After watching Transformers way too many times and thinking about it way more than a 35 year old should… I think I’ve cracked the code of some of how the Transformers would work.
First, it doesn’t matter if they are silicon or carbon based. In fact, they are probably carbon based. See these articles for information about diamond based computer chips. Link One Link Two To sum up, diamonds would make amazing microchips.
They obviously have advanced nanotechnological abilities. They can ‘grow’ (for lack of a better word) guns at will. They can change their transform shape at will… provided a template. (More on that later.) Now, nanotech has a problem. Heat. So, when the need isn’t great, they transform slowly to save heat. In emergencies though, they can transform quickly at the risk of wear and tear on structural components.
The other thing about nanotech, is the CPU has to tell everything that changes, how to change, where to go and when to do it. This requires massive computing and memory. Probably even more than would be required for a sentient consciousness to exist in the system. So, the Transformers could store only one or two (maybe three) templates in their system. To change to a different template would require deleting another one. They probably all want to keep their deep-space form, so that leaves one or two spaces (as well as their robot form) available.
On the other hand, the abilities conferred would be great. For example, in Bumblebee’s last battle, he has a pair of shoulder mounted rocket launchers. The Transformers can use their own mass to create additional components, weapons, ammunition, etc. Whatever they have in memory can be created as needed. Prime’s sword, Jazz’s shield, and Megatron’s cannon are other examples of this. Presumably the reverse would also be true. They could add mass to themselves as needed (probably takes specific forms of matter or some skill that only a few transformers have, like Ratchet).
The other thing required is energy. The spark in Prime’s chest. I’m thinking that it is a tiny piece of the All Spark. This is a nanotech (maybe femtotech?) wonder machine. Each piece of it would contain all the information and power of the whole. Hence Prime’s saving the last piece from Megatron. It would probably, given time, energy, and mass, be able to reconstitute itself. The energy from the All Spark (given femtotech instead of nanotech) could easily be a total conversion power plant. The direct conversion of mass to energy (related by whom dear readers?).
Unfortunately, the memory in the Transformers themselves is very finite and they probably lack the ability to contain themselves and their abilities in very small pieces.
It is curious, that Jazz has died, even though being ripped in half, while Frenzy survived with just his head intact. The implication is that Frenzy, being attacked by Earthlings, did not have his piece of the All Spark damage, while Megatron was able to target and destroy Jazz’s.
The Transformers, the Decepticons at least, tend to use the Earth based weapons of their transform templates. While the Autobots stick to more traditional Cybertron weapons. By comparing they various weapon types in the movie, the energy weapons seem relatively powerful, but atmosphere depredation renders them useless at long ranges. Also, the lack of shrapnel or other secondary effects means they aren’t very effective against humans and human systems. On the other hand, they are probably good at bringing down Transformer shielding.
Human weapons on the other hand are basically useless except for heavy anti-tank missiles and large caliber APFSDS rounds. That’s Armor-Piercing Fin Stabilized Discarding Sabot rounds. These are basically used by 105mm and 120mm tank cannons and 20mm and 30mm gatling guns for Anti-tank work. While the full shell fits in a 105mm howitzer. The outer part of the shell (the sabot) is thrown away immediately after the round leaves the barrel and a smaller (about 35-40mm) penetrator round (containing all the Kinetic energy from a 105mm cannon) hits the target. The penetrator is usually made of relatively exotic material (tungsten, depleted uranium, etc) and will punch through several tanks worth of armor like a 9mm bullet through 10 pounds of butter.
The shields of the Transformers are probably not designed to handle that level of kinetic energy. Energy weapons and the blast from missiles would probably not bother them, but a sabot round could cause a local failure in the shield and have enough energy left to damage the system.