Asus Eee Pad Transformer — Review

Editor’s note: This guest review is written by Irwin Proud whom is on our Podcast Team

The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer is Asus’ first foray into the Honeycomb Tablet market. The device packs all the bells and whistles that current Android 3 devices are coming with.

I picked up the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer 32GB Wi-Fi only version with the included Keyboard Dock and have been using it for just under 2 weeks now. This is my first time using an Android Tablet and I am finding it to be an immensely pleasurable experience.

Within the first 2 days of getting the Tablet ASUS pushed out the recently announced Android 3.1 Update, this was even quicker than the global versions of the Motorola Xoom (Telstra’s will be updated in July) which is Google’s reference device for Honeycomb.

Pros..

  • Extra battery life when docked (~16 hours)
  • Great IPS display (probably the best on a Tablet currently)
  • Only Tablet in Australia currently running Android 3.1

Cons..

  • A little bit bulky, especially when docked
  • No haptic feedback
  • No camera flash :(

Specs..

Standard Specs:

  • CPU: 1GHz Dual-Core Tegra 2
  • RAM: 1GB
  • Disk Storage: 16/32GB
  • Camera front/back: 1.2MP/5MP
  • MicroSD slot (expandable to 32GB)
  • Screen Size: 10.1 inches
Non-Standard Specs:

  • IPS LCD screen at a whopping 1280 X 800 resolution
  • OS: Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) updates from 3.01 after first boot
  • Keyboard Dock
    • USB 2.0 port x 2
    • Full QWERTY keyboard
    • Standard SD card slot

Feel..

Comparing with the Motorola Xoom & Acer Iconia, the Transformer is definitely lighter, it is however slightly bigger than the iPad 2 and a little bit heavier, but because of the visible size difference this tricks your brain into thinking the iPad 2 is heavier when holding the two.

The Transformer has a copper coloured case with a textured surface; this gives it a somewhat minimalist steampunk look. It only has three hardware buttons, power and volume up/down. The rest of the buttons are software based and appear at the bottom of the screen depending on which way you hold it (landscape/portrait). The standard buttons in this view are Back, Home and Task Switcher (and Menu when using an app not optimised for Honeycomb), these buttons have been themed when compared with the stock experience on the Xoom.

User Interface..

Booting up for the first time is really pain-free, if you’ve been using Android prior to getting the device, once you have set up your Gmail account all the apps installed on your Android phone will be re-downloaded to the tablet, except for the apps that aren’t compatible with Honeycomb yet.

Note: Most apps are compatible, but may not be optimised for the tablet experience.

The User Interface is really nice and has been left relatively untouched by ASUS, other than buttons mentioned earlier. There is some bundled software that only adds to the experience and is not as intrusive as Carrier bloat ware that is usually included in Android phones.

The apps include:

  • File Manager – To browse your devices storage area
  • My Cloud – Cloud based storage and Remote PC connection (needs software on PC you wish to access)
  • MyLibrary – Book store and reader
  • MyNet – Media sharing service to play movies from the Transformer onto a DLNA compatible TV
  • Polaris Office – Document, Spread sheet and Presentation editor
  • Zinio Reader – A magazine subscription service

The included apps are mostly useful and the Remote PC app is the best available for Tablets at the moment. ASUS have also bundled some widgets and live wallpapers to make the most of the screen real estate.

The overall Honeycomb experience is clean and smooth and is comparable to what you would see on the Motorola Xoom or the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v. Transitioning between screens is fluid and looks beautiful; loading up apps seems instantaneous and faster even when using apps from a dual-core smartphone. This would be due to Honeycomb’s use of hardware acceleration and java garbage collection that can operate on one of the cores.

Since the tablet has been updated to Android 3.1 as well it appears a little bit faster and allows the ability to multitask between more than 5 open apps. It also includes more USB & Bluetooth device support natively now, which means you can connect Bluetooth & USB game controllers, cameras and printers.

Laptop(ish) Dock..

Now to get to the juicy part. The included keyboard dock is what gives the Transformer its name. Remember that the dock only comes with the more expensive 32GB version and from what I’ve been able to ascertain is not available for separate purchase yet.

