As detachable laptop/tablet hybrids go, some of the best laptop designs are marred by the inclusion of clunky, kludgey docking hinges, a necessary evil when wedding a tablet to a keyboard. While it does have a docking hinge, the Asus Transformer Book TX300C manages to come off as far more elegant thanks to a refined design and an great blend of performance and battery life. But, just like a fine steak can be easily marred by single piece of gristle, the Transformer Book TX300C has a couple of flaws that I’m still chewing on.
The Transformer Book is Asus’s first detachable hybrid, and it is a beauty. Borrowing the brushed metal aesthetics of the Asus ZenBook UX51Vz-DH71, and adding the high-resolution touchscreen of the Android-based Transformer Pad Infinity, the Transformer Book TX300 is a gorgeous system. The 13.3-inch, 1,920-by-1,080 resolution screen looks good from all angles, and with 10-finger tracking, it handles every tap and touch with ease.
The tablet itself is slim, but a bit heavy, measuring 0.43 by 13.3 by 8.4 inches (HWD) and weighing in at 2.1 pounds. When docked, the basic dimensions remain the same, but it doubles the thickness to 0.94 inch and adds two additional pounds (4.2 pounds total). That’s a tad heavy—the Lenovo IdeaPad Yoga 13 is only 3.4 pounds, while the Samsung ATIV SmartPC Pro 700T has a total weight of 3.5 pounds. Some of this weight can be attributed to the sturdy metal construction—it certainly feels substantial when you pick it up—but the 500GB hard drive and second battery have something to do with it, too. The docking keyboard has a full-size chiclet keyboard, and the typing experience is virtually identical to that of the Asus UX51Vz-DH71.
The docking hinge is serviceable, but connecting it is neither smooth or intuitive. Lining up the dock and connector is mostly guesswork, even with an alignment guide on the hinge. Most importantly, actual connectivity when docked seemed to be hit or miss. More than once I docked the tablet, but found the keyboard portion didn’t connect without removing and re-connecting the tablet. That said, once the tablet is properly connected, the hinge strikes a good balance between stiffness and flexibility, letting you tap and touch the screen with minimal screen wobble, but still open it in laptop mode without having to pry it open.
Both tablet and docking keyboard feature SonicMaster speakers, made in partnership with Bang & Olufsen. While the audio quality is some of the clearest I’ve heard on a detachable hybrid, the volume seemed a bit quiet.
The tablet half of the Transformer Book TX300C is equipped with a stereo headset jack, micro HDMI output, and a micro SD card slot, along with Asus’ magnetic power connector and proprietary docking port. On the docking keyboard you’ll add to that list a full-size SD card slot, a mini DisplayPort, a compact Gigabit LAN connection, and two USB 3.0 ports. You’ll also find a magnetic power connector, similar to the one seen on the Editors’ ChoiceMicrosoft Surface Pro. The Transformer Book TX300C features 802.11n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 4.0, and a front-facing HD webcam. On the back, there’s a 5-megapixel camera for shooting video and snapshots.
The tablet itself boasts a 128GB solid-state drive (SSD), but this is significantly bolstered by a second 500GB, 5,400 hard drive in the docking keyboard. The Transformer Book TX300C is delightfully bloatware-free, as Asus only installs a handful of branded utilities, like Asus WebStorage (with 5GB of free online storage), Asus Instant ON (to keep boot times short), and Power4Gear Hybrid (for battery management). The only other apps and programs are Microsoft Office 2013, Skype, and the usual collection of Microsoft games and apps. Asus covers the Transformer Book TX300C with a generous two-year warranty.
The Transformer Book TX300C may be slim, but it packs a lot of punch, thanks to a 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U dual-core processor with 4GB of RAM. Though it lagged a bit in PCMark 7, scoring 4,275 points—as compared to the Microsoft Surface Pro (4,768) or the Dell XPS 12 (4,638)—it still led the category in both Cinebench (2.47 points) and Photoshop CS6 (4 minutes 47 seconds). It’s worth noting, however, that this leading performance is not what you’ll see when you’re out on the road, using the tablet alone. We saw remarkably different performance results when running on battery power, with a PCMark score of 2,348 points and a paltry Cinebench score of 0.79 points. For best performance, stick close to a wall outlet.