- Impressive performance
- Sharp, colourful screen
- Keyboard cover
- Expandable graphics
- Short battery life
Asus Transformer 3 Pro review: The latest Transformer tablet from Asus is a serious Surface Pro and iPad Pro rival, offering a smooth Windows 10 experience, support for dedicated GPUs and a quick and painless conversion into laptop form using a separate keyboard cover dock. Here’s our full Transformer 3 Pro review.
We’ve always been fans of the Asus Transformer range, which offers impressive flexibility for travelling professionals. One moment it’s a tablet, allowing you to kick back with an HD movie on the train, while a quick conversion turns it into a laptop for smashing out that witty internal newsletter. Everything a hard-working business person needs to survive.
The Asus Transformer 3 Pro isn’t just a tablet-cum-laptop, however. This fresh new Transformer tab boasts some impressive specs and comes bundled with a stylus pen, making it an instant rival to the Microsoft Surface Pro 4 and Apple’s iPad Pro. And with support for connecting a dedicated graphics card, even hardcore gamers can get in on the action.
Asus Transformer 3 Pro review: Design and ports
The Transformer 3 Pro immediately looks and feels like a Surface Pro tablet, from the moment you pull it out of the box. This 12.6-inch beast weighs close to a kilo but isn’t too chunky, considering the specs. Of course, one-handed use isn’t too comfortable unless you carefully balance the tablet on your forearm, and you’re better off finding a solid surface to rest on.
Rest assured the Transformer is quite a rugged device, with that metal alloy surfacing proving resistant to scratches and other scuffs. You’ll notice some flex when you apply a bit of pressure, but nothing troublesome.
Around the back of the Transformer 3 Pro there’s a flip-out kickstand which mimics the Surface Pro’s stand. You can ease it out to pretty much any angle and the hinge keeps it locked into place, even when you’re prodding the touchscreen.
You also get some impressive connectivity. On the right edge of the tablet there’s a full-sized USB port, a Type-C micro USB port (for charging the Transformer 3 Pro as well as data transfer) and a full-sized HDMI port. Over on the left edge there’s an SD memory card slot and up top you’ll find the air vents, which blast warm air when the tablet is working hard.
Asus Transformer 3 Pro review: Screen and media
Whether you’re enjoying a bit of 4K Netflix streaming or beavering away on some intensive media editing app, the Transformer 3 Pro’s gorgeous 12.6-inch screen is a definite highlight.
The 2880×1920 resolution makes this almost a match for the iPad Pro 12.9, as far as image sharpness is concerned. Ultra HD video looks bloody lovely, especially as colours are pleasingly rich and eye-catching. Viewing angles are as wide as you like and we had no trouble using the Transformer 3 Pro outside, with the screen brightness cranked up to max.
You get a pair of stereo Harman Kardon speakers, positioned one either side of the screen, and they’re certainly loud enough to drown out any kind of background noise or fill a small room with sound. On top volume you’ll notice some pretty clear distortion, while there’s next to no bass when playing music. But for enjoying a movie in your hotel room while you gorge on drive-through Krispy Kremes, this will do the job just as well as the iPad Pro’s mighty quad-speaker setup.
Asus Transformer 3 Pro review: Stylus and cover keyboard
The Transformer 3 Pro’s cover keyboard is a quick and convenient way of turning the device into a makeshift laptop, and it certainly does the job.
You instantly pair the keyboard and the Transformer simply by snapping them together. The magnetic dock on the bottom edge of the tablet securely holds the keyboard and keeps it locked in place, until you eventually pull them apart again. And even more magnets help to raise the keyboard at an angle when typing, giving a comfortable laptop-style experience.
The board itself is a good size, so the keys aren’t crammed together or anything. They have a decent travel when hit, unlike the flat keys of the Surface tablet, although we did notice some obvious flex around the centre of the board. It doesn’t impact the typing experience, but it doesn’t scream ‘quality’ either. Of course, given the thin nature of the cover keyboard, it’s perfectly acceptable.
When not in use, the keyboard simply folds up over your tablet’s screen and keeps it protected. Bonus.
The chunky, hefty stylus that comes packaged with the Transformer 3 Pro will satisfy anyone who wants to scribble on the go. It’s perfect for basic editing, complete with two clickable side-mounted buttons. Certainly better than stabbing the screen with your podgy, donut jam-smeared fingers.
Asus Transformer 3 Pro review: Features
Windows 10 is the OS of choice here and of course you get a ton of crapware installed on top, as standard. The first time you start the Transformer 3 Pro, you’ll spend a fair bit of time closing pop-up windows asking you to register online, accept terms and conditions and plenty more besides. If you’re like us, you’ll also spend some time uninstalling all that crap so you aren’t constantly bugged in the future.
We’ve had more than our fair share of WIndows 10 issues in the past but none of them reared their ugly mugs while using the Transformer 3 Pro thankfully. Well, nothing beyond the usual non-stop updates, at least.
You get a mighty 256 or 512GB of storage space built in, depending on which model you choose – which can be quickly expanded via the memory card slot, of course. That means plenty of room for downloading your favourite software and carrying around a massive media collection.
On top of that you also get a 2-megapixel front-facing camera for video chats, or simply capturing the odd selfie. It’s a perfectly respectable webcam, while the 13-megapixel rear-mounted camera is also pretty decent for a tablet snapper. We’re not sure why that one exists exactly, but there you go.
Asus Transformer 3 Pro review: Performance and battery life
When you come to buy your shiny new Transformer 3 Pro, you’ve got a choice of tablet-based Intel Core i5 and i7 chips, backed by up to 8GB of RAM. We tested the Intel Core i7-6500U version with 8GB RAM and it was certainly powerful enough to run all of our software without a struggle.
In fact, we installed some Steam games on it from the past few years and tested them out and the results were impressive. Outlast runs with a perfect frame rate on medium graphics settings, and is still playable on maximum settings, although a little choppy. The likes of Hell Yeah and other fast-paced titles also run like a dream.
And if you really want to get stuck into some of the latest games, you can plug in a dedicated GPU using Asus’ graphics dock with Thunderbolt 3 interface. Cards up to the Nvidia GTX 980 are supported by the Transformer 3 Pro, although we didn’t get the chance to check this feature.
One slightly troublesome feature of our review sample was the loud fan which kept powering up to blast hot air out of the device. However, Asus has assured us that this is simply an issue with our sample, and shouldn’t be evident in retail samples.
Battery life isn’t particularly great, offering around three to four hours of mixed use per charge. You’ll want to carry the chunky adapter with you when you’re away all day.
Asus Transformer 3 Pro review: Verdict
The Asus Transformer 3 Pro is a powerful and portable Windows device that’s worthy competition for the Surface Pro 4 and other business tablets. Gamers will be particularly well served by the expandable graphics feature, although the Transformer packs a hefty price tag like its Microsoft rival.
This review was written entirely on the Transformer 3 Pro, using the Asus Cover Keyboard.
|Processor||Intel Core i5/i7 6th Gen|
|Memory||Up to 8GB|
|Bonus features||Expandable dedicated graphics|