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ASUS Transformer 3 Pro review

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ASUS Transformer 3 Pro

Some people want high-powered gaming machines; others already have simple laptops that can do it all. The ASUS Transformer 3 Pro is part of a tiny gray area in between, and it’s quite the niche.

If you’re familiar with Microsoft’s line of Surface convertibles, you’ll know what you’re getting with the Transformer 3 Pro. They look and function alike, but the ASUS has a few more tricks up its sleeve.

ASUS Transformer 3 Pro

The model I’m reviewing here is also known as the T303U. If you want to get technical, mine has a decent configuration with a sixth-generation Intel Core i5 processor, 8GB of memory, and 512GB SSD storage.

Not bad, eh? The only downside is the price: PhP 69,995 in the Philippines, or about $1,400 in most markets. That’s pricey, so you better read on before making the investment.

It’s surprisingly comfortable in all positions

What bothered me when I reviewed previous convertibles were the awkward resting positions on my lap. The Transformer 3 Pro manages to break that curse.

The main unit comes with a built-in kickstand, which is as long as the entire tablet part and has 155 degrees of flexibility. This means it can easily rest on any type of surface, whether you have the bundled keyboard case attached or not.

ASUS Transformer 3 Pro

Latching on the keyboard is as simple as letting the magnets of both units attract one another. And even with the two parts put together, the whole thing feels so light. The tablet weighs in at about 790g, but you’d think it’s lighter thanks to the slim 8.35mm profile.

This thing can run fast

Based on the specifications we mentioned earlier, you can already tell this convertible can blaze through everyday tasks. The question is: How far much farther can it go?

Without a dedicated graphics card, the Transformer 3 Pro will struggle when handling high-definition video editing or playing games like Tomb Raider or the new Doom. But that’s to be expected, really.

ASUS Transformer 3 Pro

What you can get away with is heavy editing on Photoshop while having several tabs open at the same time in Chrome. I’m writing this review on a Transformer 3 Pro, and I’m split-screening Google Docs with YouTube videos playing and Photoshop ready in the background.

But expect lots of heat on top

Obviously, you’re going to experience lots of heat when putting a laptop-level Core i5 chipset in a thin tablet. It doesn’t help that the whole thing is made of “premium alloy.” Solid? Yes, but the heat spreads all over the top half of the unit.

Since the Transformer 3 Pro doesn’t have the lighter Core M processor found in most convertibles — or even in the cheaper non-Pro Transformer 3 — a cooling fan had to be installed, and it blows hot air upwards.

ASUS Transformer 3 Pro

That’s a good thing, actually, as it keeps heat away from your face or lap. Still, you’ll want to give the tablet some time to cool down before slipping it back in your bag, especially if you save the heavy loads towards the end of your work session.

Speakers get loud; display’s not that bright

Something I enjoy using during my time with the Transformer 3 Pro are the loud front-facing stereo speakers. They’re a breath of fresh air after all the crappy speakers I’ve had to endure with other tablets. This is one of the few instances where I don’t have to reach for external speakers just to watch Netflix flicks.

ASUS Transformer 3 Pro

On the other hand, the screen isn’t that bright. While I appreciate the perfectly sized 12.6-inch 2880 x 1920-pixel display, the overall sharpness and well-saturated colors aren’t enough to make the screen clearly readable under sunlight. It’s a shame, since convertibles like this are designed to be used absolutely anywhere.

Wonky trackpad and keyboard, ugh

Here we go again: another Windows convertible, another awkward trackpad. Expect it to miss double-clicks and right-clicks, and mistakenly zoom in on whatever you’re viewing when you least expect it. I’d sometimes reach a point where I’d have to restart the whole thing just so it would go back to “normal.”

Same issues apply to the bundled pen. Although it works a lot like the one that comes with the Microsoft Surface line, with 1024 levels of pressure and two physical buttons for mouse-like controls, it’s difficult to write legibly or draw anything beyond rough sketches. Fortunately, the pen makes use of a removable AAAA battery instead of built-in charging like the Apple Pencil, and ASUS bundles the hard-to-find battery in the box.

