Asus Transformer Book TX300 review:

A high-end hybrid bursting with features

For $1,499, you'd be right to expect better performance than from most of the other hybrid laptops we've seen to date. One of the Transformer Book's best assets is its high-end Intel Core i7 CPU, which allows it to compete with nonhybrid laptops in this price range, including the Acer Aspire S7 and the Toshiba Kirabook.

You might be able to get away with a Core i5 CPU in a system like this, but with a full-HD touch panel to drive, as well as multiple hard drives, I'm happy to take the upgrade. For everyday use, including office tasks and HD video playback, it ran without a hitch, but certain Microsoft-approved apps, such as IE10, still feel smoother than non-Microsoft alternatives like Chrome, which is a shame (but seems like a software optimization issue).

I had hoped that the Intel Core i7 CPU could make up for some of the shortcomings of the Intel HD 4000 built-in graphics and make it possible for me to use the Transformer Book as a modest gaming PC, but that was not the case. Games ran slowly, even at lower resolutions, and trying to use just the tablet portion of the system reminded me that games that might work well in that format, such as the recent strategy game X-Com, are not designed to understand finger input instead of distinct left and right mouse button clicks.

The two-cell 5,000mAh battery in the tablet part of the system ran for 4 hours and 11 minutes in our video playback battery drain test, which is decent for a Core i7 system running a 1,920x1,080-pixel-resolution screen -- but far from the all-day computing tablet users may be looking for. There's a second, smaller battery in the base, and we're currently running additional tests on the docked combination of tablet and base, and will report the results in an update. Keep in mind the combined system needs to run the spinning platter hard drive in the base, as well as the keyboard and ports, so don't expect battery life to double.

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The Asus Transformer Book highlights the difficulty of bridging the gap between laptop and tablet. Despite having excellent components, and added features that make a lot of sense, such as dual SSD/HDD storage, the final product is still not as seamlessly easy to use as it should be, partly because of quirks of Windows 8, and partly because of the top-heavy design and suboptimal touch pad.

That said, this is still one of the best hybrid attempts to date, and if you're looking for a powerful full-time laptop and part-time tablet, and don't mind paying more than you would for a MacBook Air, you'll probably join me in applauding Asus for packing a high-end CPU and high-res screen into a sharp-looking aluminum body.

Multimedia multitasking test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Adobe Photoshop CS5 image-processing test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Apple iTunes encoding test (in seconds)
(Shorter bars indicate better performance)

Video playback battery drain test (in minutes)
(Longer bars indicate better performance)

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System configurations

Asus Transformer Book TX300
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; HD1 SanDisk 128GB SSD, HD2 500GB 5,400rpm Hitachi

Toshiba Kirabook
Windows 8 (64-bit); 2GHz Intel Core i7-3667U; 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Toshiba SSD

Acer R7-571-6858 Touch Notebook
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD Graphics 4000; HD 1 24GB SSD, HD 2 500GB 5,400rpm hard drive

Apple MacBook Pro 13-inch w/ Retina Display (October 2012)
OSX 10.8.2 Mountain Lion 2.5GHz Intel Core i5-3210M, 8GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz, 768MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000, 256GB Apple SSD

Acer Aspire S7-391-9886
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.9GHz Intel Core i7-3517U; 4GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 128MB (Shared) Intel HD 4000; 256GB Intel SSD

Toshiba Satellite U845T-S4165
Windows 8 (64-bit); 1.8GHz Intel Core i5-3337U; 6GB DDR3 SDRAM 1,600MHz; 32MB (Dedicated) Intel HD 4000; 128GB Toshiba SSD

What you'll pay

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