When it comes to getting a tablet, I’ve taken a long time to explore all of the possibilities. I’ve read the reviews by iPad fanboys who have continually trashed Android tablets in favor of iPad. I carefully sifted through pro-iPad and pro-Android comments from readers. For a while, despite the fact that I’ve been an avid Droid user since Motorola first released it years ago, I seriously considered becoming “assimilated” with the lemming masses and getting the latest iPad.
Then, I finally took a good hard look at the ASUS Transformer Prime tablet and realized that for my particular needs and my lifestyle, it is the best tablet on the market today. Before all you iPad followers jump on me for that statement, remember – I said for my particular needs and lifestyle. It may not be for everyone.
I wanted a way to carry around all of my writing work and research in a package much lighter and smaller than a laptop, a portable tool that can give me quick access to my email and analytics data, and most importantly a way to type up blog articles anywhere and everywhere I am.
I even spent a lot of time playing around with the iPads in the Apple store at the mall and reading articles and reviews about tablets. In the end, I opted to stick with the operating system that I fell in love with years ago – and went with the ASUS Transformer Prime TF201.
What follows is an honest, unbiased review of the ASUS Transformer Prime which we bought with our own money. We’re also giving away a brand new 32GB model with a keyboard dock valued at $650! to one very lucky MakeUseOf reader.
Introducing the ASUS Transformer Prime
Here’s the low-down. The $499 ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 is only 8.33mm thin, and features a 3 quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 CPU. Of course it’s loaded with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS, a screen wider than most other tablets, a MicroSD card reader, Micro HDMI port, an 8 megapixel rear camera with flash as well as a small 1.2 megapixel web cam on the front, and 32 GB of memory. It also comes with 8 GB of lifetime ASUS web storage space on the cloud (who needs Dropbox?)
Top competitors in this price range are the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the iPad 2, and of course the third generation iPad. The ASUS Transformer Prime easily beats out the Samsung Galaxy and iPad 2 in terms of case size, screen size and performance. So why opt for it over the third generation iPad?
Well, there wasn’t a lot that could sway me to choose third generation iPad – PCWorld ranks the ASUS Transformer Prime’s camera image quality as good as the new iPad (and finer exposure controls), and Transformer Prime is still the thinnest of all when undocked. Furthermore, the new iPad has 10 hrs of battery life, but the Transformer Prime when docked can surf, email and download for a whopping 17 hours – plus I can type without fat-fingering an on-screen keyboard. I looked at bluetooth keyboard cases for iPad, and nothing matched the design and performance of the Transformer Prime’s plug-in setup. Top that off with my favorite mobile OS of all time, and the choice was easy.
After receiving the ASUS Transformer Prime TF201 a couple of weeks ago, it became apparent in minutes that I’d made a good choice. The Transformer Prime is slim and light, but the polished aluminum metal back and of course the Corning Gorilla Glass give the tablet a look and feel of real quality.
It is about an inch wider than the iPad 2 and slightly thinner, and comes with a microSD and Micro-HDMI port on the left side as well as the volume and microphone pinhole. Around the other sides you’ll find a second microphone pinhole, the headphone jack, and the data/power connector port on the bottom (where it plugs into the keyboard dock).
The front of the tablet features the 1.2 megapixel camera for video conferencing or 1-on-1 video chats. The back of the tablet features the 8-megapixel camera and 1080p video recorder.
The Keyboard Defence
Before I even turned this baby on, I was pretty excited. As far as the keyboard goes, I read Matt’s article about why Tablets shouldn’t have keyboards, and let me say that the Asus Transformer proves all of his points wrong.
He wrote that the dock gives it excessive weight and 1.1 inches of thickness – well, the keyboard isn’t even a half an inch, but maybe if you measure the dock hinge (thickest part of the whole dock) it might measure 1.1 inches. Laying flat on a table, the whole thing just looks like a tablet. It is nowhere near as chunky as a netbook.
This thing is sleek, sexy, powerful (17 hours of run-time with the dock battery, thank you very much), and no one will suspect that little tablet you’re carrying around is anything more than a tablet. That is, until you open up that baby and everyone can see how much more productive you can be while you’re on the go.
With this setup, you can type emails, blog posts, fill out forms, IM, and everything else five to ten times faster than anyone else that’s messing around on a tablet with their thick, clumsy fingers.
And you aren’t stuck using the keyboard and mouse. After a while I discovered a really cool system of using a combination of screen taps and swipes combined with typing when required that made productivity soar – sometimes even faster than I would be capable of on my own laptop back home. This blows away my colleague Matt’s second contention that “…placing a set of keys on a tablet bestows it with every disadvantage of a netbook.”
No, it actually takes the advantages of a tablet touch screen, speed and power savings, and then slaps on the advantages of having a keyboard. It’s as simple as that.