The keyboard is a full QWERTY keyboard with the Function key row being replaced with shortcuts to turning on Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and volume control amongst other things.

The typing experience is comparable to a notebook and the keys feel great under the finger tips.
The keyboard dock supports USB 2.0 and has 2 ports available. It is great being able to plug in a flash stick and copy files over. There is also a standard size SD card slot included for more storage space.

The best bit about the keyboard dock is the extra 8 hours of charge it gives the tablet. You can charge the dock by itself or with the screen attached, this is handy if you suddenly run out of power while using just the tablet, you can grab the dock from the charger and connect the screen to it. The power sequence is actually really clever on the device as well. When docked the tablet draws charge from the dock, so if the tablet was at 80% when you plugged it into the dock, it will likely be at 100% shortly after. Once the base is out of power the screen powers everything. The only drawer back to the power share arrangement is that the battery stats will only report on the Tablets available power and not the docks and while connected it will show the device as charging.

I can’t really comment on the overall battery life of the Transformer as I do frequently use the keyboard dock, but I can say that after unplugging it from the charger it can get me through a full day and then some, no dramas.

Annoyances..

For all the innovations included in the Transformer, there are still some small annoyances. The hardware keyboard will occasionally miss a keystroke here or there, this isn’t too noticeable for casual use, but gets a little irritating when typing a lot. Firm key strokes are the easiest way to get around it for the time being and ASUS is able to push out separate firmware updates for the dock itself.

The case of the Transformer seems like it has some space in the back, when firmly pressing on the back, you can notice a bit of flex. This gives you the idea that if ASUS spent a little more on the design, they could have made it a bit thinner.
When the Tablet is docked to the keyboard dock the whole package actually feels quite hefty. The dock is close to the same weight of the screen, if it was any lighter the docked tablet would fall onto the screen.

The boot time seems a little lengthy when compared with other devices. But when the home screen comes up the Transformer is ready for immediate use.

It seems that most tablets available now are suffering varying degrees of screen bleed and the Transformer is no exception to this. There is noticeable bleed on the side of the screen that connects to the dock; this is only obvious for when displaying a completely black screen.

Conclusion..

The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer is a truly unique Tablet, which is great since all the tablets coming out at the moment are all rocking close to identical specs and form factors.

The experience is smooth and clean in the Operating System and there seems to have been a lot of thought from ASUS as to how to get a keyboard included without the device seeming hacked together.

If you’ve listened to our Ausdroid Podcasts, you may recall us discussing whether Tablets are just a novelty for now and if anyone actually needs one. Well, the Transformer has now replaced my computer for almost everything other than gaming. When Ubisoft bring a good version of Assassins Creed to Android, then I suspect I will no longer use my PC at all.

Editor: Irwin wrote the text of the review entirely on his Transformer. Fair effort, Sir.

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About the author

Buzz founded Ausdroid in March 2010, and while he has stepped back from active responsibilities around here to focus on his education, Buzz brings us some of our biggest news stories, reviews and latest rumours. We hope to have him... (read more)


  • Mused

    Pros: It has a full sized USB
    Cons: The full sized USB is on the keyboard dock, which I cbf carrying around all the time (if I owned a Transformer)

  • Cubits

    Irwin just needs to wait for Onlive to hit Australia to be free of that PC. Of course, we might actually get proper games for android before that happens! ;o

  • zamt

    How much was the whole lot with the keyouyboard and where you get it from?

    • http://twitter.com/ibproud Irwin Proud

      You can pick up the 32GB Keyboard Dock version for $797 or the 16GB stand alone version for $598.
      I picked mine up from JB Hi-Fi. Make sure to ask for a deal.

      • zamt

        Do you think it is worth getting the keyboard with it?

      • Zane Kearney

        i did and love it, It’s very usefull, use it about 50% of the time. 

      • Cubits

        While both units are overpriced here, the gouge on the 16GB without the dock is worse than the 32 with it. Purely on a level of “how raped would you like your wallet to be?”, the 32GB unit makes more sense. Also, it frees you from having to use a touchscreen keyboard, and it can hold itself up!

