Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime Tablet Review

By Paul Mah | Posted May 22, 2012

The slim Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime mobile device measures a mere 0.32 inch thick and weighs in at a feather-light 1.32 pounds. In line with previous tablets marketed under the Transformer series, the Transformer Prime comes with an optional mobile dock that increases its battery life, adds to its onboard storage capacity and increases expansion capabilities.

Though the mobile tablet first launched with the Android 3.2 Honeycomb OS, the Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich update has since been released, and we evaluated the tablet on that basis.

So how does the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime fare for businesses when used together with the mobile dock?

Asus Transformer Prime Specifications

In order to understand what the Asus Transformer Prime can do, let's take a look at its specifications – which have the makings of a dream tablet. Under the hood, a Tegra 3 quad-core processor from Nvidia offers top-of-the-line processing capabilities. A typical 1GB of system RAM complements the processor.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime Tablet; an ultraoportable mobile device

Pair the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet with its mobile dock for a powerful, full-featured ultraportable device for business.

Our review unit came with 32GB of storage, though models with up to 64GB of storage may be available depending on the region. You can increase storage space by means of the micro-SD reader on the tablet; this can be further expanded by the SD card reader located on the mobile dock. If so desired, you can add even more storage space by means of a USB flash drive using the sole USB slot also located on the mobile dock.

The Prime's 10.1-inch screen measures slightly larger than the iPad’s 9.7-inch display, though the tablet is a bit longer and ever so slightly less wide as a result. The display features a very bright screen based on Super IPS+ technology, 1,280x800 resolution, 10-finger multi-touch, and Corning’s Gorilla Glass.

In terms of connectivity, the Transformer Prime packs an array of wireless capabilities such as 802.11b/g/n Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1 + Enhanced Data Rate (EDR). Like other top tablets, the Transformer Prime comes equipped with a rear-facing, 8-megapixel camera with flash, plus a 1.2 megapixel front-facing camera.

Finally, the Transformer Prime comes with one micro HDMI port and a 2-in-1 audio jack for headphone and microphone-in port. The tablet weights 1.29 pounds, while the mobile dock weights 1.16 pounds.

The Asus Transformer Prime Experience

The metallic circular pattern of the tablet gives it a very classy look and despite a larger 10.1-inch screen, it sports similar physical dimensions to the new iPad. The Transformer Prime is thinner however (sans keyboard), and felt noticeably lighter than Apple’s latest generation tablet. The 1080p video playback was smooth, although the volume produced by the built-in speakers was not as loud as we would like.

Launching Apps and overall usage was snappy, thanks to the powerful quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. In Performance mode, we were able to open at least eight separate tabs in the Web browser before the experience started lagging slightly – though the Web browser remained usable even at that point.

Asus has clearly devoted extensive efforts in designing the mobile dock. The top row of shortcuts on the keyboard, which proved to be incredibly useful, includes hotkeys for toggling Wi-Fi and Bluetooth on and off, launching the Web browser, and adjusting screen brightness and volume control.

Moreover, the dock also includes multimedia controls and a convenient shortcut that immediately puts the device into sleep mode.

The USB 2.0 port on the mobile dock let us connect a Logitech Unifying USB receiver so that we could use our Logitech mouse and keyboard with the Asus Transformer Prime.

An Excellent Business Ultraportable

As a tablet, the Transformer Prime stands out for its capability to juggle a large number of tasks and still feel fast. When paired with the mobile dock, the tablet transforms into a highly functional, ultraportable device. As outlined earlier, you can easily use a USB dongle to add a wireless mouse to speed up tasks such as browsing the Web. In addition, a photographer can also tap into the built-in SD card reader to move photos over to a USB flash drive or to the tablet’s micro-SD memory card.

Though not a full-sized keyboard, the Chiclet-style keys on the mobile dock allows unencumbered typing. As such, it is entirely possible to do productive work on the Transformer Prime, especially given its astounding battery life of 18 hours when used with the mobile dock. And though we would prefer a matt screen for work, the glossy display looks great and will probably appeal to most people.

On the downside, the slew of ultraportable laptops on the market, as well as the many new Ultrabooks due to be released in the coming months means that the Asus Transformer Prime may see its weight and battery life advantage eroded.

Moreover, the Transformer Prime with the mobile dock stacks up at a comparatively hefty 2.47 pounds, which is heavier than Apple’s 11-inch MacBook Air. When viewed in that context, the Android 4.0-based Transformer Prime is a couple of steps behind the sheer flexibility that a full-fledged desktop computer affords.

Conclusion

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime with the mobile dock is among the fastest and most full-featured tablet on the market today. Much of it has to do with the mobile dock that Asus designed specifically for the tablet. As it is, small and mid-sized businesses looking to deploy Android tablets to their workforce --and who requires a keyboard for quick data entry --- will definitely want to shell out the $150 for the mobile dock.

Even without the dock, the $500 Transformer Prime is an impressive device that epitomizes the best hardware capabilities available today. And that hardware comes packed into a device that is both slimmer and lighter than the new iPad, includes a fast quad-core processor, a brilliant 10.1-inch display and a solid 12 hours battery life (When used without the mobile dock).

Coupled with the small but significant improvements in Ice Cream Sandwich, it is the must-have tablet for small businesses that prefer Android mobile devices.  

Paul Mah covers technology for SMBs for Small Business Computing and for IT Business Edge. He also shares his passion for and knowledge of everything from networking to operating systems as an instructor at Republic Polytechnic in Singapore, and is a contributor to a number of tech sites, including Ars Technica and TechRepublic.

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