Monday, 16 January 2012

Asus Transformer Prime Review!

Quad-Core Tablet Goodness

In our hands today is the latest attempt at an iPad killer. This time Asus is coming back for Round 2 with its Android powered Quad-Core Transformer tablet named Prime (TF201). With a name like that you expect it comes from the Autobots or Decepticons, but no, the Transformer Prime doesn’t have any relation to the great Hasbro franchise.

Let’s take a look what is underneath the hood of the Prime.
10.1” LED Backlit (1280 x 800) Multi-touch display
Android 3.2 (Upgradeable to Android 4.0)
nVidia Tegra 3 Quad-Core CPU
1GB Memory
Wifi + Bluetooth
1.2MP Front Camera
8MP Rear Camera with Flash
Pad Interface: 2-in-1 Audio Jack, 1x Micro HDMI, 1x Micro SD Card Reader
Dock Interface: 1x USB2.0 Port, 1x SD Card Reader
Sensors: G-Sensor, Light Sensor, Gyroscope, E-compass
Battery: 12hours (18hours with Dock)

Definitely a head turner in the Tablet department. The quad-core processor and netbook like design with the dockable keyboard gives this tablet something to think about for buyers in the tablet market.
The design of the Prime is an improvement over its predecessor. It is thinner and lighter in both the pad and dock. It is covered with a metallic circular pattern yet feels smooth on the hand. I kind of prefer the older style with the embossed pattern, it feels easier to grip and sticks in the hand. The outer casing of the pad is very easy to get dirty and stands out very much.

The edges of the screen have a thick black lining and go around the perimeter of the screen. Scarily it almost looks like an iPad. The buttons around the pad are positioned wisely but are suited for landscape use; in fact the whole pad itself is really designed for landscape use.

The pad really does look incredible. It’s bright, very sharp and offers good high resolution. Games and movies just pop out of the screen with vibrant colour and clarity. Be aware though, it is a magnet for your prints and you’ll be using the supplied micro-fibre cloth a few times if you’re the one who gets annoyed with plethora of prints on your screen. The touch-screen works flawlessly, be it scrolling through webpages or flicking and zooming through photos, the touchpad feels as good as any other tablet and responds perfectly. The display has excellent viewing angles and shouldn’t be a worry to any user.

The dock itself is quite pretty and is very reluctant of grime and prints. The dock is actually quite useful; it even supports plugging in a USB mouse and using it just like a normal netbook. This was pretty funny when playing games as it was almost like playing a FPS game on a computer. However, though having a keyboard dock definitely excels this tablet to perform more than your standard tablet tasks. Once docked, it stops feeling like a tablet and begins feeling like a netbook. Now, some might say I’m nit-picking with this, but with a tablet, when I’m using one, it feels good to know I’m using a tablet, the difference in user experience on a tablet make tablet surfing/gaming that extra bit unique and special. Attaching a keyboard to the tablet kind of feels like it takes this away. Yes it does improve productivity, but it comes at a cost.
With a quad-core processor it is expected to perform quite well and we didn’t see any faults of this manner. The previous Transformer did have slight performance issues, especially when putting a lot of shortcuts on the menus, the display would lag when flipping through the screens, the Prime didn’t suffer these issues and performed very well (Not all thanks to the quad-core, Android 4.0 now supports accelerated graphics in menus). The games we installed had no problems and ran pretty smoothly. 

A problem that can occur is the current selection of apps doesn’t support the higher resolution. Google did announce that apps in the future will be published with all-in-one support, meaning the apps will cater for all devices and resolutions automatically without the need to download exclusive and sometimes more pricey ‘HD’ version. It will also support the use of all cores as many current apps don’t have good support for multi-core processors.  If you do grab one of these Prime’s, keep this in the back of your head as you may not be entirely satisfied with the quality of apps on the device at first and it may take some time for full performing apps to become available.

The Market on the Prime is easy to navigate through and find your apps, however it is no way near the polish-off feel of the iTunes store which I believe is the biggest letdown of the Android platform. Google really needs to improve its market and screen all apps before they get published. This device has a massive potential to grab a chunk of the iPad’s share in the tablet market, but it really needs to get its Market sorted to keep the Android users on Android. nVidia have also included their own Market app on the tablet with high resolution games on offer.

The Prime features a much higher resolution than the iPad 2, however the Prime’s screen is in 16:9 widescreen format with the iPad 2 sticks with the tradition 4:3 format. This is a debatable feature. While personally I prefer the 4:3 on a tablet, I’d imagine many would favour the widescreen display purely for title purposes. Personally I don’t think tablets these days require the widescreen format as of yet.
Though the performance of the device was quite good I think the quad-core chip has a significant impact on the temperature of the unit. It did feel quite warm in my hands. It didn’t get so hot that it became uncomfortable to hold but I’d imagine some users may be put off by this, especially if you use it in a complete covering case. Benching the tablet with the ‘Quadro’ app gave us double the score of the latest Samsung Nexus, which tells us the quad-core chip in this unit performs as its name would suggest. The gyro metre wasn’t as sharp as I’d expected. The iPad 2 clearly wins out of the two when it comes to its gyro sensors as the Prime often lagged and delayed the rotation action.

It seemed to perform quite well with video files, even with 720p MKV files (which it played without requiring additional software). With the exception of a few files, the player handled multiple formats and codecs with ease. One bad side to the stock player was the inability to zoom in on videos, so while watching you would have to have the black bars constantly on screen, bit of a letdown to be honest, however on a positive note, all videos were scrub able easily and showed previews of section I was scrubbing over and continued playing videos instantly when I resumed play (This may not be an issue for different players).

A big letdown for me on the Prime was the lack of personalisation settings. Apart from the wallpaper, there are no theme or colour settings. This may be introduced at a later time and date, but for the Android operating systems which lists its ability to offer out-of-the-box customization to not put in such a feature is bedazzling. Will be something to keep an eye out in the future.
Another disappointing feature is the inability to charge the pad directly through USB connected to your computer. The pad can only be charged via the AC Adapter or through USB when connected to the dock.

Overall, Asus have created a worthy iPad competitor. This is the first Android tablet that has impressed me in terms of design and performance. Though it needs some time to allow developers to catch up on its performance capabilities, it partially provides the consumers with a future-proof tablet that runs effortlessly and flawlessly. Though it does have a few perks about it, none are big enough to discourage buyers as many will find the perks to go unnoticed. 

By Sahin Selvi

The benchmark results may differ from user to user depending on what background software you are running and versions of benchmark software. These results aren’t portrayed to be seen as exact performance figures but merely as a rough estimate on the performance of the machine. These results are in no way bias to any company or person and are here to provide the end user in depth details and to provide extra assistance of potential purchases. All information on this page is subject to copyright. Please do not copy any parts of this article.

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