Asus Transformer AIO review:

The all-in-one/tablet hybrid that's hard not to like

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Comparing the Transformer's performance as a desktop, you can see this system is highly competitive among other all-in-ones in the same price range. Only the Core i7 Toshiba LX835, a $1,349-based system, outperformed the Transformer consistently.

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I was also pleasantly surprised to find that the Transformer and its GeForce GT 730M chip can play full PC games with reasonable frame rates and image quality. I had Far Cry 3 running at full resolution and medium quality and the game was thoroughly playable, even during large-scale battles with fire effects and lots of characters onscreen. I wouldn't recommend playing via the tablet in remote-desktop mode to Windows 8, though. The input lag is simply too severe.

Asus Transformer AIO
CPU Nvidia Tegra 3
Memory 2GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM
Storage 32GB SSD
Camera 1MP, 1,280x720 front-facing
Weight 5.56 pounds
Measurements (HWD) 11.5 inches by 18.3 inches by 0.69 inch
Operating system Android 4.1 Jellybean
Networking 802.11a/b/g/n, Bluetooth 3.0

As a tablet, the Transformer offers core components similar to those of a higher-end Android tablet from last year. The replacement for the Tegra 3 chip, the Tegra 4, should be rolling out to higher-end devices before too much longer, so you might feel some obsolescence anxiety. I wouldn't worry about it too much, though, given the proximity of the Transformer's Windows 8 base unit. The 32GB solid-state drive (SSD) also equals the storage capacity of our current favorite Android tablet, last year's Asus Transformer TF700, and the 2GB of memory in the Transformer AIO surpasses that unit's 1GB of RAM.

Of course the Transformer AIO has portability issues introduced by its 18.4-inch display. Given the size and weight of the tablet, 11.5x18.3x.7 inches (HWD) and a hefty 5.6 pounds, I wouldn't give the Transformer tablet to a very small child to run around with. Even an adult holding the tablet upright will notice the weight. That said, the Transformer is easier to maneuver than the nearly 12-pound Vaio Tap 20.

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As should be obvious, the Transformer AIO's tablet is not an all-purpose replacement for an e-reader or one of the more common 7- or 10-inch tablets. I can see using it on a couch, in bed, or at a table. Setting it up for the kids to watch Netflix on in another room, or using it as a kitchen assistant, would both make sense. I would not use it in the bathroom, on mass transit, on an exercise bike, or anywhere else where you might need to hold it up for an extended period.

Battery life will also limit your ability to travel with the Transformer AIO's tablet, although it's better than the Vaio Tap 20, I suspect due to the efficiency benefits of Android and the Tegra 3 chip. Asus suggests that you'll see about 5 hours of power watching movies in Android at half brightness, and that matches our test results, which came in around 4 hours, 47 minutes. The Vaio Tap 20 posted 3 hours and 42 minutes on the same test. Interestingly, that's similar battery life to the 3 hours, 23 minutes we saw with the Transformer AIO tablet using Windows 8 in remote desktop mode.

For lighter duty, Asus says the Transformer will last about 15 hours playing MP3s. Our review window doesn't afford us the opportunity to run a 15-hour test, let alone more than one, but as always you should expect longer running times with less-demanding use.

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Lastly, Asus equipped both the base unit and the tablet with a reasonable assortment of connectivity options, but with a few holes. The base has four USB 3.0 inputs and a USB 2.0 port that's occupied by the wireless mouse and keyboard receiver, as well as an SD Card slot, and a set of analog audio jacks for a headphone and a microphone. The HDMI output on the base lets you add an external monitor, or even connect to a television. There's no HDMI-in, though, which would be welcome for connecting a game console or a cable box. There's also no separate HDMI output on the tablet, although it does have a Mini-USB 2.0 port, a volume rocker, a microSD Card reader, and its own headphone and microphone jacks.

Asus has obviously put a lot of effort into the Transformer AIO. It is not the most elegant version of the all-in-one/tablet hybrid concept that I've seen, but it might be the most powerful. Its core PC components embody no compromises, and it has impressive versatility with two operating systems and the option to add a second user if you connect an external display.

We will see more variations of this product class in the coming months (from Lenovo, among others), and if the Asus Transformer AIO doesn't meet your needs, another model might. Intel's next CPU generation will also presumably enable lighter, more power-efficient designs before the end of 2013. If it were my money, I would wait to see how the market evolves. For those who can't wait, Asus's design will provide a rock-solid Windows 8 system, and a large Android tablet to experiment with.

Performance and battery testing conducted by Joseph Kaminski. Find out more about how we test desktop systems.

System configurations
Apple iMac 21.5-inch (November 2012)
Apple OS X Mountain Lion 10.8; 2.7GHz Intel Core i5-3330S; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 512MB Nvidia GeForce GT 640M graphics card; 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive

Asus ET2300INTI
Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit); 3GHz Intel Core i5-3330; 8GB 1,333MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 1GB Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Asus Transformer AIO
Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit); 3.1GHz Intel Core i5-3350P; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 730M graphics card; 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Dell Inspiron One 2330
Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3330S; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 32MB Intel HD Graphics 2500 (embedded); 1TB 7,200rpm hard drive

Samsung Series 7 All-in-one
Microsoft Windows 8 64-bit; 1.7GHz Intel Core i5-3317U; 4GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; Intel HD Graphics 4000 embedded graphics chip; 750GB 5,400rpm hard drive

Sony Vaio Tap 20
Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M; 6GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 32MB Intel HD Graphics 4000 (embedded); 1TB 5,400rpm hard drive

Toshiba LX835-D3380
Microsoft Windows 8 (64-bit); 2.4GHz Intel Core i7-3630QM; 8GB 1,600MHz DDR3 SDRAM; 2GB Nvidia GeForce GT 630M graphics card; 2TB 5,400rpm hard drive

What you'll pay

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