Asus has a lot of offbeat and unthinkable designs to its credit, especially for their Android tablets. Remember the Eee Pad Slider and Transformer Prime? Such unique designs present a new way to use devices and take user experience to a new level. Likewise, the Asus Transformer AiO is an all-in-one PC with a twist—something you’d never expect from one! Here’s what it’s all about.
An all-in-one PC with a detachable display
Design and features
The Asus Transformer AiO sports a detachable display, which is actually an Android tablet—a colossal 18.4-inch one! Obviously it’s not meant for the road (unless you want to freak out people around you), but you have a tablet with plenty of real estate.
The PC Station houses all the core hardware, wireless adapters and stereo speakers
The Transformer AiO comprises two units, the detachable display and the PC Station, as Asus calls it. The PC Station is equivalent to the box of a desktop PC, which packs all the necessary hardware. Packed under the hood are Intel Core i3-3220 processor (clocked at 3.3GHz), 4GB DDR3 RAM, Nvidia GeForce GT 730M discrete graphics and a 500GB desktop hard drive. A slot-loading DVD writer and a USB 2.0 port for wireless dongle (input devices) are placed on the right side. The left side has four USB 3.0 ports, jacks for headphone and mic, and a Kensington slot to secure the PC Station to your desk. A small panel on the rear features a Gigabit Ethernet port, an HDMI output and a jack for the power adapter. So, you have an option to hook up a display to the PC Station and use the PC while the display is undocked or used as a tablet. Other connectivity options include Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth, which take care of wireless file transfers and media streaming. The PC Station also incorporates a pair of 3W speakers, which are placed on the lower side of the chassis.
USB 3.0 ports, audio jacks, HDMI output and Ethernet port on the PC Station
To take care of the heat dissipated by the processor, GPU, hard drive and other components, the rear of the chassis has vents on the top to make way for the hot air blown out by the fan. At 4.1 kgs, the PC Station is quite heavy. The display adds another 2.4 kgs, which makes for a total of 6.5 kgs. A thick metal pedestal is used for adequate support.
The keyboard and mouse sport a striking design that goes with the colour theme of the PC. The keyboard is of the island type with minimal area around the borders, which gives it a sleek look. When viewed from the top, it looks like a brushed metal sheet with embedded keys. The mouse is a 3-button one and uses laser tracking. The top of the mouse is made of a thin metal sheet. The small vertical strip between the left and right click buttons is a touch-sensitive scroll pad as well as a middle-click button. The scroll pad mimics the feel of an indented scroll wheel using haptic feedback while scrolling.
Wireless input devices: Island-type keyboard and laser mouse
The 18.4-inch tablet is powered by the Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC featuring a quad-core processor clocked at 1.7GHz. Alongside are 2GB RAM, 32GB of on-board storage and Wi-Fi N and Bluetooth adapters. All the buttons and ports are lined up on the right side. These include a volume rocker, a mini USB port, a microSD card slot for memory expansion, 3.5 mm headset jack and a jack for the power adapter to charge the built-in battery. The blue button on the side is meant for instantly switching between Windows and Android OS. The display has a resolution of 1920 x 1080 and the viewing angle is excellent thanks to the use of an IPS panel. The rear of the tablet has a spring-loaded handle for lifting it when you want to dock/undock it from the PC Station.
The tablet runs Android 4.1.1 and features the stock tablet interface with a few additions. For example, tapping on the clock area in the bottom right corner brings up a menu with toggles for screen rotation, Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and performance modes. There’s also a slider to adjust the screen brightness. The Settings page has the ASUS customised settings tab which has options related to behaviour of the mouse buttons, auto-switching of the OS on disconnecting the tablet from the PC Station, screenshot, etc.
Now, for the most interesting bit—switching of the operating system. With the tablet docked to the PC Station, you have a desktop PC running Windows 8. While docked, the blue button switches between Android and Windows 8. When undocked, the Android OS kicks in, but you can still switch to Windows 8 running on the PC Station. For this, the tablet uses remote desktop connection via an Android app called Splashtop Remote. For the remote connection to work, both the PC Station and tablet have to be hooked on to the same Wi-Fi connection. To make it simple, a remote desktop setup wizard automatically pops up when you connect to a Wi-Fi network or switch networks.
Build quality and ergonomics
The build quality of all the components is top notch. This in turn lends a premium feel and augments the aesthetics. Place this PC on your desk or in your living room and you will see the jaws drop of those who look at it for the first time—it’s definitely one of the best looking all-in-one PCs we’ve come across. With pleasing aesthetics comes good ergonomics. The keyboard and mouse are very comfortable to use. The keys have good travel and tactile response but the mouse doesn’t feel too comfortable. The buttons are a bit hard and the flat design doesn’t lend a good feel, especially if you have large hands. A slightly larger and rounded design would have been more comfortable.
Adjustable stand on the rear of the tablet
So, would you want to use an 18.4-inch tablet that weighs over 2 kilos? Throughout the week while using the PC, we didn’t feel the need to detach it from the PC Station and use it as a tablet. And on occasions when we wanted to use a tablet, we felt lazy to lug it around the place. Instead we resorted to the iPad or a 10-inch Android tablet. It’s only good as a tabletop device to watch movies, view photos and surf the web. The tablet has a flat metal stand at the rear to stand it on the desk at a comfortable viewing angle.
The performance of the tablet is like any other Android tablet with a quad-core processor. This one scored 11324 and 4277 points in AnTuTu and Quadrant respectively—very close to the Wickedleak Wammy Desire 2 tablet. The quad-core processor and ample amount of RAM suffice for full HD media playback and the most demanding apps and games. As a PC, the Transformer AiO isn’t much powerful than an entry-level desktop PC. It scored 2990 points in PCMark 7 and the real world test revealed that the performance is optimal. It took 50 seconds to transcode a 1 minute MPEG video to H.264 format and 60 seconds to compress 200MB of multiple files to 7.zip format using Ultra preset. Multitasking and running everyday apps shouldn’t a problem, but heavy photo editing and video editing will cause hiccups. The Nvidia GeForce GT 730M graphics is good for playing games in full HD but with low settings. One of the highlighted features of the Transformer AiO is the superior sound quality courtesy Asus’ SonicMaster technology. The speakers are the best we’ve heard in an all-in-one PC—they’re loud and the bass response is quite good, but they sounded a bit hollow.
Looks gorgeous, doesn't it?
Verdict and Price in India
This particular variant of the Asus Transformer AiO powered by Intel Core i3 processor is priced at Rs 86,999. A Core i5 variant is also available, which is priced at Rs 92,999. The Transformer AiO is a great concept, but it’s a bit too large. It would have been nice if the display was a 12-inch tablet and the PC Station was one-third the size with the same configuration. In that case, the tablet would have made more sense as a portable device. For the price of this all-in-one PC, you would be better off with an iPad or an Android tablet and a regular all-in-one PC.
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