There seems to be no end of Surface Pro 4-alikes this year, and Asus’ Transformer 3 Pro is the latest one to land in the Expert Reviews office. With its adjustable kickstand, folio keyboard and super-slim chassis, it looks unashamedly like Microsoft’s top-end tablet hybrid, but the Transformer 3 Pro brings a few new additions to the table to help it stay ahead of its main rival.
The most obvious one is the inclusion of a USB Type-C port. This allows for superfast data-transfer speeds and can also be used to output video, but the good news is that you still get a full-sized USB 3 port for any older peripherals you might have, meaning you don’t need to shell out for an adapter.
Asus has also squeezed a full-sized HDMI output and microSD slot on here, too, giving you almost as much flexibility as a standard desktop replacement laptop. That’s pretty impressive as far as 2-in-1 hybrids go, since most force you to make do with just a single USB Type-C port.
It certainly makes the Transformer 3 Pro’s full metal chassis all the more appealing, and Asus’ superb build quality certainly looks like it will stand the test of time. It’s a wonderfully sleek device to hold, and while its weight of 800g means it’s not exactly the lightest tablet around, it’s more than acceptable given the size of its 12.6in screen.
What’s more, the Transformer 3 Pro’s integrated kickstand can be set at any angle up to 170 degrees, giving it plenty of flexibility. It’s superbly designed too – strong enough to hold the weight, but easy enough to adjust with only one hand.
Asus Transformer 3 Pro review: Keyboard and touchpad
Another advantage the Transformer 3 Pro has over the Surface Pro 4 is that its folio keyboard comes bundled in the box. With backlit, island-style keys, it’s a significant improvement over Microsoft’s TypeCover keyboards, and each key gives plenty of tactile feedback when typing.
The touchpad is a little hit and miss from time to time, though, sometimes failing to pick up the odd swipe, but on the whole, it was reasonably painless to use. More troublesome was trying to keep the keyboard connected to the bottom of the tablet, as even the slightest nudge would occasionally dislodge its snap-on magnets. Most of the time it was absolutely fine, but a little extra security wouldn’t hurt.
Asus Transformer 3 Pro review: Display
The Transformer 3 Pro’s 12.6in display has a resolution of 2,880 x 1,920, equating to 275 pixels per inch. This is a minor bump over the Surface Pro 4’s 2,736 x 1,824 resolution, which gives it a pixel density of 267ppi, but in practice you’d be hard-pressed to see the difference.
Needless to say, it’s a fantastic-looking screen, and its splendid wide colour gamut display has an impressive sRGB coverage of 99%. This makes it incredibly well suited for even the more demanding of users, including graphic designers and digital artists alike, and it’s easily one of the better 2-in-1 displays I’ve had the pleasure of using. It’s wonderfully pin-sharp, with not a single jagged edge in sight.
The screen’s only flaw is that it’s just not that bright. It’s a tricky device to use outside in the sun thanks to its maximum screen brightness of 292cd/m2 – significantly duller than the Surface Pro 4’s peak brightness of 400cd/m2. Combine that with its glossy finish and reflective display, and you’ll find yourself squinting far too often when using it outdoors.
The dual front-facing speakers aren’t anything to write home about. They’ll do the job for your typical Netflix streaming or the occasional tune, but I noticed a lot of distortion at high volume levels, so you’ll want to plug in a pair of headphones when listening to music.