ASUS has just unveiled a line of new Transformer 2-in-1 PCs that look suspiciously like a certain product from Microsoft. With their touchscreens, kickstands and portable keyboards, they do remind us a lot of, you guessed it, the Surface tablets. Of the new announcements, the Transformer 3 Pro is the most advanced of the lot, the Transformer 3 sits somewhere in the middle, and the Mini is the lightest (not to mention cutest).
Both the Transformer 3 Pro and the Transformer 3 have a 12.6-inch display with 2,880 x 1,920 resolution, 275-ppi pixel density and wide viewing angles. There are other similarities as well: Both feature USB Type-C and Thunderbolt 3 connections, Harmon Kardon speakers, and USB 3.0 and HDMI ports. As you might expect, both 2-in-1s are also compatible with ASUS accessories such as the Pen, a Universal Dock, an AudioPod (a quad speaker with surround sound) and the ROG XG Station 2, a graphics dock that gives the humble tablet PC the power of a desktop computer (and it's VR-ready, to boot!). Both tablets are available in Icicle Gold as well as Glacier Gray.
Of the two, the Transformer 3 Pro is the heftier one at 8.35mm thick. Its kickstand has a "stepless hinge" that lets you set the device at any viewing angle up to 170 degrees. The 3 Pro also comes with a Cover Keyboard that's backlit and offers "laptop-grade 1.4mm key travel," which ASUS says will provide a typing experience similar to that of a normal-sized notebook. Under the hood, it boasts an Intel Core i7 processor and up to a 1TB PCIe SSD and 16GB of 2133MHz RAM. Rounding out the list, it also has a 13-megapixel rear camera plus a front-facing one as well. The Transformer 3 Pro uses its camera for facial recognition thanks to Windows Hello.
After a brief hands-on time with the 3 Pro, I can see why this is being billed as the more "professional" of ASUS' new 2-in-1 PCs. It has a really sharp design and its all-metal chassis gives it a polished look. The keyboard snaps on magnetically and its chiclet keys felt pretty good when touch-typing at my usual rapid clip. I'm also a big fan of that "stepless" Smart Hinge, which felt sturdy at almost every angle I could tried it in.
While the Transformer 3 has the same display size as the Transformer 3 Pro, the 3 is thinner and lighter with a thickness and weight of 6.9mm and 695 grams respectively. The Transformer 3 features a seventh-generation Intel Core processor plus up to 512GB SSD and up to 8GB of RAM. Unlike the Transformer 3 Pro, the Transformer 3 has a built-in fingerprint reader on the side. It ships with a Transformer Sleeve Keyboard, also with 1.4mm of key travel and is available in the same four colors as the Cover Keyboard (Stone, Charcoal, Taupe and Amber).
The 3 doesn't have a kickstand on its own -- in fact, it looks like a regular ol' tablet without the keyboard. If the Transformer 3 Pro is a Surface clone, the 3 is more of an iPad. That aforementioned Sleeve Keyboard essentially acts as the Transformer 3's display stand.
It works much the same way as the Smart Covers for the iPad, in that it only has two positions; there's no stepless Smart Hinge here. Still, aside from that, its keys have the same clicky feel as the Pro 3's Cover Keyboard. I was pleasantly surprised by this, as I was expecting it to have squishy keys like the Surface's Touch Cover.
If you think both of these tablets are just too big for your tastes, ASUS also offers the Transformer Mini. It has a 10.1-inch display, is 8.2mm thin and weighs 790 grams with the keyboard attached and 530 grams without. Like the Transformer Pro 3, it also has an integrated kickstand with that stepless smart hinge design that lets you view it at any angle you like. It too has a built-in fingerprint reader, though it's located on the rear instead of the side.
The keyboard is a little smaller with 1.5mm key travel but it does have an integrated palm rest like the others. I found it a little less intuitive to type using the smaller keyboard, with my fingers landing on the wrong key every so often. My guess is that I would probably figure it out over time, but I'll have to try it for a few days to see. The upside is that there's a keyboard option for the Mini that has a little loop for the aforementioned Pen, so if you tire of typing, you'll have easy reach for that instead.
Other features include a ZenSync smartphone integration that lets you sync up your text messages much in the same way you can with iOS and OS X El Capitan. The Transformer Mini is powered by a quad-core Intel Atom X5 processor and promises up to 11 hours of battery life. The Transformer Mini and keyboard will ship in a variety of different colors such as Quartz Gray, Pearl White, Amber, Mint Green and Icicle Gold.
Pricing for the ASUS Transformer 3 Pro starts at $999 while the Transformer 3 will start at $799. The Transformer Mini will start at around $349. No word on availability just yet, but we'll update you when we know.
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