The ever-increasing pool of iPad competitors continues to grow, but ASUS – the company that invented the netbook – promises its new tablet delivers the perfect hybrid of tablet simplicity and laptop functionality. Does the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer deliver on the hype?
At first glance there might only be one or two specs that make the Eee Pad Transformer stand out in the crowd of Android-based tablets. The new ASUS tablet has a beautiful IPS touchscreen with wide viewing angles similar to the one used on the Apple iPad 2. The Transformer also offers front- and rear-facing cameras with decent resolution. What separates the Eee Pad Transformer from most of the first-generation Android tablets is the optional keyboard docking station. The Transformer can be used as a tablet or you can connect it to the keyboard for a more traditional laptop experience.
The keyboard dock is more than just a keyboard; it provides approximately 60% more battery life, a trackpad with multi-gesture support, an SDHC card slot and two standard USB 2.0 ports. Those USB ports allow you to easily transfer files to and from a USB flash drive or connect a standard USB mouse if you need to use the Transformer at a desk. You can’t do those things with an iPad.
Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) Specifications:
- Display: 10.1-inch IPS LED screen with 1280 x 800 resolution and 10-finger multi-touch sensitivity
- Operating System: Android 3.01 Honeycomb
- Platform: Nvidia Tegra 2 (dual-core 1.0GHz CPU)
- Memory: 1GB DDR2
- Storage: 16GB/32GB flash storage + Unlimited ASUS Webstorage
- Wireless: 802.11 b/g/n, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, optional 3G module
- Camera: 1.2MP (front), 5MP auto focus (rear)
- Input ports: 2-in-1 Audio jack (headphone/mic), mini HDMI 1.3 port, Micro SD card reader
- Sensors: G-sensor, light sensor, gyroscope, e-compass, GPS
- Battery: 24.4Wh Li-polymer battery in tablet and dock, manufacturer estimated 16-hour battery life with dock
- Tablet: 10.67 x 6.89 x 0.51 inches and 1.49lbs
- Keyboard Dock: 10.67 x 7.28 x 1.1 inches and 1.41lbs
Build and Design
The Transformer itself feels like a modern slate tablet with a curved back edge. The weight of 1.49lbs and a maximum thickness of roughly a half inch means the Transformer isn’t the lightest or thinnest tablet on the market, but the abundant buttons and ports along the edges make up for the added bulk. In addition, that nice 10-inch IPS display is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass for added impact resistance and to make it easier to clean the screen without risk of scratches.
In addition to the 5MP camera on the back of the Transformer, this tablet also textured back panel that makes the slate easier to hold than some tablets that have glossy plastic or polished metal exteriors. The optional keyboard dock has a matching texture and finish. The USB ports on the dock are hidden behind plastic port covers and the SDHC card slot is a flush style card reader so memory cards won’t stick out from the side while in use.
My only complaint about the USB ports is that the covers work a little too well. The port covers have a tendency to snap closed again after you open them, so if you don’t immediately have a USB device ready to plug into the port, you might need to use one hand to hold the port cover back while you plug in your USB device. Speaking of USB devices, I had no trouble getting various USB flash drives and USB external hard drives to work with the Transformer and keyboard dock.
The combination of dual-core 1GHz processor, Nvidia GeForce graphics and Android 3.0 Honeycomb means the Mini HDMI port easily handles full HD (1080p) video playback to your HDTV. Of course, since we’re talking about an Android Honeycomb tablet, you can also watch flash videos online without any problem.
The built-in stereo speakers on the Transformer get loud enough to fill a large conference room with sound, but the frequency range is pretty flat as with most small tablet speakers. ASUS uses SRS sound enhancement via software to improve their quality so they don’t sound as tinny as many mobile speakers, but you’ll still get better sound fidelity from premium headphones.
Pricing and Availability
The manufacturer’s suggested retail pricing is $399 for the 16GB Transformer, $499 for the 32GB Transformer and $149 for the docking station keyboard. Most US retailers will begin accepting pre-orders today (4/21/11) and the Eee Pad Transformer should be available in retail stores starting 4/26/11.