ASUS Transformer Book review: meet ASUS' first detachable Ultrabook

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The Transformer Book is, at its heart, a mashup between a laptop and a tablet (a very big tablet, we might add). So it makes sense that it looks like the lovechild between ASUS' Zenbook Prime Ultrabooks and its various Transformer products. The tablet itself has the same spun-aluminum back as the Infinity tablet, done up in a familiar dark grey. Meanwhile, just like last year's Zenbook laptops, the Asus Keyboard  dock takes on a pale champagne color, which carries over to both the main deck and the back side. Basically, then, it's a two-tone, black-and-white cookie of a notebook, with dark metal blanketing one half and a lighter material covering the bottom. It's an unconventional choice, but it works.


Once we reacquainted ourselves with the familiar design language, we started to realize how heavy this thing is. In total, it clocks in at approximately 4.2 pounds -- considerably more than other 13-inch touch machines -- with the tablet and dock each weighing in at 2.09 pounds.


It might seem odd that the dock weighs as much as the tablet, but consider this: the Asus Keyboard  houses both a 3,200mAh battery and a 500GB hard drive to complement the 128GB SSD inside the tablet. (HP's 13-inch Split x2 hybrid has a similar setup.) Likely because of these added features, the Transformer Book's keyboard accounts for much of the total thickness as well: the two together measure a fairly plump 0.92 inch thick, but the tablet itself is only 0.4 inch. That's not bad at all considering there's a frickin' Core i7 processor inside, along with a fan to help keep it cool.

That said, you'll probably be most impressed with the Transformer Book if you intend to actually use it in tablet mode. As a standalone slate, it weighs considerably less than the 3.3-pound Yoga 13 or the 3.35-pound Dell XPS 12. Relatively speaking, it's more comfortable to use, though it's still a little unwieldy. And as a laptop, the Transformer Book weighs more than either of those machines. A lot more. And you have to wonder if it's worth it. How often are you going to use your 13-inch Ultrabook as a tablet? And is it really that important that your PC take on the same form factor as an iPad or an Android tablet? Both the Yoga 13 and XPS 12 have hands-free tablet modes, and they make room for big keyboards too like the Samsung RF Series RF510 (Touchpad C Shell) Keyboard  . It would seem to us that leaves one, maybe two good reasons to go with the Transformer Book: you want the spare 500GB hard drive, or you like the idea of having a spare battery. Otherwise, there are other form factors that accomplish the same thing as the Transformer Book, albeit with a greater emphasis on the laptop piece.


If you've owned or even played with a Zenbook Prime before, you know what to expect with the Transformer Book: it has basically the same backlit keys as ASUS' earlier offerings (everything after the original UX31, anyway). For some time now, these keyboards have had plastic, not metal, buttons, with a good deal more travel than they used to like the HP DV Series DV2300 Keyboard  . In fact, the company slightly adjusted the key travel this time around, making that the only change over previous models.

Whether ASUS made the buttons deeper or shallower is hard to tell: they feel about the same. All we know is that the Laptop Keyboard  offers more tactile feedback than most ultraportables, and that the buttons are bouncy and well-spaced enough that typos are unlikely (we're sure you can find a way, though). Seriously, when we think back to ASUS' first Ultrabook, where we had to mash the keys to make sure our presses registered, we're reminded of how far the company has come, at least in terms of typing experience. Today, ASUS' keyboards don't call much attention to themselves. And that's a good thing.


Lingering on the keys for a moment, you'll find a few functions built into specific buttons. The space bar, for instance, has a control on the left end that activates the Power4Gear Hybrid application, where you can select different power management profiles. The "C" key doubles a shortcut for ASUS' Splendid Video Technology dashboard, where you change the display settings to "Theater," "Vivid" or some manual configuration. (We left it on the default mode most of the time, because we're boring like that.) The "A" button contains an on / off switch for the ambient light sensor. The "V" key, meanwhile, is where you'll find a shortcut for ASUS' Lifeframe camera app, which has all the photo filters, borders and emoticons you'd expect from a typical notebook webcam. The Function keys, of course, house all your requisite volume and brightness controls. In this case, you need to use the Fn key to activate them; that's either good news or bad news, depending on how much you rely on keyboard shortcuts like the Asus K Series K40IN Keyboard .


ASUS has come a long way with its trackpads too. The one here, which uses ASUS' own drivers, isn't half-bad. We enjoyed smooth, controlled pinch-to-zooming in IE10, and didn't even have to apply much pressure with our fingers. Two-finger scrolls work well too. Even single-finger tracking is precise, which might be the number one thing we complain about when we test out laptop touchpads. If anything, the touch button is a bit stiff, but that's easy to let slide compared to some of the other issues we're used to.

Published on Laptop accessories

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