Firing up the ASUS Transformer Prime
Once you turn this thing on, you’ll see why CNET and TechRadar both listed it as the top Android tablet of them all. Almost all other lists, like PCWorld, that rate all tablets, the Transformer Prime is always second or third – these lists nearly always kowtow to the mass iPad cult followers.
But if you want to stand out from the crowd – if you want a powerful, productive tablet apart from what all of the lemmings use, let me introduce you to your future tablet.
This is the startup screen. I only installed a couple of apps before taking this screenshot – one of which was Dropbox so I could easily toss anything I write into the cloud and access it from my other computers or devices.
The home page is really nicely laid out. If you’re familiar with Android or have used an Android Smartphone in the past, you’ll catch on quickly. This one is Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich Android OS, and it’s a dream to play with.
Location data – like time/weather – comes from either the built-in GPS or your network location. You can quickly check or change all of your settings by tapping the icons in the lower right corner of the screen.
There, you can easily tap the wi-fi, bluetooth or other icons to enable or disable them, or tab the gear wheel to dig deeper in the settings.
Again, if you’ve used the Android OS before, then none of this will be unfamiliar to you. Settings are easy to navigate, and guess what – ASUS has offered a built-in Screenshot app that works beautifully without the need to root your device, letting you maintain the built-in security of a non-rooted Linux-based system.
If you’re at all curious what it’s like to use an 8 megapixel camera mounted on the back of a tablet – well, it’s actually pretty cool. The camera app shows your target in crystal-clear full-screen mode, and you can switch back and forth between photo or video mode with the tap of a finger.
Change camera settings on the fly by tapping the settings icon. You can turn on or off flash, adjust picture size, shutter sound, anti-flicker and more. I thought my Motorola Droid took nice pictures, but this camera is actually pretty impressive for a tablet cam.
Another cool feature of Google’s Ice Cream Sandwich on this tablet that’s worth mentioning is the nice dual-search feature, where you can search both the Internet as well as your own device with the search bar in the upper left corner. You’ll get potential web searches on the left, or installed apps on the right. Quickly perform either action with one finger tap. You can’t do that with a Netbook.
ASUS also sends a variety of apps pre-packaged on these tablets. There are a bunch of cloud-based apps, like MyCloud, MyNet and MyLibrary that let you tap into a whole bunch of free online resources for syncing your tablet data with your home PCs, syncing and playing music, and you can even set up your tablet to remote control your PC by just installing some software on your computer. Everything on the tablet is already installed and ready to go.
I also wanted to mention quickly that if you’re a writer like I am, or you’re a student who needs to write up papers often while you’re on the move, I recommend Polaris Office, which lets you create Word documents, spreadsheets or slideshows on your Android tablet.
I should also point out that applications running in landscape mode on this docked tablet have plenty of space to maneuver and read. I tested this using Gmail, because I’m very picky when it comes to email – I want to have space to quickly scroll through new mail and preview the email itself before deciding to delete or respond. It’s no problem at all on the Transformer Prime display.
In fact, at times I forgot I was using a tablet. I was actually disappointed when I went back to my home laptop and realized that I just couldn’t move as fast as I could on the Transformer Prime, with quick finger swipes and taps. Withe the beauty of a touch screen and the convenience of a keyboard when you need it, the ASUS Transformer Prime is set to become the tablet of choice once more people realize just how much more it’s capable of than other tablets out there.
Should You Buy the ASUS Transformer Prime?
As you can tell, I love my Transformer Prime. But in all fairness, being a writer I would have liked the option of a wider keyboard with more finger space, and the mouse button is also a little hard-clicking at times. So far, I haven’t found anything to dislike about the actual tablet itself. I like that when I use it, people still take notice as I glide through screens quickly with a flick of my finger on the screen and a few taps of the keyboard.
If you are a person who longs to have what everyone else has, I would not recommend this tablet. Get the new iPad and you will be happy. Honestly, it is in all fairness as good as the Transformer Prime, and in some ways it is better – it simply works a little faster under CPU benchmark tests. However, if you are the type of person who looks for the alternative to what everyone else is doing – if you are a technology rebel that likes to take the path less traveled, typing up emails and research papers faster than other tablet users around you, then the ASUS Transformer Prime is for you.
And when you’re done typing, plug in your headphones, fire up your music playlist, close the dock, and sit back – basking in the knowledge that you own a tablet that puts you a step ahead of the competition, and a mile outside of the mainstream.
So do you like the Transformer Prime? We’re giving away a brand new 32GB model with a keyboard dock valued at $650! If you want to be in the running to win it, join the giveaway below.
How do I win the ASUS Transformer Prime?
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This giveaway begins now and ends Friday, July 13th. The winner will be selected at random and informed via email.
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