Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime Review: It is set to make its mark in the Android tablet market, but can it take the top spot?
Sued by Hasbro, GPS fails and weak Wi-Fi, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime launch has been an eventful one to say the least. Currently PC World's and Currys' most pre-ordered Android tablet ever, the first Asus Eee Pad Transformer tablet earned T3’s praises for its great screen and battery life.
The latest offering from Asus is the world’s first quad-core tablet with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich also now on board.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: Build
We’ve often been critical in the past that Android tablets (Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 aside) generally lacked the wow factor of the Apple iPad 2. Thankfully the Prime has taken design inspiration from the Asus UX31 Zenbook, housing its beefy specs in the same sleek spun metal finish.
If you want ultra slim, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime can go toe-to-toe with the Apple iPad 2 (8.8mm) and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 (8.6mm) in the slender stakes. Weighing in at 586g, it’s slightly heavier than the iPad 2 but the difference is barely noticeable. If you add in the keyboard, which adds an extra 537g, the overall package is netbook-like in terms of size.
The 10.1-inch screen tablet, which boasts sturdy Gorilla Glass, fits snug in the hands, however the rounded corners on the edges of the tablet did initially pinch a little at our palms. Physical buttons are limited to standby and volume control with the addition of micro HDMI and Micro SD card slot, and a 3.5mm headphone jack.
To turn your tablet into a laptop, a small connector snaps into place to combine the Chiclet-style keyboard with a simple slide switch to release the slate. Aligning the tablet is relatively stress-free and feels secure when in place.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: Keyboard dock
The Chiclet style full QWERTY keyboard and trackpad is similar to the type found on the 10-inch Asus Eee PC, with additional storage support courtesy of built-in USB 2.0 port and SD card support to expand the already impressive 32GB of on board storage and year’s free Asus cloud storage.
The keyboard feels a bit tight in terms of layout but did provide great travel while the trackpad is perfect for web browsing and navigating.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: Processor
The star of the show is inevitably the Prime’s quad-core processing prowess. It’s the first tablet to market to sport NVIDIA Tegra 3 Quad core architecture. The benefits of packing such a powerful processor are instantly apparent providing significant zip when we switched from homescreens and launched applications.
It also coped with full HD films and videos with ease and is well equipped to run the more graphically demanding games on the Android Market.
We tried to out a series of Tegra 3 supported titles which included shooter Shadowgun, water skiing racer Riptide and Glowball which was the game NVIDIA used to showcase the quad core technology. Unsurprisingly there were no signs of lag, delivering smooth animations and gorgeous dynamic lighting.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: Screen
Just as the first Transformer impressed, the 10.1-inch multi-touch screen on the Prime similarly excels. While it may lack the vividness in colour that the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 offers, the Prime is up there with the iPad 2 in terms of clarity and brightness.
It’s a gorgeous screen on which to watch high definition movies and play games, delivering exceptional blacks and excellent viewing angles thanks to the Super IPS+ Panel technology packed inside.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: Camera
We are yet to really see the merits of shooting pictures with a tablet but the Prime, with an eight megapixel auto focus camera and flash proves you can get great snapping quality on your tablet. The Prime struggled slightly in darker conditions but in better lighting produced images which had great clarity and sharpness.
The same can similarly be said about the full HD video recording while the 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera performed well when we put it to the Skype video call test.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: OS
The Prime runs with Android 3.2 Honeycomb out of the box, but we’ve now been able to upgrade to Android 4.0 making this the world’s first Ice Cream Sandwich tablet. Ready to be wowed? Well, we are probably overselling it slightly, but there’s definitely some great things to look forward to.
One of the chief beneficiaries of the update is the Prime's camera which can now be selected straight from the unlock screen. A new Panorama photo feature has also been added plus screengrab functionality, while the video camera mode now let's you add effects to live footage.
The gallery mode has also been refined displaying content in a much slicker mosaic-style design, adding some useful picture editing features.
Browsing has certainly improved with the ability to switch between mobile and desktop versions of websites from a dropdown tab and save content for offline reading. Similarly the new Action Bar, integrated into apps such as Gmail, enables you to launch key app features much quicker giving the process more of a smartphone feel.
One necessary addition has been the introduction of Homescreen Folders which are clearly iOS inspired and allow you to drag apps on top of one another to create small circle-shaped folders. It doesn’t look as pretty as it does on an Apple iPad 2, but it does the job nonetheless.
Other new features include the ability to clear tasks from your Recent apps list simply by swiping them out of the list, and a Data Usage section in Settings which while not particularly handy for Wi-Fi models, is an organized way to keep track of the apps consuming your tablet power.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: Battery
The estimated battery life is 18 hours, that’s 12 hours for the tablet and another 8 hours if you have the slate hooked up to the keyboard. Compared to the Apple iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, that’s an extra couple of hours of usage over both, which is always a plus for portable kit.
We spent a good two or three hours testing out a series of Tegra games, and watching several full HD videos and it did seem to suffer in the battery department so we’d question how true that mammoth battery life is. Unfortunately there is no support for USB charging with a proprietary charger your only means of getting juice to the Prime, which is a little disappointing.
Asus Eee Transformer Prime: Verdict
We can’t make our minds up if this is more tablet than laptop or vice versa, but we can be sure of is that this is a great all round piece of kit that also looks the part. It’s packing one of the best keyboard docks we’ve seen and is supremely powerful thanks to the quad-core architecture.
Android 4.0 gives the Prime an added gloss particularly in the camera deparment but is missing some of the quirkier features such as Face Unlock and Beam. Ultimately though this is a corking tablet/laptop hybrid that is more powerful than ever and with Ice Cream Sandwich added into the mix is the best Android tablet yet.