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Windows Hardware

Asus Announces x86 Transformer 203

MrSeb writes with the scoop on Asus's new Transformer tablet/laptop devices: "If you've ever looked at an Asus Transformer and wished that it was slightly bigger, had an x86 processor, and ran Windows, I have good news: At Computex in Taiwan, Asus has unveiled just that. Dubbed the Transformer Book, this isn't some wimpy Atom-powered thing either: This Transformer will ship with a range of Ivy Bridge Core i3/5/7 processors and discrete Nvidia graphics. Like its Android-powered predecessors, the Transformer Book is a touchscreen tablet computer that plugs into keyboard docking station, effectively becoming a laptop (or ultrabook, if you prefer). Rounding out the specs, the Transformer Book will come in a range of models (11.6, 13, and 14 inches), your choice of SSD or HDD, up to 4GB of RAM. All three models will have an IPS display capable of full HD (1920×1080). There's a webcam on the front of the tablet portion of the Transformer, and a 5-megapixel shooter on the back. There's no mention of wireless connectivity, but presumably there's Bluetooth and WiFi; on the wired side, there seems to be only a single micro-HDMI socket (on the tablet), and a USB socket (on the keyboard/dock). On the software side, the Transformer Book will of course run Windows 8. It all sounds great — but Asus kept one tiny tidbit out of its presentation: battery life." Aside from the Nvidia graphics (which, from the looks of it, can be disabled for the on-chip output), perhaps this could be the first "tablet" capable of running fully Free Software? (UEFI evil aside).
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Asus Announces x86 Transformer

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  • 11.6” with full HD (Score:5, Informative)

    by anss123 ( 985305 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:13AM (#40217035)
    That’s 189 DPI. Not too shabby, and here I was looking at a 1366x768.

    This might just be my new laptop.
  • No, not the first... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Cyclops ( 1852 ) <> on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:21AM (#40217059) Homepage

    perhaps this could be the first "tablet" capable of running fully Free Software?

    Hardly, for instance... take my tablet, a WeTab. It's a keyboad-less netbook, and has run Fedora 15, 16 and now the just released 17.

    And it won't be the first, as if it uses nVidia, then it'll hardly run well with fully free software.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @03:53AM (#40217161)

    Well firstly ASUS make Windows tablets equivalent to MOST of their Android ones, the A numbers are Android, the W numbers Windows, it's not new that they make a Windows tablet, they just don't have much market traction.

    So the A500's equivalent was the W500 (which was based on AMD's low power chipset):

    I'm waiting on the A700s (one coming from Acer, one from Asus, and maybe a Samsung unit too), which is the Android 1920x1200 screen Quad core Tegra 3. These Windows tablets don't sell, perhaps Windows 8 will help them, but they're really not so useful on touch screens or low power long battery life devices. Both the Asus and Acer ones are due this month. The Samsung one is rumoured but not released (I'm guessing that's because Apple screen is provided by Samsung and Apple probably got an exclusive windows on high res screens from Samsung).

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @04:12AM (#40217201)

    Looks to be fanless, but with lots of vents, more troubling is the battery life if it's sucking down 4, or 5 times the juice, are we talking 3 hours instead of 15? Presumably not that bad, but are we talking >8 at least?? Not much good if it can't handle a working day.

    From the article, the air-vent comment:
    "The tablet is positively riddled with air vents. If we assume that the Transformer Book uses the lowest-power Core i7 CPU, the 3667U (17-watt TDP), we’re still talking about a chip that uses at least 4 or 5 times the power of the A5X ARM SoC in the iPad 3. "

    Battery life comment:
    "Considering battery life was omitted from Asus’s presentation, I would guess “not a lot.”"

  • Ask ARM (Score:4, Informative)

    by Sycraft-fu ( 314770 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @06:48AM (#40217679)

    They don't seem to be able to make a laptop ready CPU. Realize that ARM CPUs cap out right around where the Atom starts. Ok fine, nothing wrong with that there is a MASSIVE low end and embedded market and ARM rules it. However, it does mean that for laptops, it isn't so useful. It is also lacking features in that arena as well. Really 64-bit is what people are after for desktops and laptops today. The new Atoms can do x64 no problem, ARM for all their chatter about it can't.

