If you are looking for a tablet and you ask your friends for advice, most probably they will tell you to get an iPad 2, since it is the best and most popular tablet out there now. However, being an Android lover (and I hate the dictatorship of Apple), I decided to go against all odds and get an Android Honeycomb tablet – Asus EeePad Transformer, and I am glad that I got it rather than the iPad. Here is my hands-on review of the Asus Transformer.
First of all, Asus is well-known for laptops and netbooks. The Eee Pad Transformer is their first foray into the tablet world and they have done well to make it an excellent product at an affordable (or should I say cheap?) price.
The hardware specification of Asus Transformer is pretty standard. You get almost everything you need for a tablet. It uses a Nvidia Tegra 2 dual core CPU, 1GB RAM, 16 or 32 GB Storage and a 10.1-inch capacitive IPS display at a decent HD resolution of 1280×800. It also comes with a 5MP rear camera and a 1.2MP front-facing camera.
On the tablet itself, there is an audio jack, mini HDMI output port and a min-SD card slot. If you get the keyboard dock, you get yourself 2 extra USB ports and a SD card slot, which can be used to transfer your camera’s photos over.
The dimension of the transformer is 271 x 171 x 12.98 mm which makes it bigger, wider and thicker than iPad 2 (241.2 x 185.7 X 8.8 mm). Weighing at 680g, it is also much heavier than iPad 2 (601g). This is one thing that I feel it can be improved. I definitely feel that the thickness and weight can be further reduced. Right now, if you hold a iPad 2 on one hand and Asus Transformer on the other, you can definitely feel the difference in weight.
As for the battery life, the tablet itself can last for a whole 9 hours. Together with the keyboard dock, the battery life get extended to 16 hours. For your info, my Lenovo netbook comes with a 6-cell battery can only last a maximum of 4 hours. For a tablet that is half its weight, 16 hours of battery life is really a godsend.
Other standard items include G-Sensor, Light Sensor, Gyroscope, E-Compass and GPS.
When Asus Transformer was first launched, it was running Android Honeycomb 3.0. However, the later version all came with the upgraded Honeycomb 3.1, which fixed a great deal of bugs and sluggishness. Honeycomb 3.1 also has a better support for Adobe flash which runs well in the tablet. And if you set the Flash to load on-demand (rather than always ON), it doesn’t suck battery as much as what many claim.
If you have deal with an Android phone before, you will have no problem getting use to the Honeycomb interface. Unlike Android phone, there is no notification pulldown bar. Instead, the notification bar is moved to the right bottom corner.
Other than the default Google applications that come with Honeycomb, Asus has also packed in several applications. PolarisOffice allows you to create and edit documents (word, spreadsheet, presentation) on the tablet while MyNet turns the the Transformer into a DLNA device.
Other applications include:
- MyNet – turn your tablet into a DLNA device
- MyCloud – Sync your files and documents to the cloud. Asus’s equivalent of Apple’s iCloud.
- MyLibrary – ebook reader
In general, the Asus Transformer is a joy to use. Honeycomb 3.1 is fast and responsive and the bright color screen is very comforting to the eye. Being able to place widgets on the Home screen is one great experience it has over iOS. The ability to resize the widgets makes it even better.
The native browser supports both tabs and desktop mode so you can access your favorite website in full. I am also able to login to my WordPress dashboard and write and edit posts. As a web worker, this means that
I can use it for work purpose as well, rather than just for casual browsing and reading.
The inbuilt video player can support avi, mp4 and some other common video formats. However, if you have video files in mkv, vob formats, you are out of luck. You might want to install third party apps like RockPlayer of MoboPlayer (free) to play your videos.
There is only one word to describe – it sucks. For a 5MP camera, I were surprised to see grainy and unclear pictures. The contrast is not there and the color looks dull. The same goes for the video. Its ability to capture 720p video doesn’t auto-translate into high quality video. The conclusion is, don’t expect quality photos or videos from this device.
In my opinion, the keyboard dock is what made the Transformer great. When attached to the dock, the transformer can double as a netbook where you can type comfortably. The best part is, even when it is docked, it also supports the touch screen. Personally, I love to use my finger to swipe and navigate and use the keyboard to type.
Attaching and detaching the tablet is an easy task. There is a silver latch that clicks when the connection is in place. You can attach/detach at any time and it won’t affect what you are doing.
When your tablet is attached to the dock, the keyboard power pack will charge the tablet so that it is always at maximum power on tablet mode.
In addition, the keyboard also comes with useful shortcut keys like Home button, brightness and volume control, lockscreen button etc. It even support shortcut like “Ctrl + T” to open new tab. “Ctrl + C”, “Ctrl + V” to copy/paste text.
Pros – What we like
- useful keyboard
- affordable price
- long battery life, especially with the keyboard dock
Cons – What we dislike
- Bad camera
- USB port only available on keyboard
- The thickness and weight could be reduced further
- Short charging cable
- Plenty of apps not optimized for tablet (not really Asus’s fault)
Asus Eee Pad Transformer is selling in the USA for US$399 (without the keyboard dock). At this price, it is a steal. And the best is, low price doesn’t equate to inferior product. Asus Transformer is a quality build. Until newer, better and cheaper tablets arrive, with this price and quality, Asus Eee Pad Transformer is easily the best Android tablet out there. If you are getting the Asus Transformer, do get the keyboard dock as well. Without it, the transformer tablet is just a …er…plain simple tablet.