Let's be honest. I can tolerate Windows 8 running on a desktop PC or a notebook, but Microsoft's touch-enabled operating system running on a tablet has yet to thrill me. I'll take an iOS- or Android-powered device any day.
As such, the new ASUS Transformer AiO desktop PC makes perfect sense. Its innovative design combines the mobility of a tablet with the versatility of a powerful desktop PC.
It's not a convertible, however. The Windows 8-powered base (called a "PC Station") has a detachable, 18.4-inch multi-touch display. The display, however, is actually a tablet, powered by Android 4.1 ("Jellybean") and an NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core CPU.
When detached, the 18.4-inch LED-backlit display allows you to use Windows 8 in remote desktop mode, employing a technology called Splashtop. The screen can also function as a standalone Android tablet. The unit seamlessly switches between operating systems at the press of a button and provides up to five hours of battery life. The five-pound slate is also equipped with a convenient carrying handle and a kickstand for tabletop use.
The PC Station includes four USB 3.0 ports, one USB 2.0 port, a slot-load DVD, and HDMI output. The latter allows you to attach a monitor for extended display options, including using the base in Windows 8 mode while the tablet operates separately in Android 4.1 mode.
The display provides 1080p HD resolution with 10-point multi-touch, enhanced by IPS technology that provides a 178-degree wide viewing angle. ASUS SonicMaster audio technology rounds out the package, delivering impressive sound.
The model I tested came with an Intel Core i5 3350 processor, NVIDIA GeForce GT 730M graphics, 4GB RAM, 1TB of storage, Bluetooth 4.0, gigabit Ethernet port, a 3-in-1 card reader, and more. If you want more juice, you can upgrade to an Intel Core i7 3770 processor and up to 8 GB of RAM.
The detachable slate has 32GB of storage, front-facing HD camera, five hours of battery life, a microSD slot, Bluetooth 3.0, adjustable stand, and a carrying handle. Both units support dual-band Wi-Fi for optimal wireless networking performance with compatible routers.
The keyboard and mouse connect wirelessly to the PC station via an included Wi-Fi dongle, which unfortunately costs you one USB port right off the bat. On the bright side, while the display is docked, you can use the keyboard and mouse in either Windows 8 PC mode or Android mode.
Overall, I found the experience provided by the ASUS Transformer AiO extremely satisfying. You can use Windows 8 in whichever mode suits your needs, and since the number of apps available for Android devices far exceeds what the Windows store offers, the latest and greatest utilities, games, etc. will always be available.
Here at last is a convertible design that really gives you the best of both worlds! Prices for the ASUS Transformer AiO start at $1299. For more information, visit ASUS.com.
Roku improves popular media hub
The Roku 3 is the company's newest, fastest, most powerful streaming player. A brand new user interface provides more fluid browsing and navigation, and the unit's remote control now includes a headphone jack with volume control.
The jack and bundled in-ear headphones provide private listening or a great way for seniors living alone to hear movies and TV programs more clearly. Since the remote control is the connected via Wi-Fi, the Roku 3 box doesn't have to be in the same room. You can enjoy music services like Pandora and Spotify as you move around the house.
TV audio is muted as soon as headphones are plugged-in, and the onboard volume control only affects the headphone jack's level. When you unplug headphones, the TV audio unmutes with the volume level unchanged. The remote also doubles as a motion-sensing game controller for playing games like Angry Birds Space.
Roku's new navigation screen provides easy access to channels, including all-new one-stop search that scans multiple channels, putting the interface on equal footing with the Xbox 360.
If you have an older model Roku box, such as a Roku LT, Roku 2 HD, Roku 2 XD, Roku 2 XS or Roku Streaming Stick, don't fret. The new, slicker interface will be available as a free firmware update this month.
The device can access more than 750 channels of entertainment -- many of which are free -- plus 1080p HD support, dual-band wireless, Ethernet and USB ports, and a microSD slot.
The Roku 3 streaming player has a suggested retail price of $99.99. For more information, visit Roku.com.