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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
[irp posts=”8791" name=”ASUS ZenFone 3 Deluxe review”]
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure: Dell embraces a circular economy
Sustainability is at the core of everything Dell does
As consumers our top considerations when buying a new device are specs, performance, value for money, and design. We rarely think about the impact we and the technology we use have on the environment. The only time we probably ever do is when we need to dispose an irreparable phone or a dinosaur laptop. When that moment comes, we also don’t know exactly what to do or where to bring our old devices.
Fortunately there are companies like Dell that think ahead and consider the entire lifecycle of their products — from sourcing materials, to manufacturing, packaging, shipping, and recycling — and beyond. This approach is called a circular economy.
In a traditional, linear product cycle, recycling or refurbishing is thought of at the end of the product’s life, if at all. In Dell’s circular economy, the concept of waste is designed out of the system. This means sustainability is at the core of everything that they do. Here are some ways Dell is minimizing their footprint as a company while helping us consumers reduce ours as well:
Trade-in and recycling programs, not just for Dell products
Through Dell Reconnect, you can take that old computer sitting in your attic to a Goodwill store for recycling or refurbishing. The program also provides green jobs, and ensures that no environmentally sensitive materials are sent to landfills. The same program allows you to recycle or send back used ink cartridges responsibly as well.
If you’re due for an upgrade, the company can also recycle your old laptop for you, no matter the brand. You may also trade in any eligible piece of electronics, including smartphones and consoles, to earn a gift card that you can use to buy yourself a shiny new Dell laptop.
Packaging made of bamboo, mushrooms, straws
To solve mountains of packaging problems we face after unboxing a new device — large fancy boxes, plastic, and foam — Dell has come up with the 3Cs packaging strategy, which stands for cube (size and shape), content (material choice), and curb (recyclability).
For Dell, wasted space inside any packaging is just that — wasted — so the company is continuously finding ways to minimize the amount of material needed to create packaging, as well as reduce box sizes so as to fit more products in storage and during shipping.
More importantly, Dell uses the best possible material to protect the product, and consider that which makes most sense for each region by using what’s locally available. In 2009, Dell was the first to use packaging made from bamboo. Not only is it a renewable alternative to petroleum-derived foams, the bamboo they use also grows near their manufacturing facilities.
In 2011, Dell started developing cushion packaging made of mushroom, which has a smaller footprint compared to the usual protective foam, and is compostable. Recently, the company also started taking ocean-bound plastics like straws back to the economy where they can be reused to make the trays found inside Dell boxes.
The company reuses boxes up to 7 times before they are recycled. So when you buy a new laptop and the box is not in its most perfect form, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. In certain markets, Dell also rewards customers for returning packaging that can be refurbished and reused.
Ink made of smog
Here’s an unexpected way Dell is putting waste back into the economy and using locally available materials at the same time. Traditionally seen as a pollutant, the company is using ink made from smog in India to print some of its packaging.
A startup called Chakr Innovations developed the device called Chakr Shield which captures 90% of particulate matter emissions from diesel generators. The captured soot is then turned into carbon black, which is used to make ink. Dell is the first to use the ink on a larger scale and it works just as well as regular ink.
Backpack made of recycled windshields
Dell doesn’t just make computers and printers, they also make a whole array of accessories, and some of them are made with sustainability in mind. The Dell Pro Backpack 15 is made with a more environment-friendly solution-dyeing process. It’s also water-resistant, which is made possible by a layer of coating that’s made from reclaimed windshields.
Jewelry made of used computers
In its effort to reduce waste dumped in landfills, Dell also reclaims gold from motherboards through its recycling programs, reuses them to make not only new motherboards, but jewelry as well. So that old laptop you’re going to trade in for a new one? Parts of it will end up on someone’s finger or ears at some point, not in a developing country that becomes a dumpsite for other companies and countries.
