it is certainly not a use case scenario for me. Since this Windows 8 PC is confined to the keybaord side of this device, you can use it to power any screen and make a computer out of it provided it support HDMI. Technically, in office the powerful Intel Core i7 processor can power a 25-inch monitor for you to shift work to, instead of straining your eyes on a small 11-inch screen. I tried this on a 40-inch Tv and it worked smoothly. Buy I didn’t have anything much to do after that.
Negatives: For me the biggest negative of the Trio is its weight. For a device that adds to the mobility of its user, a total weight of 1.7-kg is unacceptable these days. I don’t think a lot of users would want to take out just the tablet, which thankfully weighs just 0.7 kg. The good thing here is that you can charge just the tablet without the keyboard dock in case you want to use the just the Android.
The other issues I had was with the switchover, when the Android device failed to recognise that the Windows 8 side was working too. This often had weird implications.
One big negative is the price tag of Rs 85,900 that will ensure that this remains an upper management device and not something for the masses.
Verdict: The Asus Transformer Book Trio comes across as an extremely powerful and versatile device that tries to overcome the weaknesses of different form factors by combining three of them in one. This is still far away from being a mass device due to its price, but gives a clear picture of what the future holds for us. Buy the Trio if you will use all of its capabilities, otherwise you will just be wasting money.