Asus doubles down with the Transformer Book Trio

Asus doubles down with the Transformer Book Trio

Summary: The Transformer Book Trio stuffs two OSes, two batteries, and two completely different processors inside its latest hybrid. It seems to be a whole new category of mobile device, but it's actually been done before.

Image credit: Asus

Asus kicked off the hybrid craze with the first Transformer tablet and laptop dock running Android. It has continually iterated the product line, up through the impressive Transformer Prime model. It's now taking it to a whole new level with the Transformer Book Trio just unveiled at Computex in Taipei with both Android and Windows 8 inside.

See also: Asus Transformer Book Trio runs Windows 8 and Android simultaneously

The Transformer Book Trio is an Android tablet like earlier Transformer models but the similarity ends there. When the tablet is plugged into the laptop dock, which looks a lot like earlier models, the Trio becomes a full-fledged Windows 8 laptop due to the full hardware complement inside the dock.

Asus has essentially built an Android tablet with all the standard hardware in the slate, and also put a decent PC system in the laptop dock. The two OSes can be toggled as desired via a simple hotkey, as reported by Engadget's Dana Wollman. Run Windows when you wish, and switch to Android when that makes more sense. 

The Windows 8 compatible hardware in the dock is not typical for hybrids as the Trio rocks a new Haswell Core i7 that accesses a 1TB hard drive. That massive storage is augmented by the 16GB of storage in the tablet. An Intel Atom is running the Android side in place of the standard ARM solutions. Both the tablet and the laptop dock have batteries that work together to supposedly provide decent battery life.

The Transformer Book Trio will no doubt be expensive due to the latest Intel processor and the dual nature of the hardware. It is essentially two full systems in one and it's unlikely one of them will be free.

Lenovo U1
Image credit: Lenovo

Some are saying this dual system is a new category, but Lenovo did this back in 2010 with its U1 hybrid. I remember vividly stepping into a large room in the Mirage Hotel during the CES that year and having my eyes drawn to the U1 despite all the systems on display.

The U1 was first shown when Android was just a growing gleam in Andy Rubin's eye so Lenovo put its Skylight UI, a special Linux variant, to run the tablet. The laptop dock of the U1 had a full Intel-based Windows PC inside, much like that of the Transformer Prime Trio.

What impressed me so much with the U1 was the way the system automatically switched from Windows to Skylight when the tablet was removed from the dock. It wasn't just the quick switchover that was impressive, it was the fact that the two OSes inside the laptop were constantly communicating. This made it possible to pick up exactly where you were when one OS handed off control to the other. 

My mind was blown when I was watching a YouTube video on the laptop in Windows, removed the tablet from the dock, and had a seamless OS switch that had the same video playing at the same exact place! The same transitions were possible in the web browser that was fantastic.

Lenovo didn't bring the U1 to market as expected, and the next year replaced the Skylight UI with Android, which was becoming more mainstream. I don't believe that model ever made it to the US, either.

The Asus Transformer Book Trio looks to be a fantastic Windows 8 laptop that becomes an Android tablet on demand. This is certainly versatile, although Windows 8 is designed to handle both laptops and tablets so it's not clear what the advantages will be to have Android on demand. Maybe all those Android apps in the Play Store will be the plus needed to justify what will certainly be an expensive solution. We'll have to wait to see how well the Trio works until the 3rd quarter release date.

Topics: Mobility, Android, Laptops, Tablets, Windows 8

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  • Didn't we have something similar in the past?

    With Vista and HTC Raped Windows Mobile 6.1 aka SnapView and packed it as HTC Shift. I hope Asus didn't rape neither here.
    Ram U
  • sounds ok in theory but...

    I'm not sure what advantage there is over having a separate laptop and tablet. I can only think of disadvantages.

    Only if this was actually cheaper might it make sense. I suspect it might cost *more* than a decent laptop and tablet. Its also likely to have more quirks, perhaps.

    Also, my preference is 7-8 in" tablet. To me 10" seems big and klunky now, never mind 11.6". I suspect many people have discovered they'd prefer the mini at this point.

    Why undock the tablet just to have to hold it in the air. The keyboard makes a perfect stand.