      • Remington Jackson

        I’m sorry I never saw this for those prices. At compusa the price for the dock is $149.99, the 16GB is $399.99, and 32GB is $499.99. Newegg also has 16GB and 32GB versions, but the dock is out of stock for now there. 

      • Mystery

        This is an Australian site?

  • http://ps3explained.com/ Flame

    Good review. I’m surprised Honeycomb’s default soft buttons got past usability testing really; Asus’ version is a lot more comprehensible.

  • Zane Kearney

    I have had it for a tad over a week here myself, and have to say that I have barely go off it since i bought it. there are some things that i do not like about it such as sometimes. keyboard input can be a little laggy, and the browser may crash once a day or so, but over all the experience is fantastic.

    the pros and cons for me are  as follows
    Pros
    - Very nice screen.
    - Propper keyboard dock
    - Latest version of android. M.akes me feel comortable for when any future updates come around.
    - Exptional battery life. can take it to uni and watch lectures, write assignments, browse the web, and play games on it all day with the keyboard dock.
    - polaris is nice.
    - very nice design and good build quality.

    Cons 
    - Random keyboard lag can be very, very frustraiting, although i don’t know what triggers it. eg: i’m getting it now but can go to another website or polaris and it’ll be fine. 
    - Can be a little bit weighty when with the dock. 
    - have found it a little hard to dock, in that i really have to push it down to to it to lock in. 

    anyway, sorry to write an essay, but hope it helps  someone.

    Zane

  • http://twitter.com/pchappySA HAPPY Technologies

    sweet, looking at getting one of these or the Samsung Tab 10.1, we actually sell these here http://shop.pchappy.com.au/Notebooks/Asus-EEEPad-Transformer-10-1.aspx?stockid=13507

  • Anonymous

    Ignoring the keyboard, would you prefer this over the acer iconia A500?
    I think they are fairly similar and both performed better than the xoom at the JB I tested them at.

    • http://about.me/ainghanif hanif.

      I tested a bit transformer and iconia in officework and harvey norman. IMHO, transformer is smoother than iconia. and have better grip than iconia. 

  • http://twitter.com/gemini67 dario67

    Does anyone know if this unit will be released with 3G?

    • Level380

      I’m hoping soon, but sadly I’m hear aug/sept for 3g release :(

      • Ben O’Donnell

        Asus has stated that their next generation tablets are coming with 3g (due at in the States in Q4)

  • Cliff

    While waiting for mine to arrive, i found this:
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1115722
    [APP] Battery and Dock Widget [v1.1.1] 2011-06-13 – xda-developers

  • Agrei8

    Any word on asus accessories? saw online an article http://www.nothingbuttablets.com/3140 about genuine asus kit like Mini HDMI to VGA adaptor, something i am really interested in. There were also cases etc Anyone know where you can get this from yet? Asus Australia site is a blank.

  • Forest Lake

    why would you want haptic feedback anyway? it just drains the battery and can be quite annoying if you are on your phone all day…

  • Anonymous

    Someone dropped into my work’s office today with one of these… I had a little fiddle with it, very smooth to use, but glad I don’t have to carry it around with me as it is a little weighty for a tablet and the keyboard does miss keystrokes occasionally. 

    That said, I always struggle on the tiny keyboards anyway…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1167391876 Lachlan Matthias

    need to update the review since at first boot it updates to 3.2 :)

  • Gilean

    Definitively needs update, since it is 3.2 battery life improved significantly

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=587309255 Jason Weber

    I’ve had for a couple of weeks now and love it.
    Pro’s:
    Sensational screen (both touch and display factors)
    Very nice UI
    Slick Performance
    Asus not messing too much with the vanilla Android install

    Con’s:
    No USB on the actual tablet (where are these promised add-on’s Asus??)
    Poor WiFi range
    Stupid mouse pointer when using the trackpad on the Keyboard,

    I actually did my own small review here, if any one is interested: http://flyingninjamonkey.net/blog/archives/a-couple-of-weeks-with-the-asus-transformer

    Cheers all!