    This is all extremely low end, laptop wise too. As noted this particular product doesn't use an Atom, it uses a real Core i chip which is a good bit more powerful and is what most people are after in their laptop.

    So have a chat with ARM about when, or maybe more accurately if, they plan on moving in to the higher end CPU space. Until they have something there, I doubt there'll be much interest in an ARM laptop.

  • by TheRaven64 ( 641858 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @08:18AM (#40217993) Journal
    I've spent a fair bit of time over the past years talking to manufacturers about supporting open source (FreeBSD specifically, but also in general) and I hear the same thing: they need customers to tell them that they want it to be able to devote any funding to it. This is easy for server stuff, as it's easy to produce customers who are going to say 'we want to buy 10,000 new machines this month that have 10Gig ethernet controllers with in-tree drivers'. It's much harder to find people saying the same thing about mobile hardware. No one refuses to buy an Android handset or tablet because it has blob drivers, for example. It's getting slightly easier with GPUs, because customers buying them for compute clusters want open source drivers so that they can verify correctness in certain code paths.
  • by MtViewGuy ( 197597 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @08:22AM (#40218015)

    I think for the people who do want decent battery life, the new Transformer running the latest low-power Core i3 CPU, built-in Ivy Bridge graphics, and 4 GB of RAM is all they need. Unlike Intel's past built-in graphics chips, the HD 4000 GPU built into the Ivy Bridge chipset is no slouch at even 3-D graphics, so for most users there is no significant advantage to offering an additional GPU unit.

  • by DrXym ( 126579 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @09:03AM (#40218319)
    Er no, nothing like GNOME did. First off there is a very loose coupling on Linux between the desktop and the apps that run inside it mostly via protocols developed by So if you don't like GNOME3 as your desktop you are free to use any other desktop but with the same apps. You can even have more than one desktop available in the same dist if you want. Secondly, GNOME 3 is first and foremost about the desktop experience, not tablet experience. It is clearly got aspirations to be usable with tablets but it's nowhere close to that yet. Thirdly, GNOME 3 is rather well implemented and pretty elegant. It's certainly not without its faults (Linus went into a valid rant about some of them the other day) but it has well thought out workflows and works well. Fourth if you really hate some particular behaviour and don't want to switch outright you can write an extension to change it. The Mint distribution have customised GNOME 3 so much it more closely resembles GNOME 2 while benefiting from compositing and all the rest.

    So no nothing like GNOME.

  • by NotQuiteReal ( 608241 ) on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @09:26AM (#40218517) Journal
    Windows 8 looks pretty much like Windows 7, if you turn off the "Metro" Interface.

    Windows 7 = ver 6.1
    Windows 8 = ver 6.2

    Edit "HKEY_CURRENT_USER\Software\Microsoft\Windows\CurrentVersion\Explorer\RPEnabled" to have a value of 0 and reboot. Now the start button works like you want. You don't have to leave the desktop. Put Metro back by setting it to 1, of course.

    I think "metro" is an apt name - it is basic transportation for the smelly masses, and you only see it when it is in your way, or you want to be somewhere else. That said, it is a good interface for people who mostly do just a few things.

    I haven't used Win8 much yet, but it seems pretty snappy - who knows maybe Microsoft made it more efficient for tablets, but you can get the benefits using it like a desktop.
  • Re:Ask ARM (Score:4, Informative)

    by Archibald Buttle ( 536586 ) <> on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @10:04AM (#40218865)

    I call FUD. 64-bit is only "what people are after" because of marketing. Nothing more or less. I mean, think about it, what really is the point of 64-bit?

    64-bit integer maths isn't really a genuine requirement, and on the rare occasions it is needed the impact of performing 64-bit integer maths on a 32-bit CPU is not too immense. As for 64-bit floating-point maths, most ARM chips have come with this built-in for many years.

