Asus pretty much wrote the book on convertible tablets with separate screen and keyboard elements. Now, it's taken that approach to an unusual extreme with the Transformer Book Trio. This 11.6" ultraportable squeezes an Atom-based Android tablet into the screen and a Haswell-based Windows 8 notebook into the accompanying keyboard dock. Impressively, the two systems can be used simultaneously—regardless of whether they're connected.
When the tablet portion is attached to the base, the system can switch between Windows and Android with the touch of a button. Although the two components don't share storage, the notebook half can access the flash memory built into the tablet, likely via USB.
If the Transformer Book is split in two, the tablet portion behaves like a standard Android tablet. Meanwhile, the keyboard dock can be connected to an external display and used at the same time. The two pieces don't communicate directly in that configuration, but each has its own Wi-Fi hardware, so it's still possible to maintain a connection between them.
Asus claims the Trio will run for up to 13 hours on a single charge. That figure only applies to Android mode, though. Battery life in Windows mode tops out at five hours, which is hardly fitting for a Haswell-based ultraportable. I'm also a little disappointed to see the Atom Z2760 listed in the spec sheet instead of one of Intel's upcoming Bay Trail chips.
At least Asus didn't skimp on the display. The 11.6" IPS panel has a 1080p resolution. The Wi-Fi options are pretty robust, too. 802.11ac and Bluetooth 4.0 are available on the notebook half, while the tablet supports 802.11n and Bluetooth 3.0. You also get USB ports on both: a full-sized USB 3.0 connector on the dock and a mini USB 2.0 jack on the tablet.
The Transformer Book Trio may not represent the best of both worlds, but being able to explore each one simultaneously—and separately—has some appeal. I wonder if this approach will catch on.