ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime UK Review – The First iPad Killer?

 

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime Tablet UK Review

ASUS Transformer Prime With Keyboard Dock

iPad challengers come and go but the ASUS Transformer Prime is the first that has really excited me. It’s a follow up to the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF101 that was an unexpected success for ASUS last year. ASUS have taken what they learnt and taken it to the next level. The key selling feature is a processor that is far more powerful than those available on other tablet PCs, which means high-definition video is handled smoothly, as are graphically complex 3D games. The ASUS tablet couples a stylish, light tablet that clicks into a keyboard dock to effectively create a netbook for more heavy duty content creation and work. The end result is a highly versatile tablet with a promised operating system upgrade to the latest Android software due very soon. If you like what you see then check out the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime video I put together here.

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime Strengths

ASUS Transformer Prime With Keyboard

Powerful processor – The critical strength of the Transformer Prime is the processor – the most powerful processor available currently for a tablet (quad-core NVidia Tegra 3 CPU – 1.3GHz). This means it has fantastic capabilities to deliver 3D games smoothly with very fine graphical detail, plus it has the best high-definition video experience you can experience on a tablet. You won’t experience any stutters when playing video or games with this tablet.

Stylish design – this is a very thin and light tablet, comparable to an iPad 2 or Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1. It’s only 8.3mm thick and weighs 586 grams. This means it’s highly portable and impresses in the build quality department too. The brushed aluminium back to the tablet also lends an air of sophistication, although it looks like it may pick up the odd scratch.

ASUS Transformer Prime Side ViewASUS Transformer Prime-Back

 

10.1-Inch Gorilla Glass Super IPS screen – this is an impressive display and of a comparable quality to the highly rated iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 screens. It delivers sharp (1280 x 800 pixel resolution) and bright images that are clear and full of vivid colour. It’s a very durable screen too. You can quickly adjust the brightness of the screen with a tap to the bottom right corner of the tablet. Here you can switch to the Super IPS mode to enhance your ability to view the screen in bright sunshine, dim the brightness if you’re inside and want to take the pressure off your eyes, or even leave it up to the ASUS tablet to make the decision by using the ambient light sensor.

Capacitive screen – responsive to finger swipes and taps. They register accurately when browsing the web and allowed for some quick typing. The screen doesn’t pick up as much finger print smudging as other tablets, and also seems to reflect light less that other tablets reviewed previously. This all adds up and the result is it’s easy to read the screen on the Prime.

ASUS Transformer Prime Home Screen

The Transformer Prime tablet clicks comfortably into the keyboard dock provided and creates a robust netbook option for when you want a quicker way of inputting text via a physical keyboard – this review was written by using this method. You effectively get a tablet and a netbook all-in-one with this tablet - giving you lots of versatility.

ASUS Transformer Prime Tablet With Keyboard Review

The keyboard dock itself is a similar size to the tablet so the keys aren’t huge. They do a job but you wouldn’t want this tablet-keyboard combo to replace your laptop/desktop PC if you intend to do a reasonable amount of work on it – the keys are cramped and not as responsive as a laptop. However, it’s much better than typing on the on-screen keyboard. You can still navigate the screen via touch when the keyboard is plugged in but a trackpad is also provided for fine control of the on-screen cursor. The keyboard also has a number of quick-access keys to quickly perform tasks such as exiting to the home screen, a back button, turning Wi-Fi on/off, toggle the trackpad on/off, brightness controls, screen capture, exit to the web browser, switch to settings, play/rewind/forward wind for music/video, audio controls and a lock button. The last one is weirdly placed just where I’m used to having my delete key so whilst typing this review I regularly locked the tablet instead of correcting an error – something you’d get used to as you used the tablet regularly.

