Surface Pro 4 vs ASUS Transformer 3 Pro – early comparison

During the recent Computex 2016, ASUS has announced their latest generation of their Transformer Pro series – the “Transformer 3 Pro”. The Transformer 3 Pro certainly looks attractive, especially for those who are currently considering getting the Surface Pro 4. On paper, they look very similar. It is very apparent that ASUS is going after the very same market with their own weapon that in some ways, exceeds the Surface Pro 4.

Since it is impossible to get hold of the Transformer 3 Pro at the moment, here’s an early comparison based on their spec numbers.

Surface Pro 4 vs Transformer 3 Pro – Design

As mentioned before, visually they are very similar as you can see:

You can draw your own conclusion here, but I don’t think there’s much to choose from between the two as far as the design goes. Both feature kickstands, and both keyboards are removable. The keyboard on the Surface Pro 4 doesn’t lie flat against the floor, which could be a plus or a minus depending on whether you like your keyboard laying flat or raised at the rear. I personally like the Surface Pro 4 setup.

Surface Pro 4 vs Transformer 3 Pro – Size

  • Thickness – The Surface Pro is 8.40 mm while the Transformer 3 Pro is 8.35 mm thick. I doubt you will feel the 0.05mm difference in person.
  • Weight – The Surface Pro 4 weighs 786g while the Transformer 3 Pro weighs 795g. Once again, I doubt you will feel the difference of 9g in person. A small fact to note here is that the Surface Pro 4 with the Intel Core M processor weighs less – by 20g. 29g difference is still quite tiny but if you are paranoid about the weight, it might be a small positive factor.
  • Dimension – The Surface Pro 4 measures 11.50-inch by 7.93-inch. ASUS did not publish their physical dimension (except the thickness) at this moment but given that it features a slightly larger screen, we can safely assume it is a bit larger as well.
  • Colors – Yes, the Transformer 3 Pro can be had in multiple colors – Icicle Gold and Glacier Gray. In case you were wondering, the Surface Pro 4 only comes in one color – silver.

Surface Pro 4 vs Transformer 3 Pro – Keyboard

Transformer keyboard lays flat on the floor. The Surface Pro 4 keyboard doesn’t. You may like the former or a latter, this is highly subjective.

Both keyboards are backlit. In terms of feel, you’ll have to wait until we get a copy. From what we hear, both have nice feels to them. If you must know, the Surface Pro 4 keyboard has 1.3 mm travel, while the Transformer 3 Pro does 1.4 mm travel.

The keyboard is included as a standard accessory for the Transformer 3 Pro. As you all know, Microsoft charges a good amount of money for their version of the keyboard.

The trackpad on the Transformer 3 Pro is bigger, but the sensitivity nor accuracy performance is still unknown. I personally find the Surface Pro 4 trackpad somewhat lacking in both feel and sensitivity.

The Surface Pro 4 does give you an option to use a bluetooth keyboard which is nice for those who absolutely needs a full-size keyboard.

Surface Pro 4 vs Transformer 3 Pro – Pen

The Transformer 3 Pro doesn’t come with one! And the Surface Pro 4 pen is very nicely implemented. 1024 different pressure levels provide lots of application flexibility. You can get optional nibs if you are serious about arts. And you get the magnetically attached mechanism that you all know.

But ASUS says they will make one available in the near future. They promise the same 1024 pressure levels. There is a good chance that it will not feature the magnetic attachment which could be a pain for some users.

Surface Pro 4 vs Transformer 3 Pro – External Ports

This is where the Transformer 3 Pro clearly wins, at least on paper. Here’s what it offers:

  • USB 3.0 port
  • USB 3.1/USB-C/Thunderbolt 3.0 all-in-one port
  • MicroSD card reader
  • HDMI port – full size version
  • ROG XG Station 2 – this is the big one! This external dock contains a GPU! Once you connect this to the Transformer 3 Pro and connect your monitor to it, what you will get is an equivalent to a laptop with a decent GPU built-in. ASUS even claims this combo will be “VR-ready gaming powerhouse”. Just in case you were wondering which GPU it comes with, it is NVIDIA GTX 1080 with 4GB of memory. It will probably not be cheap though.

Compare the above against what the Surface Pro 4 offers:

  • USB 3.0 port
  • MicroSD card reader
  • 3.5mm headphone socket
  • Mini Display port

ASUS does not mention if the laptop can be charged using their USB-C port. That would be a nice feature. Some of the Dell models do this already.

Surface Pro 4 vs Transformer 3 Pro – Screen

  • Size – The Surface Pro 4 comes with a 12.3-inch screen while the Transformer 3 Pro comes with a 12.6-inch screen. An average user won’t notice the difference but if you are a power user who likes to use every pixel on the screen, this is a useful increase.
  • Resolution – The Surface Pro 4 features 2736 x 1824 resolution while the Transformer 3 Pro offers 2860 x 1920 resolution. The Transformer 3 Pro beats out the Surface Pro 4 narrowly but the difference is really small – more useful as a bragging right.
  • Pixel Density – The Transformer 3 Pro again beats out the Surface Pro 4 narrowly – 275 ppi vs 267 ppi. Once again, too small of a difference to be noticeable.
  • Aspect Ratio – they both are 3:2.

Based on various comments during the Compudex 2016, the screen that comes with the Transformer 3 Pro looks just as nice as the once you get in the Surface Pro 4 which is considered one of the nicest available today already.

Surface Pro 4 vs Transformer 3 Pro – Processor

The Surface Pro 4 currently uses Intel Core M, Core i5, and Core i7. These are the 6th generation processors. The Transformer 3 Pro will be using either the Core i5 or the Core i7 – the same 6th generation processors.

So unless you must have the battery-saving Core M version, the processor should not be your deciding factor here.

Surface Pro 4 vs Transformer 3 Pro – RAM

Both can be equipped up to 16GB of RAM. Not much to add here.

Surface Pro 4 vs Transformer 3 Pro – Battery

Microsoft claims 9 hours of “mixed use” battery life. ASUS also claims the identical 9-hour number! But we all know that we need to take manufacturers’ numbers with grains of salt. In reality, Microsoft did very well in their battery tests so far, nearly matching their claimed numbers while ASUS typically under-delivers. You’ll have to wait and see if this is the case for the Transformer 3 Pro.

ASUS does claim their device will charge 60% in just one hour, which is an excellent time if it indeed turns out to be true.

Surface Pro 4 vs Transformer 3 Pro – Conclusion

You can draw your own conclusion based on this article so far, but as I mentioned before, these two devices are very similar.

The Transformer 3 Pro does appear to have some advantages on the external ports, including soon to be available external GPU. The Surface Pro 4 does come with a pen which may or may not matter to you.

ASUS will likely to have some advantage in price just as they have in the past if you compare their equivalent models.

There are also few unknown factors such as thermal performance and the speaker performance. ASUS is using some fancy marketing terms like “SonicMaster audio and smart AMP technology” for their sound system which may or may not turn out nice.

The Surface Pro 4 clearly wins in the area of accessories availability.

But there’s one big factor that hasn’t been considered here yet which is the reliability. Microsoft had their own share of issues and they had to issue multiple updates to fix those issues. ASUS on the other hand, has not so good reputation as far as reliability goes, nor their ability to fix the issues. Personally, I would wait for couple of months after the initial availability. But by then, Microsoft might announce the Surface Pro 5. 🙂

Kent Beck

Kent Beck link to his wiki

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