Despite the emergence of tablets in the country, only a few can rival the Apple iPad. What we have here is the Asus Eee Pad Transformer which is one of the first 10.1-inch Android tablets to be available in the country to compete with the iPad.
It may not look as sexy as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 that we have before but this one has a few tricks on its own that’s worth considering. One of which is the keyboard dock (hence the name Transformer) which we unfortunately don’t have for this review. It essentially turns your tablet into an Android netbook that can almost double its battery life and give you the keyboard you would often miss from a touchscreen device.
We’re going to take a closer look at the Asus Eee Pad as a tablet form here and see whether it should be high on your list if you’re looking for an Android tablet.
Admittedly after seeing and holding the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, the Asus Transformer suddenly feels like the toy that got neglected. It was wider, thicker and holding it in one hand in landscape mode seems unwieldy. Something you might not want to brandish in public if somebody else is holding a slimmer tablet.
It has a unique coppery finishing though if you want to be noticed from the sea of black and white tablet. Contributing to the extra girth are speaker placement on both ends of the tablet.
Because of its width, it’s meant to be used in landscape mode (portrait just looks awkward). On the left is the power and volume buttons. On the right is the 3.5mm audio jack, a miniHDMI port and a microSD slot which is quite rare in quality tablets. Underside you will see the proprietary port for charging and data transfer. No microUSB port here.
You can see the lens of the 5 megapixel camera on its slightly curved, textured back. The textured finish makes it less slippery when handling and the wide tapered edges somewhat eased the thickness of the device.
Display and UI
The 1280 x 800 resolution is ordinary on 10.1-inch tablets but it doesn’t mean it’s bad. 10-inch netbooks have 1024 x 600 resolution so the 10-inch tablets offer more pixel density with their display resolution giving you sharper and crisper images. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer doesn’t fail in this regard.
Asus didn’t play with the base Honeycomb UI that much which doesn’t look bad on its in the first place. On the upside, this will ensure that users will get quicker firmware or OS updates on their tablet as opposed to those with heavily customized UI.
If you’re not familiar with Honeycomb, it’s similar to your typical Android UI with homescreens where you can place widgets and app shortcuts. The widgets on Honeycomb are resizable to optimize the space in whichever way you want. Since these tablets don’t have physical buttons for Android functions, the UI has a persistent bar at the bottom for your usual menus including Home, multitask and even a dedicated screen capturing button. The notification tray is located on the lower right along with the time and other status icons.
Perhaps the only modification Asus made on the Transformer is adding a fifth row for the keyboard which I definitely found useful. No need to switch keyboard layout whenever you type in those numbers for your username and passwords.
Asus incorporated what they call the Waveshare interface on the Transformer but it’s more of a suit of custom applications such as MyNet, MyLibrary and MyCloud. MyNet allows for media streaming over the network via DLNA. MyLibrary is where your downloaded books, magazines and newspapers are located. Lastly, MyCloud is like your own personal Dropbox with an unlimited capacity hosted by Asus but is free for only a year.
Multimedia and Gaming
Thanks to its gorgeous screen, watching videos on the Transformer is quite a treat and the dual speakers on both side are loud enough for personal viewing without earphones. One caveat though is that the Eee Pad seemed to be lacking in audio codecs. Some videos that played properly on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 didn’t have any audio when played in the Transformer.
Just like what’s plaguing other Honeycomb tablets at the moment, quality games are still limited. The Android Market has staple games such as Angry Birds which you can download for free or you can go to the Tegra store for HD games but you have to pay for most of them. Most Gameloft HD games still doesn’t work properly for Honeycomb so it’s still a waiting game for users.
It’s important to point out though that the Asus Eee Pad Transformer is still currently the only tablet we have that’s on Honeycomb 3.2. What’s good with 3.2 is that apps and games made for the smartphone will now appear on the Android market. You can download and run them but don’t expect them to display properly (pixelated at full screen mode). At least you will now have more app options. I managed to run a PS emulator so I can play my Final Fantasy game but it will only display correctly in portrait mode with a lot of unused space.
I would like to point out that Skype video is still not working here. You can’t project your video but you can hear and see the other party.
The main reason why people would opt for a 10-inch tablet is that browsing is a much better experience on a bigger display. 7-inch displays can still be limiting when surfing the net.
We encountered no problems with how pages are rendered and they load pretty quickly. For Flash object support, you still need to download and install the Flash player from the Market. Afterwards, you should be able to view Flash components including those embedded Flash videos plus offline and live streaming as well, like Justin.TV. Playing those heavy Facebook Flash games is possible but response is a bit slow.
Charging the Eee Pad is done via a proprietary port on the bottom of the tablet, and this is also where you plug in the keyboard dock. Battery life on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer hovers around the 9-hour mark under normal usage, WiFi mostly on with some video streaming, a little bit of gaming, downloading apps, etc.
Although we didn’t receive the dock for testing, I want to point out how it can bring the Eee Pad Transformer into a different level. First it’s an added battery source. Dock your tablet and it will transfer its charge to the tablet giving it about 7 hours more of juice. Then there’s also the multi-card reader and two USB ports too if you want to add additional peripherals like a flash drive or a mouse (sadly 3G broadband sticks are not yet supported). Finally you will get a decent keyboard with a touchpad to really get some work done.
The keyboard dock will essentially turn your Eee Pad into an Android netbook with an exceptionally long battery life. Not only you can simply watch videos or play games but you can really be productive with it. Answer to lengthy e-mails or create documents with the included Polaris Office is very possible and easy with they dock.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer is a solid tablet on its own which can be updated rather easily. However in terms of design, I still prefer the slimness and compact look of the Galaxy Tab 10.1. Using this Eee Pad in portrait mode looks awkward with its wide body but I guess a lot of people won’t do that. It is still an attractive choice for 10-inch tablet anyway thanks to its microSD slot and miniHDMI port.
When you buy the Eee Pad with its keyboard dock, you will be getting more out of it — extra battery and USB ports for additional storage options. Samsung also has its own keyboard dock which also looks good by the way but you can’t fold the tablet onto it with the way it’s constructed. It’s designed to be left alone on your desk unlike the Eee Pad transformer which you can bring around with you as if you’re holding a netbook.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer is already available and is priced attractively at Php22,995 which will net you a 16GB Honeycomb 3.2 tablet with an expandable SD slot. If you want to get it with the keyboard dock, it will set you back Php29,995. Or try it out first without the dock to gauge if you really need it.
|Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Specs:|
|Dual-core 1GHz ARM Cortex-A9 processor|
|ULP GeForce GPU, Tegra 2 T20 chipset|
|Android Honeycomb 3.2|
|10.1 inches LED-backlit IPS LCD (1280 x 800)|
|16GB internal storage, 1GB RAM|
|microSD, up to 32GB|
|5 MP autofocus rear camera|
|1.2 MP front camera|
|Bluetooth v2.1 with A2DP, EDR|
|mini HDMI port|
|Li-Po battery (24.4 Wh)|
|SRP: Php22,995 (16GB without dock) | Php29,995 (16GB with dock)|