ASUS Transformer Prime Keyboard ProfileASUS Transformer Prime Keyboard Dock

Android 3.2 (Honeycomb) operating system – this is Google’s latest tablet operating system but with Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) promised very soon – this operating system is currently being rolled out to high-end smartphones but the tablet version should polish off a few rough edges and take this operating system to a new level. ASUS have made minor tweaks with things like the on-screen back, home and multitasking icons at the bottom left of the screen. The multi-tasking button is particularly useful to see all open applications and either jump quickly to them or shut them down without going back into them. This helps with managing system resources if the tablet is slowing down if you had too much open at any one time. To the bottom right of the screen you can also tap to access date and time, Wi-Fi/Bluetooth settings, brightness, screen lock and then information on the latest music track you’ve been listening too, downloads, and notifications, such as a new email coming in.

8 Megapixel rear-facing camera at the back of the tablet takes very impressive images with decent colour and definition. A flash sits alongside it for low light conditions. The Camera application also gives you some flexibility to adjust settings – such as adjusting white balance, focus and exposure etc.

1.2 Megapixel front-facing web cam camera for video chat with apps such as Skype. Again this provides very decent video for these services.ASUS Transformer Prime Profile Review

32GB internal storage – this is the only model available in the UK currently. It’s a decent sized internal storage for all your apps, films, pictures and music. On top of this there is a Micro SD card slot that will allow you to buy a Micro SD card and expand the memory by a further 32GB to a total of 64GB. Should you still want to offload some of your content, ASUS also provide a free web storage app where you can upload your files to the internet and then access them from Cloud storage when you’re in range of a Wi-Fi network.

Expansion opportunities – further to the Micro SD card slot, there’s a full SD Card slot available on the keyboard dock which means you can slot in a SD Card (such as those used in the majority of digital cameras) either as a way of quickly uploading your photos or to store other files.

ASUS Transformer Prime Android Video

USB port – again on the keyboard dock you have a full-sized USB 2.0 port which you can use to attach a USB stick for taking files on and off the tablet, or alternatively to attach USB peripherals such as a USB mouse or printer.

Full Adobe Flash compatibility – Flash is a technology used in some websites to deliver video, games or animation. Flash isn’t supported by the iPad but is supported by the Android operating system. It is a processor hungry technology but the ASUS Transformer Prime has a processor that handles it with ease. This means you’ve got access to the full web on this tablet.

ASUS Transformer Prime Web Browsing

Connectivity – as you would expect connectivity is dealt with via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth but there currently isn’t a version of the tablet that allows you to connect to the internet using the 3G data network.

Micro HDMI port – with this you can buy a cable that will allow you to connect the tablet to your high-definition TV. You’ll then be able to pipe video or whatever is on your tablet screen directly to your HD TV and maintain the picture quality.

Excellent Battery Life – ASUS claims the tablet will last for 9 hours on a single charge with normal use but may even extend to up to 12 hours if you’re mostly using it to watch video (measured by continuous video playback on medium brightness). The keyboard dock also has a battery inside it so if you charge this up too, it will also add another 6 hours on top of this – potentially giving you an astounding 18 hours of charge.

Media Playback – as you would expect, the Prime is very capable of dealing with high definition video. Download a high-definition video from the Android Market and it plays fast and smooth on the high quality screen. Audio is also excellent for a tablet both during films and music – there’s just one speaker but it’s loud and clear. This is a very good performance in the context of tablet speaker quality; however don’t expect the same quality as you get from your dedicated stereo. 2 speakers would have improved this further too. A wide range of audio and video formats are supported so check out the full specification if you want to check specific file types.

Gaming capabilities – the Prime is a very high-powered tablet so this means games look astonishing on the high-end screen. Graphics are very detailed and 3D games really come to life far more than they have on other tablets. The range of sensors employed with this tablet also mean that it’s highly responsive to every twist and tilt that you use to control the action in these games.ASUS Transformer Prime Android Market

As you would expect there are also the standard Android email, mapping, music playback, YouTube, movie editing, video chat and picture gallery/editing apps included. The web browser is simple to use and performance is excellent, quickly loading web pages and reacting to taps, pinches and swipes as you navigate web pages.

Additional Apps – ASUS decided to make minimal changes to standard Android 3.2, but have included a few of their own apps:

MyZine - A magazine-style app that allows you to quickly go to previously accessed content – such as the last webpage you visited, music played, emails, books, weather and a gallery of your photos. It looks nice but doesn’t add a huge amount to the experience.