Vivian Tai, Head of Global Environmental Affairs for the APJ region says the company is integrating sustainability efforts not for Dell’s benefit, but to provide better value for customers. She says sourcing and bringing what many consider “waste” back to life is challenging but is important to the company. Just this year, Dell already reached two of its 2020 goals: recover two billion pounds of used electronics and use 100 million pounds of recycled-content, plastic and other sustainable materials, one full year ahead of schedule.
Next time you need to buy a new laptop, take sustainability into consideration, too. Technology plays a big role in making our lives easier, and the good that it can do should not end at that but also extend beyond its usual lifecycle. It’s not just big companies who benefit from minimizing our ecological footprint — it’s also us, consumers, and the generations that come after us.
ASUS ROG Zephyrus S (GX701) review
Refinement of a modern classic
A lot of credit has to be given to ASUS for pushing gaming laptop designs forward. Back in 2017, the original ROG Zephyrus paved the way for a new category of high-powered laptops that didn’t weigh a ton.
Since then, we’ve seen different variations of the Zephyrus that either upped the power or modified the original look. That evolution eventually led to the Zephyrus S (GX701) I’m currently reviewing.
With the some of the latest components and refinements based on previous generations, this Zephyrus already seems like a winner in my book. The question is: Does it have enough oomph to compete against the laptop brands that have caught up?
It all starts with the design
Once again, it’s the overall makeup that makes the Zephyrus S stand out. Every design cue was placed not just to make the magnesium-alloy body look sleek, but to improve airflow and cut as many grams as possible.
For one, ASUS managed to cram a 17.3-inch screen within a body normally reserved for 15-inch laptops. On top of that, its height tops out at 18.7mm and weighs about 2.7kg. That’s larger than what we’re used to from the Zephyrus line, but this beats every other high-end machine with equal specs.
Back as well is the Active Aerodynamic System (AAS) which lifts the bottom panel for more air intake. It sounds similar to ASUS’ ErgoLift on its ZenBooks, but the implementation here is more performance-centric, and unfortunately, not comfortable on a lap.
However, AAS is still the key to better cooling while staying slim. It’s complemented by two 12V fans and five sets of heatpipes to get as much heat away from the high-powered components. The only tradeoff is the awkwardly placed keyboard and trackpad; the former sits really low with no palm rest while the latter takes getting used to in its rightmost spot.
What I loved was the placement of the volume roller to the upper-left of the keyboard. It makes adjusting the two 2.5W speakers so easy. Pressing the roller mutes them. Less vital, but greatly appreciated, is how far the power button is from everything — safe from accidental touches.
To the side, we’re treated to two USB-C ports (one of which is capable of DisplayPort 1.4 and Power Delivery for charging), three USB-A, one HDMI 2.0, and a 3.5mm audio port. There’s no mention of Thunderbolt 3 which is a bummer at this price range.
The features we actually want
ASUS definitely went for the no-compromise approach when creating the Zephyrus S. On top of all the features mentioned above, the specs are a collection of the must-haves and great-to-haves in both gaming and content creation.
The screen in particular, while only 1080p in resolution, owns a refresh rate of 144Hz with a 3ms response time and NVIDIA’s G-Sync tech for smoother visuals. Even more interesting: the panel has a Pantone color certification for 100 percent sRGB coverage — ideal for creators who value color accuracy.
On the software side, Armoury Crate is a pleasantly comprehensive piece of software that allows you to monitor CPU and GPU frequencies, temperatures and voltages, and how much work the fans are putting in.
In addition, the program lets you change settings such as the RGB lighting of the keyboard and bundled mouse. But what makes the software so intuitive is that it can be accessed anytime by pressing the ROG button above the trackpad and monitored through a smartphone. I’ve always loathed non-stock Windows apps, but Armoury Crate is definitely an exception.
One more cool feature is the ability to charge the Zephyrus S using any PD-certified adapter or powerbank. Chances are you’ll always have its lightweight power supply on you, but for the few instances you don’t, this is a lifesaver considering how below-average the battery life is.