    Then there's 64-bit addressing, which in reality is a myth, since no CPUs actually support 64-bit addressing. Nobody needs to access 16EiB of RAM, or will need to for several decades to come. I believe that x86-64 chips currently top out at 48-bit addressing, which is 256TiB. 32-bit ARM chips top out at 4GiB, which admittedly is starting to feel a little cramped and is arguably inadequate, but the Cortex-A15 introduced 40-bit addressing (1TiB) which addresses this concern.

    The reality of "64-bit" for x86, and the performance advantages it has brought over IA32, has been that it's addressed deficiencies of Intel's old IA32 architecture. The main improvement derives from the addition of 8 new general purpose registers, bringing x86-64's tally to 16. ARM chips have always had 16 general purpose registers.

    I'd argue that ARM have already designed cores that are capable of playing in the laptop space. Cortex-A15 MPCore seems up to the job to me.

    If you're still not sold on my arguments that you don't really need 64-bit, ARMv8 was announced last November which is a 64-bit ARM instruction set. Applied Micro's X-Gene CPU is based on this.

    Besides all of this, given that their business is designing cores rather than manufacturing it's not really down to ARM to push into the laptop space. It's down to their licensees to put ARM cores into laptop CPUs, and to manufacture them using processes that will allow those chips to run at clock speeds competitive with Intel and AMDs CPUs.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday June 05, 2012 @12:04PM (#40220461)
    Asus simply cannot be trusted with your money. My Transformer TF101 was sold to me on the belief--as Asus told review sites like Anandtech--that the dock would be compatible with other Transformer-series models going forward. That was a lie; it was specific to the TF101 and is now effectively worthless to me when I upgrade the tablet in the future. Had they told the truth, I wouldn't have bought the dock (and therefore, likely wouldn't have bought the Transformer in the first place.)

    They followed that up with the TF201, a model so badly flawed that GPS didn't work at all, and Bluetooth / WiFi worked poorly as well. The reasons were twofold: poor design (metal casing that blocked radio, and pogo pin connectors that didn't connect properly), coupled with poor build quality. Asus' answer to the problem? Sticking its fingers in its ears, shouting "LALALALA I CAN'T HEAR YOU", and then finally removing an already-advertised feature from the spec sheet rather than actually fixing the problem.

    Then come the Ice Cream Sandwich updates, which have caused massive problems with random reboots, boot lockups, boot loops, and sleep of death. In Asus' own fairly substantial poll on Facebook, almost 90% of respondents have reported that they've been experiencing these issues, as many as several times a day. The tablet is essentially worthless, at this point; you can't do anything meaningful on it knowing it will likely reboot and lose what you were working on.

    Simple enough fix, you'd think: let users roll back to Honeycomb while Asus fixes this problem, one they appear to have largely because they've requested combined builds for both Tegra2 and Tegra3 devices from Nvidia, where other vendors seem to be working on the builds in parallel. (These problems basically don't exist on other ICS tablets and phones).

    But no. After THREE MONTHS, Asus is still forcing these bug-riddled, barely-tested updates on new TF101 buyers, still provides NO official way to roll back, and still considers your hardware warranty invalid if you dare install your own chosen operating system on the hardware you paid for. (And for most users, it's only even possible to install your own choice thanks to the hacking community. Even though the vast majority of production of this device lacks any mobile connectivity except WiFi / Bluetooth, Asus locks it down to prevent users exercising free choice, and patches exploits in new production as soon as they're found).

    And after three months, the problem still continues for many, many people. This despite Asus publicly telling users the update was fixed after pushing several updates that didn't fix the problem. (But then why am I surprised? Months ago after the problems were first reported by the community, Asus flat-out lied to the media and said no such problems existed.)

    Sure, you may feel the fact that this is an X86 version somehow avoids all this. Frankly, I doubt it. Asus will find some way to screw this up too, and you're naive if you think this is a product worth buying.


Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats