Let’s do a quick spec dump so we can take a look at on-paper versus real-life performance: powered by a quad-core Intel Cherry Trail Z8500 processor (with integrated Intel HD graphics, obviously), the Transformer Book comes equipped with either 2 or 4GB of RAM and either 32, 64, or 128GB of eMMC onboard storage. Thankfully, as mentioned, it also has a micro SD/SDXC card slot for easy expansion.
What this translates to, unfortunately, is a somewhat middling performance from the Transformer Book. Applications were occasionally sluggish in their response and/or launch times despite the 4GB of RAM in our review unit, and the startup time for the machine itself was surprisingly long. But above all, I was most surprised by how poor the internet browsing experience was, which was often a noticeably slow affair. This is all in contrast to the benchmark scores shown below, which show the Transformer Book besting devices with similar specs.
Also, the dock can be frustrating to use at times. The trackpad is erratic at best; one second it’s not detecting any input, the next, the cursor is flying all over the screen due to oversensitivity (not to mention frequently unregistered clicks). And, as is always the risk with the keyboard on a device this compact, typing can be difficult due to the cramped spacing and the size of the keys. That said, other devices seem to handle this predicament a little more gracefully than Asus did with the Transformer Book – the shrunken size of the right shift key, for example, made no sense to me and often resulted in me accidentally hitting the forward slash key instead.
wPrime processor comparisons (lower scores mean better performance):
PCMark8 Home (Accelerated) measures overall system performance for general activities from web browsing and video streaming to typing documents and playing games (higher scores mean better performance):
PCMark8 Work (Accelerated) measures overall system performance in Windows 8 for work-related productivity tasks (higher scores mean better performance):
3DMark 11 is a benchmark that measures overall graphics card performance for gaming (higher scores mean better performance):
CrystalDiskmark storage drive performance test
The Transformer Book is thankfully up to date as far as its OS is concerned, sporting the latest and greatest from Microsoft, Windows 10. Obviously Windows 10 deserves a separate review in and of itself, but for those of you who have yet to upgrade (which would be surprising, considering how frequently Microsoft has been bombarding people with alerts to do so), it’s fantastic. Aside from its smoothness and efficiency – and new features like digital assistant Cortana and the Edge browser – it seems like a more fully-realized version of what Microsoft had in mind when they designed Windows 8.
With Windows 8, Microsoft wanted something that was more tablet/touch friendly given the rise of such devices, but it leaned too far that way and ended up being a headache to use with the more traditional laptop (i.e. keyboard and touchpad/mouse) scheme. With Windows 10, Microsoft has built upon the groundwork laid out by its predecessor – namely, the tile interface – and created a more flexible experience that lends itself to both laptop- and tablet-style usage much more effectively than Windows 8 did. Having the option to go full tile interface or to simply have it tucked away into the Start menu, for example, is a much more user-friendly approach. The fact that there’s an option to switch to a dedicated “tablet mode” whenever you remove the tablet from the dock is also welcome. In other words, Windows 10 is set up in a manner much more conducive to navigating with a hybrid of touch and trackpad controls by offering the flexibility of letting you choose which one to use and when.
Now that I’ve gotten all my praises out there, here’s the bad news: there’s a decent amount of preloaded crapware on the Transformer Book, and it’s especially obnoxious. The pop-up alerts and chimes from Asus Web Storage are beyond annoying, and a great way to ensure that I curse the existence of your software. Other garbage like Asus Giftbox (an app storefront, essentially) and Asus Live Updates make an appearance, and none of them are particularly useful.
Despite the unusually low synthetic benchmark score below, the battery life of the Transformer Book is fantastic. If you were to use the device passively (i.e. not as your primary device), you can get a good four days and change out of it, as I did, thanks to both its general efficiency and ability to hold a charge well when in standby. Alternatively, if you use it intensively as your primary device for work, internet browsing, audio/video streaming, etc. , you can still easily get a full day’s worth out of a single charge and even some to spare for the next day (I almost made it to the end of the second day, but I admittedly made a point of turning off the display whenever I wasn’t using it for a few minutes at a time).
One clever feature of the Transformer Book is that you can quickly tap the power button when it’s off to see a graphic (though no percentage) representing the amount of battery life left. The only downside to this is that you have to hold down the power button a little longer than you would expect to actually turn the device on, but it’s still a nice inclusion.
Powermark battery life benchmark (higher score means longer battery life):