Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Review
- The docking station, for the additional ports, battery and flexibility
- The battery, officially at 9.5 hours plus 5 hours on dock
- Build quality
- Non standard power adapter
- A clip would be nice to hold screen closed against the dock
- The frozen screen (but believed caused by firmware/app clash). Hopefully fixed with new firmware just released.
Submitted by Keli
There is a TOG discussion thread on the review here (Only accessible to TOG members.)
General Description – text from Asus
NVIDIA® Tegra™ 2 1.0GHz dual-core CPU for excellent multitasking & 1080p video playback
Android 3.0 Honeycomb O.S. with Adobe® Flash® 10.2 support*2
Full QWERTY keyboard, touchpad input with Polaris® Office® for mobile productivity
16 hours long battery life for all day computing with docking station
Brilliant IPS panel with ultra-wide 178⁰ viewing angle made from scratch resistant and super tough glass
One year of Unlimited ASUS WebStorage, two USB ports, SD and Micro SD card readers for easy sharing & storage expendability
3D stereo with max bass response with SRS premium sound
Ultra thin and light design in a unique, stylish pattern
With a super slim profile of only 12.98mm thick in a frame that weighs only 680g, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer is comfortable to hold from any position. The unique textured pattern offers a better tactile sensation, so it won’t feel as if it will slip out of your hands.
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Powerful mini-cinema entertainment on-the-go
Powered by the NVIDIA® Tegra™ 2 dual-core processor, the Transformer browses the web at blazing speeds, providing a snappier response time and better performance when multi-tasking. Sporting a HDMI 1.3a port, the Transformer can connect to a HDTV and 5.1 surround sound system, delivering an enhanced multimedia experience.
An IPS Panel made from durable and scratch-resistant glass is viewable at angles up to 178°, and produces a crisper and more accurate color range by up to 50% when compared to other tablets in the market.
A 5MP rear- and 1.2MP front-facing camera can shoot and record HD video, which can be played back in stunning 1080p. Output to HD video on HDTVs is also available via a mini HDMI output port, making it a true mobile entertainment device.
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Built-in SRS Sound technology provides a dynamic 3D stereo audio experience, with maximum bass response and a wide sound field from the discrete speakers housed within the Transformer.
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Transform to notebook mode with keyboard docking station and 16 hours of battery life
The Transformer sets itself apart from other tablets on the market by featuring an optional docking station. This provides access to a full QWERTY keyboard along with unique Android Function keys, turning the tablet Transformer into a full-fledged notebook.
A touchpad, 3.5mm audio jack, two USB ports as well as a built-in SD Card reader for easy file sharing and storage expandability makes the Transformer a versatile media hub. The docking station also extends the Transformer’s 9.5 hours of battery life up to 16 hours.
Preloaded on the Transformer is Polaris® Office® 3.0, a professional mobile office Solution which enables users to edit various types of office documents including documents (.doc), spreadsheets (.xls) and presentation (.ppt) files, making the Transformer very attractive for professional use. In addition, the ultra-convenient ASUS WebStorage with one year of unlimited storage space provides worry-free cloud computing.
For the pad and keyboard, £429 from Comet.co.uk
Out of the box
First things first
Charging is done via a proprietary interface which attaches to your PC via USB; the same interface is used to attach the tablet to the dock. When the tablet is plugged into the dock to charge, it will charge its battery before the dock’s built-in battery, so if you just want to grab the tablet you’ll know it has as much charge as possible. I have to say, I hated the adaptor – it’s similar to the Blackberries with a separate plate that clips to a box which has the USB socket. It was very hard to get it to securely clip and it is bulky. I haven’t yet tried with another adaptor.
Switch on and explore
Setup was amazingly simple – enter the key for your wifi network, enter the usual date/time and location checks (or it can pick it up from your network) and enter your google account details if you have an account. And that was it with the device loading its default screens (see pic).
Although I haven’t had a lot of time to play with Honeycomb, it seems generally similar to the Android on my smartphone, the main difference being that the notification bar is across the bottom of the screen rather than the top.
The dock has a number of buttons along the top row that act as hardware shortcuts, for example toggling Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and media control buttons for music and movie playback. These are configurable.
As well as the physical volume and power buttons there’s a rotate button - but no sign of the physical buttons some OEMs like Toshiba still have on their Honeycomb prototypes. Strangely, I miss them! Of course the familiar Home, Back, Search and Menu buttons are still on the keyboard.
There’s also a touchpad on the keyboard base, which may be more convenient than reaching across to the touch screen all the time, and a row of function keys above the number keys, to turn Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and the touchpad on and off and control volume and media playback.
What you don’t get - and what you’ll tend to find yourself expecting because of the netbook form factor and the fact that there’s a Ctrl button on the keyboard - are keyboard shortcuts like copy and paste.
Communication is via 802.11b/g/n wireless or Bluetooth (there’s a 3G model planned).
