Asus Transformer Prime (TF-201) Review
A veritable powerhouse of a tablet.
Meet the Transformer Prime, Asus' much-hyped follow up to the Eee Pad Transformer. While this tablet does struggle a little bit in a few areas, it absolutely blows most tablets away in others. The first tablet we've reviewed with Google's Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich), the Transformer Prime makes great use of this new OS with its quad-core processor and a thoroughly impressive screen.
Design & Usability
An all-metal design and an option to "transform" your tablet into a laptop offers interesting capabilities.
First off, this tablet is thin. Half a millimeter thinner than the iPad and Xyboard, the Asus Transformer Prime is possibly the thinnest tablet we've reviewed thus far. As such, there are a couple issues we need to touch on, mainly the fit of the tablet in your hand due to that thinness, and the fact that the tablet is built around being able to click into a keyboard accessory that makes it more laptop than tablet. Because the tablet is so thin, the weight is more or less evenly distributed, which causes some leverage problems when held with only one hand. Thankfully, the tablet is light, but for long sessions of use, the keyboard accessory might be ideal.
Because the Transformer Prime's physical controls are limited on the tablet itself, most of your interaction with the tablet occurs through the extremely responsive capacitive touch screen. Ice Cream Sandwich has a few more quirks than Honeycomb, so you should take a while to get used to the new methods of accessing different apps and settings. Though the layout and control list is very similar to Honeycomb, there are a couple differences in where things are located. If you elect to buy the keyboard accessory to make your Transformer Prime an even bigger powerhouse, you'll not only get more physical keys than just the volume buttons and an on/off button, but also a keyboard (duh) and a touchpad to control your tablet more like a laptop.
The big draw to the Asus Transformer Prime TF-201 is the fact that it offers so much in terms of connectivity. To start, the tablet itself has a microSD card slot, as well as Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, 802.11n wireless, a micro-HDMI port, and the ability to expand these capabilities with the keyboard accessory designed for the Transformer Prime. This accessory not only offers expanded battery life, but USB ports and other options. This is a true media maven.
Extremely bright screen, but not the greatest color
At the center of the Asus Transformer Prime TF-201 is the Super IPS+ display, measuring in at 8.5625 x 5.325 inches and with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels. Though it's the exact same size and resolution as many of the other leading Android tablets' screens, the Super IPS+ (in-plane switching) display allows for a greatly improved viewing angle, if you like to show people things on your tablet, or if it gathers a small crowd.
Even though the tablet has a decent peak brightness, direct sunlight will still wash out the image of the Transformer Prime because LCD screens require their backlight to overpower the ambient light for its image to be seen. This fact, in conjunction with the proclivity of Gorilla Glass to reflect a lot of light, means the Transformer Prime is less than ideal to take outdoors unless the weather is bad, in which case you shouldn't take the tablet outdoors anyways.
Because each element has such a hugely variable amount of power draw for certain tasks, battery life will swing from really good when the process uses only a couple cores, or if the screen doesn't need to be bright. Reading eBooks, for example, draws a lot of power because it takes a lot more juice to display a lot of bright white area on the screen, which is why the eReader battery life is so preposterously low.
As far as apps are concerned, the Transformer Prime utilizes Google's Play Store. Though it isn't quite as large as the Apple App Store, it does provide a very wide array of applications used to unlock the full potential of your tablet. Want to replace a function your tablet does poorly? There are applications that can do that. Want to use your Bluetooth connectivity for off-label uses? There too. Want a new source for media and streaming content? You're covered.
A high-octane tablet that can satisfy the needs of many, but may not be the best for people used to Apple's iOS.
In order to stay alive in the market, Android tablets have a long tradition of overpowering the iPad, and the Transformer Prime goes in for the kill. Boasting a quad-core processor and an impossibly bright screen, this Asus tablet provides some very impressive performance at a price point that should give prospective tablet buyers something to think about.
Using Google's slick operating system (Ice Cream Sandwich), the Transformer Prime provides a natural, yet visually appealing user interface that should satisfy Apple converts and hardcore Android fan alike. With far better hardware, and a comparable user experience, the Asus Transformer Prime TF-201 certainly has a lot to offer for prospective tablet buyers, especially when used in conjunction with the keyboard accessory, which adds battery life and many connectivity options.
The tablet isn't without its drawbacks, as the extremely bright and reflective screen makes battery life on the tablet vary wildly if the brightness is maxed out. In addition, if you are likely to push the tablet to handle a huge load of tasks, the quad-core processor will burn through the battery at an incredible rate.
All that being said, if you're looking for a tablet and you're not quite ready to ditch your laptop, the Asus Transformer Prime TF-201 is a seriously good stepping stone to bridge the two types of device. While it is a drag to have to buy additional hardware to get the most out of your tablet, the performance and usability ceiling of the Transformer Prime is sky high.
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