The one feature that’s missing is a built-in webcam. ASUS decided to leave it out in favor of slimmer bezels around the display. This might be a downer to some; at the same time, this opens the opportunity for folks to use an external webcam which would be far superior to the low-end cameras most laptops these days come with.
Performance you’d expect
It goes without saying that raw performance is what the Zephyrus S excels at most. From the Core i7-8750H and GeForce RTX 2080 Max-Q to the 24GB of RAM and 1TB M.2 PCIe storage, there’s no shortage of power in this machine.
Since the panel is of the 144Hz kind, you really feel these specs push the laptop to what it’s truly capable of. I’ve used gaming notebooks with a 4K display stuck at 60Hz, and I never felt that their high-end components were maximized to their full potential.
Personally, I find the 1080p resolution with a 144Hz refresh rate and G-Sync support to be the best-possible combination. After all, I honestly can’t tell the difference going any higher in pixel count on a 17.3-inch monitor. This is the sweet spot, and the Zeph nails it.
Here are a few benchmark numbers:
Shadow of the Tomb Raider: 95fps (1080p, Highest preset)
Unigine Superposition: 4858 (1080p Extreme)
Cinebench R15: 112.19fps (OpenGL), 1176cb (CPU)
Truth be told, the results only speak for a small portion of the big picture. Having an 8th-gen Core i7 chip and RTX 2080 (even if it’s a slightly slower Max-Q variant) should instantly signal that AAA game are no problem for this setup.
Even though we’re seeing silicon manufacturers pushing out newer, faster chipsets than ever before, rest assured the configuration we have here will run through games for years to come. We’ve reached a point wherein the next generation of games will stop being so demanding on hardware and instead focus on optimizing for current-gen processors.
On the downside, the battery life is lackluster as usual. When not plugged in to a wall socket, I’m lucky to get 2.5 hours out of this thing with a balanced workload consisting of web browsing and Photoshop usage. It’s expected out of any gaming laptop at this point and should be anticipated by any potential buyer.
Is this your GadgetMatch?
Even though gaming laptops are becoming increasingly common and more affordable in some cases, beasts like the Zephyrus S deserve the distinction of pushing the category to new heights. The model I reviewed here retails for PhP 199,995 or around US$ 3,835. It’s a heavy price to pay, but you’re getting top-notch hardware in return.
While this is certainly too much for mainstream users, creators and hardcore gamers will see the value in its top-notch components and attention to detail. ASUS has taken the Zephyrus line to yet another level, which is a major achievement considering how great the series had been to begin with.
The ASUS ROG Zephyrus S is available in ROG Megamall and ROG Concept Stores in the Philippines.
Acer’s ConceptD 7 is a multimedia creator’s dream come true
An alternative to the MacBook Pro?
Acer unveiled the ConceptD 7 at Computex 2019 held in Taipei, Taiwan. It’s part of the ConceptD series, Acer’s new brand of high-end notebooks, desktops, and displays.
It’s also one of the first NVIDIA RTX Studio laptops, together with the Razer Blade Studio Edition. Powered by an NVIDIA Quadro RTX 5000 GPU, this notebook is meant for creators such as designers, filmmakers, architects, and developers.
The Quadro RTX 5000 GPU’s performance has significantly improved compared to its previous generation. It’s perfect for rendering with its real-time ray tracing technology. It can also speed up complex workflows thanks to its AI-augmented tools.
The laptop can run multiple applications simultaneously and even work with up to 8K video in real-time, thanks to its 16GB GDDR6 memory.
The ConceptD 7 has the latest 9th-gen Intel Core i7 processor, promising a faster render time. Don’t worry about transferring big files, as it has Thunderbolt 3 and mini-DP connectivity so you can handle high-speed transfers. It can also connect up to three external displays.
With a 15.6-inch Pantone-validated 4K display that has a 100 percent Adobe RGB color gamut and Delta E<2 color accuracy, designers have the freedom to play with colors as they wish.
The ConceptD 7 comes in a sleek, gorgeous white finish. However, its price and availability have yet to be announced.
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