Hey, how’s it going, guys? This is Dave 2D and this is the Asus Transformer 3 Pro. Now, it looks very similar to the Surface lineup and particularly the Surface Pro 4 It’s obviously been inspired by that lineup, but this is one big difference.
This device has a Thunderbolt 3 port so it allows external GPU connections. Now, as of right now, this is the only tablet that allows that. Future Surface products and future tablets might allow it, but right now, this is the only one. In terms of its build, it feels pretty similar to the Surface Pro 4.
Glass upfront, magnesium shell, The kickstand on the back can be adjusted to any position. It’s stiff. It will hold its position, but I’m not sure about long-term durability.
The mechanism looks like it works through friction between two metal parts and I don’t know if it will wear down over time, but it’s been working great for the past couple of months so, yeah, I think it should be okay. Using it as a tablet, it feels pretty comfortable to use. It’s a different shape from the Surface products – those kind of have a bevel on the edge. This doesn’t have that. It’s a different feel, but it’s still very comfortable to use. Now, I prefer to using these 2-in-1 devices with the detachable keyboards, I find that…
I mean there are devices that have the flip-around keyboards, like the Yoga products and the new XPS 13. I mean this is just personal preference, but I like being able to use my tablet one hand without feeling the bottom of the keyboard underneath. I like that.
Some people are going to be different. It’s just a matter of personal perference. Port selection on tablets is never amazing. On one side you have your standard Micro-SD slot and a volume rocker And on the other side, we have USB 3, HDMI port and that Thunderbolt 3 port. This model here is $1,600 USD and includes a stylus and the attachable keyboard.
The Surface Pro 4 has a slightly stronger connection – I think with the magnets are stronger, but this is still pretty secure. The keyboard is backlit. It has a great layout, like, I wouldn’t change a thing on it considering the smaller real- estate it has to work with. You can have it go flat or you can have it tilted on an angle.
Both are comfortable to use. It’s actually really confortable to use on your lap as well. Everything feels solid. The typing experience is good – not amazing. Decent key-travel, but the keys are a little softer or just spongier that I’d like it to be. And when you close it, there’s no magnets on the other end to keep it closed like on Surface products.
The track-pad can be better. It uses Windows precision drivers so I had high hopes. It’s glass and the texture is good, but the cursor jumps around sometimes. Not often, but enough for it to be a little bit annoying. I don’t think it’s hardware – I think a software update would fix it but as of right now, in early January 2017, it’s still an issue.
The stylus feels really similar, if not identical to the stylus for Surface products. It doesn’t attach magnetically, though, so you’ve got to bring it around with you like a regular pen. The screen is 12.6″, 2880X1920 – pretty high res. There’s letter boxing in most videos, because of the aspect ratio.
That’s just the nature of tablet screens. It has very good color gamut and color accuracy out of the box. It’s not as bright as I feel like it could be or should be. I mean, it’s bright for a laptop, but because it’s a tablet as well, I kind of feel that in some environments, like if you’re outdoors, it can feel a little dim. It’s running a Skylake CPU.
You can get it in either an i5 or an i7, both with Intel HD 520 graphics 16GB of RAM and solid-state drives. The 512GB drive in my unit isn’t particularly fast. I think it’s a SATA drive, but I have seen units with newer manufacturing dates that had NVMe drives in them. You can’t upgrade the RAM or the drive. I mean, you can configure it at purchase but you can’t open it up and upgrade it yourself. Performance for regular use is good.
It feels pretty snappy, particularly with the i7. Now, if you stress this thing hard, like on benchmarks, or if you want to edit videos, there is noticeable CPU throttling, and gaming performance on the integrated HD 520 isn’t that good. But when you connect it to an external GPU using the Thunderbolt 3 port, that is where this thing shines.
So, if you’re not familiar with an external GPU, it’s a box, and you basically stick a desktop-grade GPU in there so anything from NVIDIA and AMD, and then you get desktop GPU capabilities in your device. So, the Asus Transformer 3 Pro was originally designed to work with the ASUS XG Station 2. That’s not out, yet. It will be soon, but in the meantime, it actually works quite well with the Razer core. You’ve got to install some Thunderbolt 3 drivers and you need to get some software to run the whole Razer Synapse thing, but, it works.
Depending on the card you put in here, you can get some amazing performance. It’s a pretty standard performance drop – around 10% to 15% less than a desktop because of the Thunderbolt 3 bandwith limitations, but it’s still good. Remember, though – that performance drop – that 10% to 15% number is only if you’re using an external monitor.
If you don’t want to use a monitor and you want to pipe it back to the display on the Transformer 3 Pro, you’ll lose even more performance. We’re looking at 20% to 25%. And, if you’re curious, that Thunderbolt 3 cable will power and charge the tablet, so it’s a pretty sweet setup.
Something like Overwatch doesn’t have great performance on the integrated HD 520, but I connected a GTX 1080 and you can get some ridiculously good frame rates. One thing to keep in mind: this is a 2-core CPU. There’s plenty of games that will run great on a 2-core CPU, but there are games that are more CPU-dependent that would do better on a quad-core.
So you’ve got to research your game if you want specific benchmarks. Now, in terms of a GPU recommendation, because this is a 2-core CPU and because it doesn’t get to clock full speed because of the CPU throttling, I’d recommend maybe a GTX 1060 or even a GTX 980 if, you know, your budget is a little bit lower. But you don’t want to just spend money on a card that you can’t really make proper use of. VR also had problems working. I tried connecting an HTC Vive – had issues.
I’m not sure if it’s like because like a port limitations – there is only one USB port on the tablet. The keyboard is actually not bad for gaming. It’s kind of strange because it’s not even a real keyboard. It’s a keyboard cover. I mean it’s not going to cut it for a 400 APM Starcraft player, but it’s a very usable keyboard for games.
There’s an exhaust up top. It doesn’t interfere when you’re playing games, but if you’re using some more demanding applications, while you’re holding it in Portrait as a tablet, it gets pretty warm up there. The fans don’t spin when it’s idle, but when it kicks in, it’s audible. It’s not super annoying or super loud or anything, but you’ll know when it’s on. Speakers are up front – Harman Kardon-branded, but they’re very average-sounding. They don’t get too loud and the bass is pretty weak.
The front webcam is 1080p and it has infrared, so it supports Windows Hello for login, which is pretty cool. The back camera is 13MP. It doesn’t look great, but I doubt many people are going to use this anyways so, whatever. Battery life on this thing is relatively short.
It’s a 39WA battery. Normal use – like, doing work – we’re getting around 5 hours of life with the screen at 250 nits. Watching movies, you’ll get around 3.5 hours, which is enough to finish most movies, but for a tablet, the battery life is definitely on the lower end of the spectrum. Now, overall, I really like this setup.
I don’t think that this particular model, like the Transformer 3 Pro, is the perfect version of this, particularly the battery life, but this is the only one you could do it on right now. I love the fact that it’s a tablet when you want it to be. You can connect a keyboard when you want to type or just go ham on a keyboard. You have an external GPU if you want to play games. It’s a super modular system. I think this is a really good direction for mobile computing.