ASUS had to do something special at CES 2012 to trump its Transformer Prime, which was the first quad-core Android tablet, as it hit the market just weeks before the big show. It also had to meet the lofty expectations it set at CES 2011, where it introduced the Eee Pad Transformer and other tablets, firmly establishing itself in the Android tablet market.
So what did the Taiwanese device maker do? It introduced an even more powerful version of what was already the most powerful Android tablet, called it the Transformer Prime 700 series, and announced along with NVIDIA a $250, quad-core, Tegra 3-powered, 7-inch MeMO Android Ice Cream Sandwich tablet. To put that in perspective, if the Tegra 3 MeMO launched today, it would be the most powerful 7-inch tablet available, and trail only the new-and-improved Prime in the spec sheet, for the same cost of a budget Android tablet, and the popular Barnes & Noble NOOK Tablet.
That’s insane – Tegra 3 performance at such a low cost, and maybe too good to be true, at least for the time being. Neither ASUS nor NVIDIA announced a release date, and ASUS did not have a working model to share with CES attendees. In addition, we are still waiting on the glasses-free 3D MeMO ASUS unveiled at Computex. After this CES, we doubt we will ever see that on the market. In fact, ASUS reps suggested the company decided to instead ply its efforts on the $250 Tegra 3 MeMO, though nothing official has been announced regarding the 3D model.
The non-working unit ASUS had on display looks like a typical 7-inch Android tablet with nothing special on the outside, but if and when it ships, the powerful quad-core innards will be story.
Quad-core Power, HD Displays
We know how well the NVIDIA Tegra 3 performs on a tablet thanks to our time with the Transformer Prime. It’s quick and powerful. It plays high resolution video streams with a buffer limited only by the wireless connection. Skipping to any given point in the video provides instant playback, with no lag. We can’t wait to see the high-end games developers cook up in the near future. The Transformer Prime is also as thin and light as any other 10.1-inch tablet on the market, and it works with the existing Prime keyboard dock.
Now combine that power with the 1920 x 1200 resolution found on the newest Transformer Prime’s 10.1-inch display, and you have the Android tablet at CES 2012 with the most impressive specs, hands down. Think of it this way: 50- and 60-inch HDTVs have a resolution of 1920 x 1080 (that’s pixels across by pixels up and down). ASUS has crammed more pixels in a tablet at least one fifth the size of a $1000-plus HDTV. The 700 Series Prime display features approximately 224 pixels per inch. The highest-end smartphones, including the 3.5-inch iPhone 4 and iPhone 4S, top 300 pixels per inch, which is also the limit image experts claim the human eye can discern.
Last year’s 10.1-inch models, including the Xoom and Galaxy Tab 10.1, topped out at approximately 150 ppi. The iPad 2 has 132 ppi. Large screen tablets are now almost at 300 ppi, thanks to the processing power of the Tegra 3 and other quad-core ARM chips. If the 7-inch quad-core MeMO has the same display spec (ASUS did not announce specifics), it will match smartphones with a 323 ppi count.
The ASUS Transformer Prime 700 Series is expected to ship in Q2, unfortunately, it won’t have MeMO pricing and starts at $599 for the 32GB Prime, $699 for the 64GB unit.
The Other MeMO
Asus also showed of its other MeMO Android tablet, the same pen-toting device we saw at CES 2011. This MeMO now runs Android Honeycomb 3.2, but will receive an Ice Cream Sandwich update. While last year’s unit had a pressure sensitive screen and doodle app, this has a pressure-sensitive onboard stylus and dedicated notes app. From my brief time with it, I found the notes app lacked the features found on the Samsung S Memo app for the Galaxy Note, but the ASUS stylus is much bigger than the small S Pen. It’s closer in size to a real ink pen, heavier too, and more comfortable to use. It also has a rubber tip rather than plastic.
This particular MeMO pairs with a small Bluetooth headset called the MeMIC, used for quick text displays, mp3s, and phone calls where supported. It’s unlike any other tablet in the market in this regard, and we wonder if it will ship Stateside along with this MeMO.
Padfone to Come
Finally, ASUS showed off its unique Padfone tablet with docking smartphone, first unveiled at Computex. The device was behind glass, but ASUS plans to reintroduce it at Mobile World Congress in February. TabletPCReview will be there and the team is looking forward to hands-on time with another unique ASUS product.