Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

Asus Eee Pad Transformer

I recently laid hands on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. It’s an Android tablet from Asus, uniquely characterized by its optional docking station which contains a keyboard and that transforms the Transformer into sort of a netbook form. If you ever thought that the new slate of keyboard-less tablets would be rather inconvenient to do “real work” (i.e. writing emails, documents, etc), the Transformer essentially gives you the best of both worlds.

The Transformer’s hardware specifications are quite up-to-par: 1280×800 10.1″ display, powerful dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 1GHz processor, 1GB of RAM, 16 or 32GB of flash, 5MP rear camera and 1.3MP front camera, GPS, Bluetooth, Wifi (and 3G edition coming soon), mini-HDMI output.

The physical build is also pretty good: looks good and feels good. It is certainly heavier and bigger than the Samsung Galaxy Tab, but I thought the latter was a little too plasticky, so I think the Transformer feels a lot better in my hands. I do think it feels a little too heavy though, particularly once you attach the docking station.

The docking station is really interesting. You get a good-sized real physical keyboard and a generously-sized trackpad. The tablet connects to the docking station on a hinge, so that the “screen” and the “keyboard” sections open and close in such a manner that the Transformer essentially becomes a netbook. It does look like a netbook too. The docking station packs an extra 6 hours of battery (the main Transformer is rated 10 hours on its own), has two USB ports and a SD memory slot.

The Transformer runs the tablet-optimized version of Android, Honeycomb. I’m familiar with pre-Honeycomb Android, not with Honeycomb itself. The UI changes in Honeycomb really helps to improve the tablet experience. If you had used the Galaxy Tab before, the Android experience on it might have left you feeling that it was simply an oversized smartphone.

Sadly, the software experience fell short of my expectations. Despite being blessed with a powerful dual-core processor and plenty of RAM, the Transformer felt rather sluggish and jerky as you navigate around the user interface. This is particularly evident when you move between homescreens. Hopefully, this can be improved (significantly) with future software updates.

Price? The current 16GB Wifi version of the Transformer sells for S$699 without the optional docking station. The equivalent iPad 2 model sells for S$668. It’s a pity that the flagship Android tablets can’t compete against Apple’s iPads on price.

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