MyLibrary - An app for buying and reading eBooks, newspapers and magazines. This is a good app but the available eBooks/magazines content is limited currently.

MyDesktop – This app allows you to control your PC from your Transformer Prime.

@vibe Music – A music discovery app that will allow you to listen to random tunes from your chosen artists and it will suggest other tracks you can listen to free at random. If you want specific tracks though you’ll need to buy them.

SuperNote - A finger tip note taking application. It can also be used for sketching, sending messages, creating e-cards with audio messages and many other random things. It’s a bit of fun but of questionable long-term use.

MyCloud - A Cloud storage app similar to Dropbox. You get 2GB of storage free for uploading your files (documents, films, music etc.) and then you can access them whenever you have a Wi-Fi connection without clogging up your internal memory. You can pay to upgrade to more memory too. If you use the service on another computer you can then also access those files from that PC too.

MyNet - An app that lets you access your PC, DLNA TV or DLNA speakers. This means from your Transformer Prime, you can play music, video or look at pictures that are stored on your PC and vice-versa.

Polaris Office – a Microsoft Office alternative for accessing Word, Excel and PowerPoint style documents and editing/creating in a light version of these applications.

ASUS Transformer Prime Apps

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime Weaknesses

High price – at £499 this is definitely a premium tablet, although you do get the keyboard dock included at this price – in the UK there is only a 32GB version available with keyboard.

Android Market (the Android store) still does not offer an all encompassing eco-system in comparison to iOS and the Apple iPad App Store. This means there are less games, apps, video, TV and other content available specifically for this format than you can get on the iPad. It’s still a fairly expansive selection but many of the apps are designed more for smartphones so don’t make optimal use of the larger tablet screen. A Tegra Zone app is included that points you directly to games that are optimised to get the most out of the powerful processor but the titles currently available are very limited and are more like demo versions to show off what this tablet is capable of.

GPS – used to determine your location for mapping applications, such as when you’re finding directions. Most other tablets use Assisted-GPS, which basically means that Wi-Fi/3G data networks are used in conjunction with satellites to determine your location. A GPS receiver is more accurate and this is exactly what the Transformer Prime has, however it doesn’t work very well. You can use mapping applications with Wi-Fi turned on and it accurately determines your location. Without Wi-Fi though the tablet struggles. ASUS have recognised this problem but there is no solution at this point.

Proprietary port is used for charging the ASUS Transformer Prime and for connecting to the keyboard dock. This works perfectly but the proprietary nature of this means that if you loose the charger then you’ll need to buy a new one. Other tablets used more standard connections for charging such as a mini-USB port.

There are a number of rubber port covers that the keyboard dock ships with. These are fiddly to remove and slot back. I would imagine these would be easily lost too. It’s no big issue if they are lost as these ports wouldn’t usually be covered on a regular netbook.

ASUS Transformer Prime Attached to Keyboard

Tablet Review – ASUS Transformer Prime – The Best Android Tablet Yet

The ASUS Transformer Prime competes with the best tablets and beats them all on hardware features. The super-powered processor creates a very smooth and seamless experience from stunning graphics on games to smooth crisp high-definition video. It has a fantastic battery life that exceeds all other consumer tablets and the unique design to switch it from tablet to netbook offers substantial flexibility. Android 3.2 is good, but Android 4.0 is due any day now and will move this tablet to an even higher level. This makes the user experience very enjoyable and interface intuitive.

Given that level of quality components, it’s inevitable that this is an expensive tablet, but it’s still in the same range as an iPad 2 or Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Is the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime an iPad killer? Well, it has the potential to be if only the tablet eco-system around Android would take-off. Only time will tell if the developer community evolves into creating more apps that have tablet specific optimised function and design.

However, if you’re looking for a tablet that performs to the highest standards, want to have more flexibility to set your tablet up exactly as you want it, need a device for work and play, and have the huge flexibility of just about every possible port available for a tablet, then this is the tablet for you.

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime full specification and user reviews

 

 

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