ASUS Transformer 3 Pro

The keyboard isn’t that great, either. While I appreciate the well-spaced keys and their relatively long travel, they have too much resistance, requiring stronger presses while typing. You’ll get used to it eventually, but you also have to deal with a glitchy connection to the tablet. Any slight nudge, and it’ll disconnect instantly; that’s a problem if you move a lot while it’s on your lap.

On the bright side, the keyboard has evenly distributed backlighting. This is invaluable while working in the dark, since the keyboard has an all-black design. You can also choose from three brightness levels.

Hello, ports and cameras

The latest tech trend I hate most is sacrificing connectivity options in favor of a single USB Type-C port and multiple dongles. Apple’s new MacBook started this horrible idea, and companies have been following suit in order to trim down components and rip off consumers with extra accessories. ASUS is having none of that here.

ASUS Transformer 3 Pro

For starters, the Transformer 3 Pro has a single full-sized USB 3.0 for all those flash drives you have lying around, and a USB Type-C port with Thunderbolt 3 support. Then you have a full-sized HDMI port, microSD slot, and — thank goodness — a 3.5mm headphone jack. I never had to consider bringing adapters along for a trip.

ASUS Transformer 3 Pro

Finally, we have a 13-megapixel camera at the back, and a 2-megapixel shooter in front with an infrared camera beside it. I honestly never thought of using the main camera for taking pictures — and don’t have any sample photos, sorry — but the front-facing camera works flawlessly for Windows Hello, which allows you to log in using your beautiful face.

Where art thou, battery life?

This part hurts the most. As much as I love the speed and overall completeness of the Transformer 3 Pro, its battery life is terribly average.

I’d normally expect at least six to seven hours of usage on a single charge from a convertible; this hybrid can manage only four hours with brightness set at 50 percent and Wi-FI turned on the whole time. And that’s if you’re lucky — three and a half hours is the norm if you go beyond simple web browsing and add photo editing into the mix.

ASUS Transformer 3 Pro

At least you get fast charging. It took me less than two hours to reach a hundred percent, and that’s for a battery capacity much larger than any smartphone’s.

Is this your GadgetMatch?

Of all the Microsoft Surface clones that have been released, the Transformer 3 Pro does it best, and even eclipses the pioneer in a few aspects, such as physical connectivity and audio-visual quality.

This Transformer is also a step above the Core M-equipped convertibles we’ve reviewed recently, thanks to a much more powerful Core i5 processor coupled with plenty of storage and memory. Yet, in spite of all the goodness, you must take some things into consideration before investing in this product.

For one, it’s a little too powerful — yes, you read that right. You don’t need this much processing muscle for surfing the web and light editing. That’s why there’s a plain Transformer 3 with a starting price of only $799. What’s the difference? It has a more energy-efficient Core M processor and a single USB Type-C port, but comes with two additional speakers and an even thinner frame.

And, no matter how you look at it, the Transformer 3 Pro is expensive. For the same price, you could afford an ASUS gaming laptop with a real graphics card and better keyboard-trackpad combo. Sure, you’d end up with a heftier notebook without a touchscreen, but it’s far more capable in all other aspects.

Laptops

Google lead designer reveals prototypes of Pixel 2, Home Mini, Pixelbook

A touch of human

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It’s not too often that we get a behind-the-scenes look at the drawing boards of premium hardware products, but when we do, it’s magical.

Ivy Ross, who’s the lead designer of Google’s latest devices, revealed the ideas and executions she and her team put into making their gadgets.

Published on The She Word (a series featuring the women of Google on the company’s blog), Ross discussed a variety of topics ranging from her early beginnings as a young designer to the aesthetics of Pixel and Home devices.

When asked what the most important design principle of Google’s hardware is, she had this to say:

Human. By that I mean friendly, emotionally appealing, and easy to fit into your life and your home.

She goes on to explain that three-dimensional and tactile aesthetics are important after spending so much time in front of flat screens. That’s why her design team puts so much emphasis on fabric materials.

