When it comes time to upgrade your computer, you’ll be faced with some decisions: Mac or PC? Laptop or desktop? Or maybe a tablet? Think about it too long and your head will spin. But computers aren’t exactly cheap, and nobody wants to be saddled for the next several years with a pricey, bad decision.
For the hesitant among us, ASUS offers its Transformer AiO. It’s an all-in-one computer that functions as both a desktop and (enormous) tablet, and even gives you two different operating systems to use — Android 4.1 and Windows 8.
When one says “all-in-one computer,” it often brings to mind TV-like desktops with large screens (up to 27 inches) and CPUs that are built into the display for an uncluttered, space-saving look. All-in-ones are typically geared toward families as a kind of central hub computer, to be placed near the kitchen or other gathering spot.
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The Transformer AiO sets itself apart by offering both Android and Windows operating systems in one device, and a comparatively modest 18.4-inch touch screen display that can also detach from its docking station to become a very large tablet.
ASUS has been on a tear lately, offering all types of hardware with detachable parts, and the Transformer AiO is no different. When it’s docked in the PC station, users can switch between Windows 8 and Android 4.1 interfaces via a button on the side of the monitor. Think of it as having the best of both worlds: a PC for your office docs and an Android tablet for your multimedia and entertainment apps.
The flexibility theme carries over into the hardware too. When you want to catch a movie on Netflix, you can detach the monitor, prop it up on a table in another room and, in effect, have a second TV. There’s a built-in kickstand and flip-out handle in the back for easy transport between rooms. By itself, the tablet/monitor weighs 5.3 lbs, and I found it didn’t feel any heavier than carrying an average laptop.
Android 4.1 is native to the tablet, and Windows 8 to the PC docking station. When the tablet is docked, users can run both operating systems, but when undocked, Windows 8 has to be streamed to the tablet via Wi-Fi. Get out of your Wi-Fi range, and the tablet reverts to running Android.
The PC docking station uses a 3rd-gen Intel Core i5 processor, while the tablet has an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor. Each component also has its own memory and storage — the PC station has 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive, while the tablet has 2GB of RAM and 32GB of onboard storage. All the requisite ports are there for your external media, including four USB 3.0 ports and a USB 2.0 port. There are 3-in-1 memory card and microSD card slots, as well as a DVD drive. When detached from the PC station, battery life for the tablet is listed at 5 hours.
For video chats, there’s a 1-megapixel front-facing camera on the tablet. The Transformer AiO also comes with an elegant wireless keyboard (includes numerical keypad) and mouse. The entire package will retail for $1,299 and be available this spring.
Admittedly, I’ve only spent a few days with the Transformer AiO, but having the choice between two operating systems and a desktop or tablet set-up is a game-changer. It’s also, even at that price, a good value proposition for families who need flexibility or those in the market for a home computer who simply want options.