With tablets being all the rage these days, how does one stack up against the competition? Hardware specs? Innovative features? User experience? ASUS steps up to the challenge by introducing their first-ever Android Honeycomb tablet that combines software prowess and powerful performance all packaged in a gorgeous form factor. This is the Eee Pad Transformer TF101, the brown beast of a device that challenges the likes of the Apple iPad and Motorola Xoom – at a very aggressive price of $399 and $499 for the 16GB and 32GB versions.
Part 1: Hardware
Design and Feel
The ASUS Transformer, in terms of design, is simply beautiful. Measuring only 12.98mm at its thickest part, the Transformer is relatively slim, albeit slightly wider in comparison to its competitors. A smooth metal bezel wraps the device, with its power and volume rocker keys kept flush and the various connectivity ports well-spaced and positioned. The contoured back is patterned and textured, providing grip as well as less susceptibility from fingerprint marks. The front screen gives a smooth touchscreen experience while preventing unsightly marks and scratches with its Corning Gorilla Glass panel. ASUS has done a marvelous job in making a rather minimalistic design principle on the Transformer.
Overall build quality and heft is also quite good. Weighing just a tad heavier than the iPad despite the increased dimension, the Transformer does not make anyone tire out even when handled with one hand. Some reports say there’s some small gap in the back that might cause the tablet to flex when held tightly; this isn’t true on all accounts as I have never experienced any annoying creaks or anything of the sort. The ASUS Transformer definitely feels premium once held in the hand.
The Transformer hosts a multitude of ports for connecting with various other devices. On the right of the tablet there exist the 3.5mm headphone/microphone jack, a microphone port, the mini-HDMI connector and a microSD card slot capable of read-write on up to 32GB Class 10 cards. Over to the bottom there is the ASUS proprietary USB connector in the middle, while two slits on either side of it are used to connect to the tablet’s optional keyboard dock for stability. Both sides of the Transformer’s bezel have a speaker capable of stereo output. There is no full USB port found in the device, which is a disadvantage compared to the Acer Iconia which is USB-storage ready. However, purchasing the optional keyboard dock allows the user to have 2 of these said ports.
The back panel is mostly bare, with only the 5MP camera present on the top middle of the device. The lens is protected by a small glass porthole and a flush metal rim. It’s kind of underwhelming to have no flash present here, but most likely it’s a trade-off in order to preserve the seamless look of the tablet. Over to the front is a smaller 1.2MP camera for video conferencing as well as an ambient light sensor.
The Transformer is definitely a capable Honeycomb device. Its specs closely match those of other Android slates such as the Motorola Xoom and Acer Iconia Tab; it sports the famed Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core 1GHz processor, capable of rendering games with relative ease and provide the user unmatched performance in applications and web browsing. Its battery is rated at 9.5 hours according to ASUS, and I was able to closely match that rated battery life with 8.5 hours’ worth of gaming, HD video and web browsing. Other standard connectivity options are available, including an accelerometer, GPS, WiFi b/g/n and Bluetooth.
What I really love about this slate is its brilliant 10.1 inch IPS display – blacks are darker, whites are more brilliant, and colors pop with utmost vibrancy. Text and images are displayed perfectly through its excellent 178-degree viewing angle. Everything from games to movies has become a renewed experience; you literally have to see it to believe it. Compared to other touchscreen devices I’ve used, the Transformer is easily up there with the iPhone 4’s Retina Display for sheer clarity and picture quality.
And of course, what makes the Transformer, well… a Transformer is its optional keyboard dock that’s more than an accessory. Though I don’t have it as of now, reviews really say the dock is a good deal. For $149 you have the added capabilities of two USB ports (with full controller/mouse support as of Honeycomb 3.1), an extra SD card slot as well as more juice for up to 16 hours total battery life on a single charge. This makes the TF101 a really good alternative to netbooks in terms of staying power perfect for office and schoolwork.
Without further ado, here is the specsheet of the Transformer:
Click on page2 to continue to Part 2: Android Honeycomb OS