Through images, the blog post also showed off the progress from multiple prototypes to finished product for Google’s most important items:

The visual progression of the Pixel 2 XL’s design is arguably the most interesting. You can see how the flagship phone went from a squarish panda to a more rounded one.

Ross became the head of design for Google’s hardware team in mid-2016, and has since made her mark as the company’s most human designer to date.

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Computers

Microsoft’s new patches may be harming your PC

The Meltdown and Spectre patches are duds!

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The Meltdown drama continues. Days after researchers confirmed the existence of the Meltdown and Spectre flaws, big firms like Microsoft and Apple started issuing patches against the bug. Microsoft’s fixes, however, might be doing more harm than good.

Microsoft’s series of patches have been causing issues among those who installed it already. Users are reporting that the patches have caused their PCs to run slower than usual.

Surprisingly, Microsoft themselves have confirmed the reports. A wide range of devices are indeed slowing down because of the patches. The firm has also listed down the affected PCs, as described below.

First, PCs that run Windows 10 on newer processors like Skylake and Kaby Lake show “single-digit” but hardly noticeable slowdowns. Meanwhile, PCs that run Windows 10 on fourth generation or earlier chips will suffer from noticeable slowdown. Finally, those that run Windows 8 or 7 on older chips will be most hit by the performance issues.

The chaos doesn’t even stop there. Some users have even reported that their PCs have stopped booting entirely. In an open thread on Microsoft’s support forums, a user suffering from a bricked PC has been joined by a torrent of users who are suffering from the same issue.

As with the performance issues, Microsoft has issued a statement regarding the unbootable state. This time, they have pinpointed that AMD processors are to blame for the issue, citing a lack of documentation on AMD’s part.

Microsoft has since halted distribution of the erring security patch to AMD processors. Their support team is working to resolve the issue among those already affected by the issue. Meanwhile, Microsoft and AMD developers are working to put out a more stable fix for the Spectre flaw.

Despite the lack of workable fixes for the issue, Microsoft is assuring its users that harmful exploits have not been discovered out in the wild. Not yet, that is.

SEE ALSO: Newly discovered bugs leave two decades of devices vulnerable

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CES 2018

ASUS ROG Strix SKT T1 Hero Edition first ever hardware to tap into eSports

It looks to be a good start!

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ESports has been kicking up and getting its long overdue attention. To support fans of the community, ASUS aptly teamed up with SKT T1 to make a special edition of their new iteration of the Republic of Gamers (ROG) Strix gaming laptop line. And, it’s a mouthful of a name: ROG Strix SKT T1 Hero Edition.

The ROG Strix SKT T1 Hero Edition sports a RGB backlit keyboard, a 15.6-inch Full HD (1080 x 1920 pixels) LED display with a wide-viewing angle of 178 degrees, a refresh rate of 120Hz, and an anti-glare panel. It runs on an Intel Core i7 7700HQ processor, coupled with NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1060 graphics. It has 16GB of RAM, a 1TB HDD, and 256GB SSD.

This special edition of the ROG Strix has a USB Type-C port, four USB 3.0 ports, an HDMI port, an audio jack, a mini-DisplayPort, and an RJ45 jack.

It’s the first time that ASUS has created custom units for eSport professionals and it looks to be a good start. A nice touch to the laptop is the team’s logo plastered on the lower-left part of the cover and sick accents on the chassis, but the highlight of it all is SKT’s Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok’s signature on the bottom-right side of the keyboard palm rest.

SKT T1 is one of the world’s most successful League of Legends teams earning multiple World Championship titles. Lee “Faker” Sang-hyeok is no-question the most popular League player, winning Best Esports Player at the The Game Awards in early December last year.

The ROG Strix SKT T1 Hero Edition comes with posters, a jersey, and a mouse pad with SKT T1 and ROG logos. The laptop costs US$ 1,700 and will be available early this year.

SEE ALSO: ASUS ROG Strix GL503 Review: Too little or too much?

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