With a glut of Android tablets on or about to hit the market, ASUS put some effort into distinguishing its first Honeycomb slate, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer, from the pack. Instead of merely shipping a 10.1-inch tablet, ASUS also offers an optional keyboard dock that transforms the tablet into a netbook. The dock also brings extended battery life, two full-sized USB ports, and a full-sized SD card slot.
But Honeycomb is a tablet OS and it?s optimized for touch; is a QWERTY keyboard really necessary? Read on to find out.
BUILD & DESIGN
The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer has two parts: the tablet and the keyboard dock. The tablet portion features a 10.1-inch capacitive multitouch IPS display (1280 x 800) and NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor. In other words, it?s just like the Motorola Xoom, at least on paper.
The Eee Pad Transformer looks a lot like the Xoom too. The display dominates the front of the device and is surrounded by a relatively thick black trim, interrupted only by an ASUS logo at the top and 1.2-megapixel front-facing camera lens. The metallic-grey edge carries over from the sides and runs along the front edge, bordering the black trim with a pocked texture along the short edges.
The Eee Pad Transformer back has a slightly rounded bulge, and I prefer this shape to the flat back of the Xoom as the Eee Pad is more comfortable to hold. However, the Xoom?s rubberized and somewhat ruggedized build is preferable to the Eee Pad?s textured plastic. Also present on the back is a large ASUS logo and recessed lens for the five-megapixel rear camera. One of my tablet pet peeves are rear-camera lenses that sit flush against the body, leaving them prone to scratches. Thankfully, that?s not the case with the Transformer.
A tour around the Eee Pad?s edges reveals a bare top, and the proprietary charger input and slots to secure the Transformer to the keyboard dock on the bottom.
Looking at Transformer head on, the power and volume buttons are on the left side, just above a speaker, and the two-in-one audio jack, on-board mic, mini-HDMI, micro-SD card slot and another speaker are on the right side.
The speaker placement baffles me, as it seems that outside of RIM, manufacturers never get it right. Speakers should face and direct sound toward the user, as they do on the BlackBerry PlayBook. The Transformer has plenty of room around the display for speakers that, in the end, shoot sound to the left and right.
Outside of that quibble, the Eee Pad Transformer's build is acceptable, if a step below the competition. The textured plastic shrugs off fingerprints and smudges and there is no creak or flex when the tablet endures light to moderate strain. Still, I assume the Xoom or any other tablet with a rubberized body would beat the Eee Pad Transformer in a drop test.
The keyboard sports the same design aesthetics and similar thickness. It looks like a typical netbook keyboard with 83 chiclet-style keys and multitouch touchpad with one button underneath. There are four large rubber shock absorbers on the bottom. ASUS took advantage of the added real estate and lined the sides with ports and inputs, including a full-sized USB and proprietary charging slot on the left, as well as a full-sized USB and MMC/SD/SDHC card slot on the right. A large docking receptacle rests on the back with its sliding lock. The Eee Pad slots in tightly and secures with a small amount of force before emitting an audible click.
ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Specs:
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