As Microsoft continues to push forward with developing premium computers, there’s still room in the market for copy cat-like devices that aren’t nearly expensive, yet are nearly as capable as Microsoft’s own laptops, tablets and desktops.
Take the Asus Transformer Pro T304 as an example. For a lot less than the entry level all told, you not only gain a full-fledged (and similar-looking) 2-in-1 tablet, but Asus also includes a keyboard and a pen.
It makes more sense to bundle everything a user will need for a complete computer, and that goes a long way towards putting a checkmark in the win column for Asus.
But, of course, there’s more to consider about any gadget than just how good of a deal it is. On paper, the Transformer Pro T304 compares favorably with the most recent Surface Pro and HP Spectre x2, but it just doesn’t muster quite the same oomph.
Here is the Asus Transformer Pro T304 configuration sent to TechRadar for review:
CPU: 2.7GHz Intel i7-7500U (dual-core, 4MB cache, up to 3.5GHz)
Graphics: Intel HD Graphics 620
RAM: 8 GB (LPDDR3, 1,866MHz)
Screen: 12.6-inch FHD+ (2,160 x 1,440) backlit LED touchscreen
Storage: 256GB SSD
Ports: 1x USB 3.1 Type-C, 1x HDMI, 1x USB 3.1, micro SD card reader, 3.5mm audio jack
Connectivity: 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.1
Cameras: 2MP front-facing webcam, 8MP rear-facing camera
Weight: 1.79 pounds (811g)
Size: 11.77 x 8.31 x 0.35 inches (29.9 x 21.1 x 0.89cm; W x D x H)
Price and availability
The Asus Transformer Pro T304 starts at a reasonably-priced $999 (about £1,281, AU$1,499). At that price point for a 2-in-1 powered by a Kaby Lake Intel i7 processor, 256GB SSD, and 8GB RAM, it’s hard to ignore that the price includes the Transformer Keyboard Cover and Asus Pen.
The UK and Australian models feature identical specs, save for the processor, which is an Intel i5 in both regions.
A similarly configured Microsoft Surface Pro costs $1,599 (£1,549.00, AU$2,449.00) without a keyboard or Surface pen, which adds up fast. The takes the same approach as Asus, and includes a keyboard and stylus in the box.
However, instead of several hundred dollars more than the Transformer Pro T304, as is the case with the Surface Pro, the Spectre x2 with nearly identical hardware is priced at $1,229 or £1,499, though for double the storage in the UK. (This model doesn’t appear to be available yet in Australia.)
If you’ve seen Microsoft’s Surface Pro, then you have a good idea of what to expect regarding the design of the Transformer Pro T304. It’s not a direct clone, but it does share a lot of the same aesthetics.
On the right side of the device is a small notch for easy access to the hinge, a speaker grille, charging port, USB-C port, full-sized HDMI port and a standard USB-A port. The left side features the same notch and speaker grille, followed by a microSD slot, volume buttons and a headphone jack.
On the backside of the Transformer Pro T304 is a camera lens, and a solitary line cutting the device in half horizontally, as a marker for where the 155-degree kickstand hinge bends.
A power button with a built-in fingerprint reader is found on the top-left corner. The bottom of the unit is where you’ll find the connector for the keyboard.
Weighing ever so slightly more than the Surface Pro (1.73 pounds) at just 1.79 pounds, this tablet is super portable and easy to throw into a backpack. In fact, it’s also slightly bigger than the overall footprint of the Surface Pro, but not enough to make a huge difference in determining if one is more portable than the other.
The 12.6-inch display of the Transformer Pro T304 is clear and vivid, but not the brightest. In direct sunlight, even with the brightness set to max, it was difficult to clearly see what was on the screen.
The touchscreen is responsive and accurate, whether you’re using multi-touch gestures or the stylus.
Nice selection of ports, but…
With a healthy mixture of ports, ranging from USB Type-C to full HDMI to a microSD card reader, we would have loved to have an additional USB-C port in place of a proprietary charging solution.
USB-C is now prevalent enough with adoption from smartphone and PC makers alike, it feels like a step back whenever we have a device that doesn’t charge with USB-C.
Additionally, if Asus were to replace the proprietary charging port with a second USB-C port, you aren’t stuck with using the port just for charging — it can still sync a phone or read external drives. Whereas, as it is now, the charging port is a single serving use of space.
Keyboard cover and pen
In almost all promotional photos of the Transformer Pro T304, a small sleeve for the Asus Pen is seen on the right side of the keyboard. However, included in the box with our review unit was the Transformer Keyboard Cover without any sort of sleeve attachment to hold the pen while not in use.
It’s a small gripe, but one that would find validation the moment we lose the pen and are forced to purchase a replacement or go without.
The Asus Pen itself has two buttons on it, one functioning as a left click and the other as a right-click. The tip is replaceable in the pen. The pen is fairly light, and doesn’t have the same heft of, say, the Apple Pencil to it. The buttons each have some wiggle to them, which can get annoying when you’re trying to write and your fingers are inadvertently on top of one (or both) of them.
Overall, the pen travels smoothly across the display with minimal latency.
As for the keyboard itself, it’s spacious and the backlit keys offer a fair amount of travel. Using magnets, the keyboard can be placed at a slight angle up off the desk for more ergonomic typing, or with a quick change the keyboard can transition to flat against your desk or lap.