    So at that point, if I want the advantages of a tablet, smaller and lighter is more desirable.

    I think my vision of an ideal hybrid device if done properly would be a chromebook/android 'yoga', for $399, with 1080p. But it would have to be very thin - only as thick as an ipad when folded back.
    • I agree on some points

      "Why undock the tablet just to have to hold it in the air. The keyboard makes a perfect stand. "

      And that's true, but it does add weight and get in the way if you don't have a place to set it, but how many times does that happen? It's a nice option as long as it doesn't add too much to the cost, but likely not used the majority of the time.

      Though I disagree with the "chromebook/android 'yoga'" idea because you lose everything that a tablet/netbook is supposedly used for if you're using chromeOS, so the Win 8 / Android OS would offer much more then Chromebook/Android combo in terms of usability, IMHO.
      William Farrel
      • To each his own

        "so the Win 8 / Android OS would offer much more then Chromebook/Android combo in terms of usability, IMHO."

        I understand that, but for me, I simply don't want full windows outside of work. I don't want to be doing the things that a full PC is for. I don't really even use a computer outside of work anymore. Just a phone and a tablet.
  • Float, Fly and...F...Run

    Again, risky here. I wouldn't get it. Why? For tablet, it's too big. For laptop, it's too small. For desktop, it's too weak.
    You can float, fly, but, you can't be good at all 3...
    Cun Con
    • Atom desktops

      A lot of companies are using Atom, Celeron or Pentium desktops these days. The power of these devices is enough for most employees daily needs. They run MS Office fine and the user doesn't need to stream HD video etc.

      I've been using my Samsung ATIV Atom based tablet as a desktop replacement and it is fine for 99% of what I need to do on a daily basis at work, when running dual-head with a 24" display in its dock.

      What I really don't understand is why you would want to switch between Windows and Androidm that means investing twice on applications, incompatibilities between "devices" and having to learn 2 different UIs (3 if you consider Desktop and Modern UIs on Windows).
  • Windows 8 has BlueStacks already

    Like most people know, you could get all android apps using BlueStacks, so Android is a little less interesting..
  • Why, just WHY!

    Think I'll give it a miss, I'd rather a Win 8 Tablet that docks and ads extra storage and battery life. Plenty of cheap or mid range Android Tablets about if you want that.
    • Exactly

      If I detach from the base station, I want to continue working wear I left off. I don't want to have to open up a different set of applications and hope the data is properly synced in the cloud - assuming I have Internet access.
  • Wow. Small Minds.

    I have a 5 year old Win 7 laptop with a dual core setup waiting to be replaced (although upgraded to 480Gb SSD, 4 Gb RAM and a 1920 x 1200 screen, its hardly anemic). I also have a Nexus 7 tablet. Both machines are great at what they do. (Compiling, Video Processing, etc are done on the i7 3930 beastie with Raid 0 SSDs and dual GTX 670s)

    This machine gives you two convenient machines in one. The only downside I see is the tablet is a bit on the large side, and the laptop may not have an SSD.

    But seriously, people can't see the utility in this thing? "I don't use a laptop outside of work" "I don't use android tablets" Who are you people? Don't you ever work on vacation? Relax or play on business trips?

    Now, put Silvermont (or a quad A15/A7) in this thing and a hybrid HDD/SDD in the laptop base, and I'm golden.

    Holy Cow, but I wonder about people sometimes.
  • Lenovo U1

    The U1 seemed to be an ideal system to me, a video output of 1080p with processing power would be the ultimate.
  • I have a Win 8 Convertible

    Sony Duo 11. I really like it as a Windows desktop machine with stylus. As a tablet? No. Way too heavy. I will always use my Nook HD+ or a Nexus 7 as a tablet just because they are so thin and light and robust and handy.

    At first owning it I often thought that it would be a dream if it ran Android as well as Windows because that would make it a much better tablet. Still: it would be too big and heavy and fragile. I would still end up using one of the smaller Android tablets.

    Plus, the Androids are getting better and cheaper and thinner, cheaper and thinner and better, continuously. These Win 8 hybrids are insanely expensive and not getting any less so. Add in a whole separate battery and HDD and second processor for the two systems - this thing is going to cost. Don't think so.