Every now and then we come across a gadget that raises the bar for products in that segment. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer definitely classifies as one of those products as it has changed the way we use tablets. What was once a device designed purely for media consumption has now turned into something much more and many people are ditching their netbooks for a tablet. The unique advantage of the Transformer is that it can be a tablet when needed and could also turn into a netbook with the help of the keyboard dock. We truly loved the first Eee Pad Transformer and today we’ll be looking at the upgrade, the Transformer Prime TF201.
Design and Build
The Transformer Prime is a slimmer and lighter version of the old one. It still uses an aluminium chassis but the edges are a lot tapered so it now measures just 8.3mm in thickness while the weight has been dropped to 586g. The textured pattern of the old model has been swapped for a more modern, brushed aluminium look. Around the back, we just have the upgraded 8MP shooter along with an LED flash. There’s a speaker grill on one side of the tablet so you don’t get stereo sound. The tablet itself has a 3.5mm headphone jack, power/sleep button on the top, volume rocker on the side along with a miniHDMI port and a microSD card slot. The Prime uses the same proprietary connector instead of a microUSB port.
Slimmer and sleeker
Currently there’s only one model available in the market which is the 64GB, Wi-Fi version. There is no 3G version of the Prime but that’ll soon be remedied with the launch of the Transformer Pad 300. While the tablet itself is built incredibly well, we aren’t too fond of the style of buttons used. They are placed around the edge and have a slippery texture, which makes them a bit tricky to use. It’s the same issues as the 4th Gen iPod Touch, there isn't much tactile feedback. The 10.1-inch screen has the same 1280 x 800 resolution but it’s a Super IPS+ LCD screen with Corning’s Gorilla Glass. This gives the Prime very good viewing angles and good colour reproduction.
The dock has also undergone some weight reduction and is quite a bit slimmer now with tapering edges towards the front which is in keeping with the look of the tablet. The dock features a charging port, standard USB port and an SD card reader. The layout of the keyboard and the keys themselves haven’t changed much from the old one and are very comfortable to use. We would have loved to see backlit keys this time around but sadly that’s not there. The keyboard is not merely ripped from their netbooks but customized to work with Android so there are plenty of shortcuts for brightness, locking the screen, volume, media keys, etc. The USB port supports NTFS file format as well so a 500GB portable drive is a non-issue.
The dock also features a 2-cell battery that charges the main battery in the tablet whenever it’s running low. The Transformer Prime sands off the rough edges of the first Transformer to give you a sleeker and more modern looking tablet with the same great build quality.
The review unit sent to us had already been updated to ICS 4.0.3. Asus had added their own Waveshare UI over it but unlike other manufacturers, it’s minimal and it doesn’t break the feel and look of stock ICS. Companies really need to sit up and take notice on how it should be done. The interface is pretty straightforward and easy to use. Asus has only added necessary widgets that one may actually use instead of useless bloatware. There’s a nice battery widget that tells you the charge levels of the tablet and the dock. The task manager widget lets you quickly manage running tasks and also has a very nice weather widget.
This is how you skin ICS!
Special settings for Asus's features
One area that’s heavily modified is the notification bar at the bottom which gives you access to many toggle switches for Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS, etc. along with brightness and power modes. There’s also IPS+ brightness preset that boosts the levels for outdoor use.
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