Asus first teased us almost a year ago with the Transformer Book, a 13.3" full HD Zenbook Prime style Ultrabook that transforms, much like the company's Android tablets, into a tablet. In October 2012, they released videos that showed this drool-inducing machine and then... nothing. Until now. Is it too late for the Transformer Book TX300? We don't think so: it's so far the best embodiment of the transformer design pioneered by Asus and later aped by other manufacturers. And at 13.3" with a standard Ultrabook form factor and an Intel Core CPU, it's much more usuable as a main machine than 10 to 11.6 inch Windows tablets.
Unlike most Windows transformers, the Asus Transformer Book is a notebook that transforms into a tablet, rather than a tablet with an accessory keyboard. The base looks, feels and acts just like any Zenbook Prime Ultrabook: from the backlit island style keyboard to the brushed aluminum finish and good selection of ports. When docked, it feels and looks just like the Asus Zenbook Prime UX31A, until you peek at the back edge and notice the wrap-over connector that holds the two pieces together.
The Asus Transformer Book TX300 runs on a 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U Ivy Bridge CPU with 4 gigs of RAM and a 128 gig SSD. The difference here is that all these internals live behind the display rather than under the keyboard as with a traditional laptop design. Thus you can use the tablet independent of the keyboard dock. No, it's not Haswell, but given that ULV (ultra low voltage) CPUs for Ultrabooks and tablets are usually last out of the gate, I'm not expecting to see Haswell Ultrabooks and tablets until later this year. It's always the desktops and big gaming oriented notebooks with quad core i7 CPUs that hit the market first (as are the first test systems recently released by Intel to the tech press).
The Transformer Book has a full HD 1920 x 1080 IPS touch screen with very good viewing angles and contrast. Color gamut and saturation are excellent, just as with the Zenbook Prime line. The tablet weighs 2 pounds and at 11mm (0.43") it's remarkably thin considering it has full Core i7 internals. Whether you like a 13.3" tablet or find it too large; well that's up to you. I do admit I love watching movies on the huge screen and I've put away my Kindle Fire HD 8.9" tablet. Sorry, there's no digital pen option here as there is with the Asus Taichi and Samsung ATIV 700T.
When docked, the Transformer Book really shines thanks to its true Ultrabook ergonomics, selection of ports, no-compromise backlit keyboard and something extra: a secondary 500 gig hard drive. It isn't easy living with the small storage space available on 128 and even 256 gig SSDs; so it's heavenly to have a large drive to store all manner of movies, music and other media. If you use the machine to process HD video, storage is no longer an issue. There's also a secondary battery in the dock, and it powers the two USB 3.0 ports, Ethernet, SD card slot and hard drive. There's an option to turn off the ports and HDD to extend runtimes from 5 to a supposed 8 hours (we're still testing this). It's an unusual way to handle secondary battery power, to say the least.
The tablet itself has few ports: 3.5mm combo audio, charger and a microSD card slot. The Transformer Book uses a magnetic charger like Apple's MagSafe charger, and you can plug it into the tablet or the keyboard dock to charge. The tablet and dock weigh a relatively hefty 4.2 lbs, which is 25% heavier than the Zenbook Prime UX31A Touch Ultrabook. It's also thicker at 23.9mm (0.94"). The Transformer Book has single band WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0 and an HD webcam.