The Bottom Line
May 8 2012 - With the redesign of the Transformer tablet by ASUS, the Prime model is definitely posed to take the role as the leading 10-inch Android tablet on the market. Thanks to its new profile that is one of the thinnest and lightest on the market and the new Tegra 3 processor with Android 4.0 software, it is also one of the fastest. Battery life is also exceptional, especially with the extra keyboard dock. Now, while it is the top Android tablet, there still are a number of issues especially for those wanting to use it for GPS navigation. There is a fix available, but it is less than ideal. The audio from the tablet speakers is also weak compared to most of the competition.
- Strong Performance
- Excellent Battery Life
- Thin and Stylish Design
- Serious Internal GPS Problem
- Internal Speakers Fairly Quiet
- Bright Screen Still Difficult To Read In Sunlight
- 1.3 GHz NVIDIA Tegra 3 (Cortex-A9) Quad Core Processor
- 1GB Memory
- 32GB Storage
- 10.1" WXGA (1280x800) Multitouch Display
- 1.2 Megapixel Front Camera, 8 Megapixel Rear Camera With LED Flash
- NVIDIA Tegra 3 Graphics
- 802.11b/g/n Wireless, Bluetooth
- Dock Connector, micro-HDMI, microSD, 3.5mm Audio Jack
- 10.4" x 7.1" x .33" @ 1.29 lbs.
- Android 3.2 (Android 4.0 Upgradable)
Review - ASUS Transformer Prime
May 8 2012 - The original ASUS Eee Pad Transformer was unique because of its optional battery dock that essentially transformed the tablet into a netbook sized clamshell with extreme battery life. The tablet itself was fairly large but was rather plain overall for the first batch of Android tablets. With the redesign and release of the Transformer Prime, the company made some serious changes that makes it one of the best Android tablets on the market.
Physically, the Transformer Prime slimmed down considerably form the original design. At .33-inches, it is one of the thinnest tablets that is available on the market. They didn't skimp on the materials for it either as the spun metallic finish is extremely nice certainly on par with that of the Apple iPad designs. The corners are nicely rounded for a nice feel in the hand. The weight of the tablet has also been reduced significantly to just 1.29 pounds making it also one of the lightest.
The big feature of the Transformer Prime was the NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor. It was the first tablet to use the new quad core ARM processor that essentially allows it to outperform pretty much every tablet on the market. Even the New iPad from Apple isn't able to quite live up to its raw number crunching ability. In addition to the four primary cores, there is a first lower power core that is implemented in NVIDIA's variable processing. This essentially takes over when the tablet is idle or using small tasks so that hte primary cores can be turned off. This gives it a major power savings that helps extend the battery life when the tablet is used moderately.
ASUS has upgraded the display for the Transformer Prime with an IPS+ panel. It still uses the same 10.1 size with the native 1280x800 resolution typical to most of the 10-inch tablets. Where it differs is in the brightness. It is easily one of the brightest screens available which will come in real handy when trying to use it outdoors but the glossy screen still makes it hard in direct sunlight. Viewing angles are also quite wide thanks to the IPS technology. The only downside is that the white colors tend to be a bit off white when the IPS+ technology is engaged. You can turn it into a regular IPS mode which dials back the brightness where it is still quite useable indoors but helps conserve battery life. This certainly rates as one of the best screens available in an Android Tablet but it does fall short of the color and resolution that the new retina display provides in the New iPad but is on par with Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 with its Super PLS screen.
Of course the Transformer Prime also features the optional $150 keyboard dock just like the original model did but that has also been slimmed down. With this attached to the tablet, it converts into a clamshell style computer with a full laptop style keyboard, trackpad pointer, full USB port and of course additional 22Whr battery pack that lets the system run longer. This of course does double the essential weight of the tablet as well as the thickness of the unit. Still, it is much smaller than a netbook and offers much better running times.
Even with all the great design and effort that was put into the Transformer Prime, there is still one major issue that impact the tablet. The metal shell and the position of the antennae had unintended consequences. Namely, the internal GPS receiver has some serious reception issues. In some cases, the GPS function of the tablet is nearly useless without some strong GPS satellites overhead and little to no buildings or plant cover. Because it was a hardware problem, there is no software adjustments that can fix the problem. ASUS has finally announced a GPS Extension Kit that is free until July 31, 2012 for registered users to order. This is a small bar that attaches to the dock connector to provide an external antennae for the GPS. While it is admirable that ASUS has provided this, the extension has the downside of use the dock connector which would prevent the use of the keyboard dock.
In terms of the software, the Transformer Prime was release prior to Android 4.0. Because of this, the units ship with the 3.2 version of the software. Thankfully, it was one of the first tablets to be upgradable to the Android 4.0 version. It is highly advisable that users do this upgrade as it provides a much more stable and noticeably smoother experience.
Even though the Transformer Prime slimmed down, ASUS did not reduce the size of the battery. It still retains the same 25WHr capacity battery pack which is a fairly typical size for most 10-inch tablets. The new Tegra 3 processor should provide it with longer running times when used moderately but in video playback, much of these power saving features won't be used. In my video playback testing, the tablet was able to run for ten and a quarter hours. This is on par with the New iPad with its enormous battery pack necessary for its retina display. Now, if you add in the dock, you can expect to add roughly another six hours of video playback which makes it the longest running albeit it does make it much heavier than thicker.