Asus has added some software (in addition to the usual Android stuff). There’s a DNLA-aware media sharing app, which lets you share multimedia files between your tablet and other DNLA-capable devices such as TVs and media streamers. MyCloud is a cloud storage app that lets you backup files to Asus’s secure servers; Asus is offering unlimited space for the first year, but it’ll start charging by the month after that period. There’s also an ebook Library app, quickly ditched for Kindle. To be fair to Asus, the bloat is limited and easily disposed of.
Polaris is also included (an Office suite), not tried it in anger but I’ve heard reasonable reports of it.
Docking Station and Keyboard
As well as the usual Wi-Fi n and Bluetooth it has GPS and multiple sensors (including ambient light). Connect it to the QWERTY keyboard base and you get an extra eight hours of battery.
The Transformer connects to the keyboard through a docking port on the bottom of the screen, and there’s a high lip at the back and a lower one in front to hold it in place and act as the hinge; when you want to grab it back off again, you slide the large latch and it pops out.
This seems reasonably sturdy and robust and I had no problem sliding it in place and popping it back out. The lip at the back also helps balance the weight of the screen so it doesn’t all tip over backwards.
The curved corners and slightly angled bezel match the sleek lines and curved corners of the tablet section, which has a waffle-patterned back to give you more grip (the less obvious dot pattern around the edge of the screen echoes the texture).
The keyboard base also has more ports; the Transformer gives you a microSD slot (which supports SDHC), mini HDMI and the docking port, but the two USB ports are on the keyboard (hidden away behind covers), along with a full size SD/MMC memory card slot.
The weight of the keyboard feels similar to the 680 gram screen but even together they’re lighter than many netbooks (which these days are packing a hard drive and fan to weigh them down, as well as a hefty battery). Even with the keyboard attached, the Eee Pad Transformer is still thin (it’s 13mm on its own) and the keyboard also folds down to protect the screen when it’s in your bag.
Build quality on both the tablet and the docking station is superb. Each has a solid metal frame, with a textured plastic back panel that makes it easier to grip. There was absolutely no flex in either the tablet or the dock, and the keyboard panel had no flex in it. I found it easy to type on, with a light, crisp action that will please touch-typists. Obviously, holding it one handed for any period of time and you will feel the strain but lounged on the sofa with the tablet propped on you leg was ideal :0
Asus has used an IPS panel, normally found on expensive professional monitors, and covered it with tough Gorilla Glass, and it’s one of the best displays I’ve seen on any device. Viewing angles are wide and there’s an oleophobic (oil resistant) coating that makes touch input smoother as well as reducing the smears of oily fingerprints that plague most smartphones and tablets. Colours are vibrant, contrast is excellent and the brightness level is adequate for outdoor viewing.
The 1.2 megapixel camera is placed so it’s on the top of the screen when it’s docked in the keyboard and the 5 megapixel camera on the rear is behind it; that may not be as convenient for taking photos but it makes sense to use the keyboard as a stand if you’re doing a video call rather than having the tablet shake around in your hands. Frankly, the cameras are meh but then I use a professional camera for my photography. Should be fine for Skype Video though.
Using the included apps (which included a couple of Youtube apps) everything ran fine with no stutter. Sound quality was fair enough but obviously improved with a pair of Sennheissers or a small external speaker. Have not yet tried a live stream from, say, BBC iPlayer but I’m confident the device will cope (if your network will).
Not much to say really. All my smartphone games ran OK even though none have yet been optimised for the tablet. One or two refused to change from portrait mode to landscape mode but no big deal. I look forward to seeing some real tablet games. I have also tried a hack and slash MMO game which ran very nicely.
The Wife Test
Oh boy, does she like it! In fact, she epitomises the whole point of this device. She does not like Windows with its long start-up times, non-intuitive UI and of course the vague error messages when it crashes. The tablet is (almost) instant on, she can just prod at an icon and its off and running, she has a keyboard if she really wants it and everything is nicely configurable. And as she is not a online gamer, she has no real need of a Windows PC. I’ll be lucky if I ever see the tablet again.
The negative –
I hated the power adaptor but I guess I can live with it (or find an alternative).
Not many apps are optimised yet for the tablet format.
Not all apps worked (one gave a frozen screen) but this is a hardware review and not the place to go into Apple v Google policies re quality control.
And that is about it.
The positive –
The docking station is the USP here. OK, some of you may never want it in which case you need not buy it. But adding the keyboard, additional battery, USB ports, HDMI out, SD card, ausio jack, touchpad makes it a true netbook without the bloat of windows. The battery life is already good on the tablet, add the keyboard battery and this really is a killer feature.
Everything worked. As it should be of course but we are all realists aren’t we? I really was expecting something to not be right but I’ve not found it yet.
I’ve been hammering it for a day now and tablet battery shows 72%, my smartphone would have been whimpering for mercy at this point.
UPDATE: Screen battery died after 48 hours of on/off use. Pretty impressive but I did not run many videos which can be a battery killer. On the other hand, wifi was constantly on and that is the other main battery drainer.
24 hours in and I’m highly impressed and consider it great value for money.
TEXTURE: With the keyboard in place, the Asus Transformer looks rather like a netbook with an extra camera
On Screen Keyboard
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