The Transformer 3 Pro is one of the new Asus machines launched during Computex 2016 and which is only arriving in UK now. Most observers will not fail to notice that this Windows 10 hybrid looks strangely like … Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4. The principle is the same: a tablet on one side, a keyboard on the other, we put the two pieces together and everything turns into a laptop. Positioned on the top of the range, the Transformer 3 Pro T303UA is available in several versions.
For our reviews, Asus sent us a model which is not the most powerful in the range … and which will not be sold as is. The first T303UA on approach are announced from 1000 euros. The version closest to the one we reviewed, with 16 GB of memory instead of 8 GB, will be sold for 1,800 euros and is already in pre-order on Amazon for example.
Half tablet half laptop with 12.6 inch screen (in 3: 2 format), the Transformer 3 Pro is a hybrid under Windows 10 whose mission is to offer the best of both worlds: a large touch pad for enjoying various contents. and, once associated with its keyboard, move to a more conventional PC position.
As on Microsoft’s slate, in the PC position, the slate stabilizes by means of the integrated foot on the back of the tablet which deploys at will and whose hinges allow the slab to be tilted almost horizontally.
Asus Transformer 3 Pro vs Microsoft Surface Pro 4
Compared to Microsoft’s Surface Pro 4, the Transformer 3 Pro can boast of a larger screen: 12.6 versus 12.3 inches. It is also of better definition: 2880×1920 pixels against 2736×1824 pixels for SP4. These are the first good points in favor of the Transformer.
Add to this that the T303UA’s connectivity is relatively more extensive. Indeed, if the two machines are equipped with a full format USB 3.0 socket, a microSD card reader and a headphone socket combining the microphone input and the stereo output, the Transformer 3 Pro incorporates a full HDMI output format (instead of a mini DisplayPort on the Surface) and has a Thunderbolt 3 compatible USB Type-C socket. This also serves to recharge the machine’s battery. The Transformer also includes a Wi-Fi n / ac module which is also Bluetooth 4.0 compatible. Another very good point for Asus.
On the scale and attached to the height rod, the Transformer 3 Pro and the Microsoft tablet fit in a pocket handkerchief: both weigh the same weight (1.1 kg) are almost as thick (1.3 cm against 1.2 cm ), keyboard included. The advantage, however, remains with Asus and its plug-in power adapter that takes up no space in the bag.
Finally, let’s finish with the pen and the keyboard, provided – unlike the Surface Pro 4. The grip of the first is quite close to that of a model made for paper, made of the same brushed metal alloy as that of the Area. On the other hand, it does not magnetize on either side of the tablet, which is not practical for transport and condemns it to remain in a case or a satchel. Pity !
Able to position itself flat or slightly inclined, the keyboard part offers separate and backlit keys (with variable intensity) which are very pleasant to type. Just below the space bar, the touchpad surface provides a good multi-touch, fully clickable gliding surface.
Correct colors, slightly low brightness
A good hybrid must have a technically up-to-date screen. To the naked eye, the colors are very faithful and our different photos and review videos stand out really well, without artificial or exaggerated tint. So it starts well.
Subject to the probe, the IPS panel offers an average maximum brightness of 320 cd / m2 (we saw better) and a contrast ratio of 879: 1. This allows him to get the mention Pretty good. However, it is objectively a little worse than the screen of the very recent Acer Switch Alpha 12 and, well below the benefits of that of the Surface Pro 4.
In addition, the coating of the slab is really very shiny and it captures all the light reflections. Despite the fact that it is possible to tilt the screen more or less thanks to its foot, the problem is never really corrected.
Power at the expense of endurance
For the configuration of the Transformer 3 Pro, Asus sees it big. No small Core m or similar processors. Here, we’re only talking about next-generation Intel Core i5 or i7 chips to run Windows 10 and all programs. Depending on the configuration chosen, the amount of memory varies between 4 and 16 GB and, finally, on the storage side, Asus offers models equipped with 128, 256 or 512 GB.
Our review unit is equipped with an Intel Core i7-6500U, 8 GB of memory and 512 GB of SSD. With such a mechanism, we do not notice any slowdown problem when launching several applications. There may even be a little too many horses for the uses that we will have to make of the machine (surfing, office automation, video, etc.). It can be felt when the time comes to take the autonomy reviews.
In versatile use, low-light screen and Wi-Fi connected, the Transformer 3 Pro takes less than 3.5 hours! In continuous video playback, screen at most, one hour is saved. This is little. Especially when we compare these results with those of the Acer machine or the Surface Pro 4 that we had in review (certainly equipped with Core i5). which, respectively, last more than 4 hours 30 and 5 hours.
The display of the Windows interface and programs is of course ensured by the graphics controller Intel Graphics HD 520. Note that the latter is a “little player”, especially when it comes to displaying complex 3D scenes. On the other hand, to rotate titles in current 2D or slightly older 3D, it does this … provided you lower the definition of the image and do not push the graphics options too much.
Good point to emphasize, the silence of the tablet is almost religious, both at rest and in full stress phase of the components. At 50 cm from the machine, we only noticed 32.7 dB at the height of the activity! On the mercury side, the back of the Transformer 3 Pro is the element of the slate that heats the most, sometimes reaching almost 39 ° C.
Transforming a hybrid into a player machine
The presence of a Thunderbolt 3 compatible USB Type-C socket allowed us to connect the large external graphics card ROG XG Station 2 from Asus (currently in review) to see if we could transform this little hybrid into a big beast of race.
Inside the station’s rather imposing case, a GeForce GTX 1080 in charge of ensuring the display of the two games reviewed, Tom Clancy’s: The Division and World of Warcraft. Note, we could also have connected an external screen, directly to the video outputs of the card to move the display there, but we used the Transformer screen.
Once the two devices were connected, we just had to install the NVIDIA drivers. The switch between the GTX 1080 and the graphic part of the Transformer is done in the same way as on laptops with Optimus technology.
After a few hours of reviewing, it is clear that this couple works well. On analytical reviews (like Heaven Unigine for example, “Extreme” profile), we go from 4.9 images per second with the integrated controller, to more than 85 fps with the Station. Note however that the loading phases of the games are relatively longer than on a “standard” configuration.
With the graphic settings positioned on “High” or “Ultra”, Division rotates between 35 and 50 images per second in the native definition of the screen. We reduced the number of pixels (1680 by 900 pixels) and the scores go up: between 52 and 60 fps. Clearly, it is beautiful, it is quite fluid but, however, we expected much better!
No doubt the power of the low-power processor does not allow it to take full advantage of the capabilities of the external card. A phenomenon that reminds us of our reviews conducted on the Alienware 13 and the Graphics Amplifier from Dell.
In addition, despite the very good speeds offered by the Thunderbolt 3 (5 GB / s), it should be remembered that the latter is wired – at best – in PCI-Express 4x to one of the parts of the processor. Considering that the graphics card, it sends data via an interface 4 times faster (PCI-Express 16x), the Thunderbolt 3 may have trouble managing everything. Asked about it, some Intel technicians told us that the loss of information was possible, but minimal. According to them, our first explanation (that of the processor which would not be in harmony with the graphic part) would be technically the most valid.