The Asus 3 Series of mobile computing products was officially launched in Singapore on Thursday, Oct 13. The product refresh, which Asus themed the “Power of 3“, focuses on Performance, Design, and Transformation. Among the products were the ZenBook 3 ultrabook and the Transformer 3 Pro hybrid laptop-tablet, which are available from Oct 22, 2016. The ZenPad 3 tablet can be found in retail outlets today, while the ZenWatch 3 will be available in November.
The most impressive of the lot is undoubtedly the Transformer 3 Pro, which closely resembles the Microsoft Surface Pro 4, down to its adjustable kickstand and Intel Core i7 6th generation processor. Rather than offer customers different customisation options like Microsoft, Asus has just 2 entries in the series. The higher-powered Transformer 3 Pro comes with a Core i7-6500U processor with 16GB RAM and 512GB PCIe SSD, and costs S$2,598. The lower-spec variant comes with a Core i5-6200U processor, is loaded with 8GB RAM and 256GB SSD storage, and costs S$1,898.
Common features of the Transformer 3 Pro across the available variants are the Windows 10 Pro operating system, 12.6″ WQHD touch display with 2,880 x 1,920 pixel resolution, a stylus, and 2-years international warranty. This pits the series against the lower-to-mid range Surface Pro 4s, which makes sense as Asus isn’t trying to outdo its competitor. I was impressed with its soft keyboard, whose tactile feel made typing seamless and error-free, as you can see in the image above.
In terms of battery life, more recent generations of Intel Core processors have prioritised energy efficiency over performance gains. Similarly, Asus expects all-day performance for the Transformer 3 Pro, and claims that an hour-long charge is sufficient to bring the battery from 0% – 60% charge. Beyond that, there is Thunderbolt, USB3, and a full-sized HDMI slot on the side for connectivity. Power users who feel the need to connect to the network using a cable will appreciate the Universal Dock, which comes equipped with Ethernet and VGA sockets, 3-in-1 SD card reader, HDMI, USB 3.0 and USB-C 3.1 ports.
In comparison, the ZenBook 3 ultrabook, while armed with the latest 7th generation Intel Core i5 and i7 processors, doesn’t feel as polished. This is especially so because the feel of the keyboard is somewhat compromised to keep the laptop razor-slim. Typing wasn’t as smooth compared to the Transformer, and not all my keystrokes were detected. In addition, the audio crackled a little when the speakers were turned up to the highest volume.
The ZenBook 3 also comes in 2 models. The more affordable ultrabook comes with regular 512GB SSD storage, Core i5-7200U processor, and 8GB RAM, and costs S$1,998. The higher-powered model comes with 512GB PCIe SSD storage, Core i7-7500U processor, and 16GB RAM, and costs S$2,598. Both ZenBook 3 ultrabooks weigh about 0.91kg, come pre-loaded with Windows 10 Home, and rely on Intel HD Graphics 620. This means that it is suitable for some gaming, but not much more than that.
The next two products at the Zenvolution launch – the ZenWatch 3 wearable, and ZenPad 3 tablet, were not particularly eye-catching.
The ZenPad 3, which will retail at S$499, comes prepped with a Qualcomm 6-core 1.8GHz processor, 4GB RAM, 32GB of storage, and an 8MP rear camera. Its 7.9″ display with a resolution of 2,048 x 1,536 pixels doesn’t match the latest crop of smartphones, but should be good enough for people looking for a portable device to watch the latest dramas and engage in some mobile gaming. It also boasts 802.11 ac connectivity, which brings the device up to speed with the most recent generation of wireless networking protocols – provided that one already has a Wireless-AC capable router at home. Watching high-definition videos wouldn’t be an issue, as long as the wireless signal is strong.
Apple’s foray into smart watches hasn’t been particularly successful, and similarly, it’s hard to see where Asus would go with its ZenWatch 3. The ZenWatch’s round face distinguishes it from its fruity competitor, and the leather strap gives the watch a more classic touch. However, the thing about watches is that the image-conscious consumer is likely to go for the more recognizable brand, and the price tag of S$369 doesn’t differentiate Asus sufficiently from the competition.
Other products available at the launch included the ROG XG Station 2, which is an external graphics card dock that transforms the Transformer 3 Pro, and theoretically any other machine with a Thunderbolt 3 connector, into a monster gaming system. It seemed a little tacky to have the GeForce GTX text shine through the casing, but I’m no design aficionado, so one could argue that it has aesthetic merit.
Another product showcased was the ROG G31 Edition 10 desktop. Although it comes with an Nvidia GeFroce GTX 1070 GPU by default, the unit can feature up to a 2-way SLI Nvidia GeForce GTX 1080 GPU for the ultimate gaming experience. It wasn’t clear how many of such units will be made available in Singapore, but its appearance at the Zenvolution launch certainly is a teaser of things to come.
Finally, the ROG 31 was connected to a 34″ gaming monitor, known as the ROG Swift PG348Q. Goodness knows what the PG, 348, or Q stands for. I’m assuming that parental-guidance is advised for gamers who spend more than 348 minutes on this Quality masterpiece.
All that said and done, my biggest bugbear about the product presentations were the frequent references to how the Asus product was x% faster or more efficient than something else. The unspoken assumption of such comparisons is that consumers should have a point-of-reference from which they can tell how much better the Asus product is. Unfortunately, the countless statistics Asus bandied about were meaningless because they didn’t articulate what they were comparing their products to.
Criticisms about the product presentations aside, it is clear that Asus is continuing to push the boundaries with a vast range of computing products catered to every need. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that we might get our hands on some of that ROG goodness come this holiday season. Wink!