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Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101: A Tablet In Disguise

Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101: A Tablet In Disguise
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The Eee Pad Transformer is aptly named; there's more to this thing than meets the eye. Asus is the first to market with a tablet that pulls double-duty, attempting to replace your notebook, too. We put it through the paces to see how it really stacks up.

Some of the best conversations we have are with writers from other sites. Lately, the buzz between our colleagues has been about HP’s recent decision to discontinue the TouchPad and put webOS up on a shelf. After writing and then publishing our own TouchPad review, we thought the device might be in a bit of trouble. But we didn't anticipate HP ending things the way it did. But what does that mean for the tablet scene? We’re now down to two players working on tablet-oriented operating environments: Apple and Google. While the iPad 2 continues to set the standard, there’s a growing collection of Android-based tablets legitimately putting pressure on Apple.

Beyond what they cost, functionality is the major barrier preventing tablets from enjoying even greater success. The devices continue to operate best as consumption-oriented tools. They augment your computing experience, rather than replacing it. As a result, it's difficult for many folks to justify spending big bucks on a piece of hardware that merely complements other systems. 

Several vendors are trying to bridge the gap between tablet and notebook, hoping to turn the former into a true successor to the latter. The most interesting implementation we've seen so far comes from Asus. Dubbed the Eee Pad Transformer, it’s the first tablet we’ve tested that performs double duty as both devices.

The Eee Pad Transformer is slimmer than the Xoom and A500, but its bevelled edge makes the comparison difficult. Asus tapers the Transformer near the sides, where it’s slightly thinner at 0.35". Functionally, this doesn't really matter because you still need a cover that accommodates the tablet at its thickest point, which is .05". And at 1.5 pounds, Asus' tablet weighs roughly the same as Motorola's Xoom.


iPad (3G)
iPad 2 (3G)
XoomIconia A500
Eee Pad Transformer
Length 9.56"9.5"9.8"10.2"
10.7"
Width7.47"7.31"6.6"7"
7"
Height.5".34"0.5"0.5"
0.5"
Screen Size9.7"9.7"10.1"10.1"
10.1"
Aspect Ratio4:34:316:1016:10
16:10
Weight
1.6 lb1.33 lb1.5 lb1.65 lb
1.5 lb


As with the Xoom and A500 (and unlike either iPad), Asus employs a wide-aspect (16:10) display. That's really the common choice being made by manufacturers selling Android-based tablets. They're focusing on video playback, it seems, which is why most folks hold these devices in landscape mode.

We discussed this in the Xoom review, but Apple takes a different approach, replicating the experience of using a pad of paper. That's why it employs a standard (4:3) aspect ratio. Nothing prevents you from using a wide-aspect display in portrait mode, but it's a little awkward since you lose horizontal workspace.

The layout of the buttons and I/O ports also reflects the expectation you'll be using the Transformer in landscape mode. On the left, you have the power button and volume rocker. On the right side, you have the headphone, microphone, miniHDMI, and microSD ports.

The proprietary connector on the bottom of the Eee Pad Transformer serves three functions. With the included proprietary cable provided by Asus, you can charge the tablet or sync to a computer. If you own a docking station (more on that in a bit), the port also operates as a pass-through connector that lets the Transformer function as a notebook.

Asus opts for a cleaner aesthetic design than what we've seen on competing tablets. Forget about a dual-tone colour scheme or the use of rubber and aluminium. The Eee Pad Transformer's chassis is made of moulded ABS plastic with a simple logo plastered dead-centre. The case has a subtle texture that helps you maintain a firm grip, but it also helps hide traces of fingerprints.

CameraiPad 2
XoomIconia A500
Eee Pad Transformer
Front-Facing
0.3 MP (640x480)
2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)1.2 MP (1024 x 768)
Rear-Facing
0.7 MP (960x720)
5.0 MP (2592 x 1944) 5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)
Flash
None
Dual-LED flash
Single-LED flash
None


The camera setup is a bit of a disappointment. While the front-facing 1.2 MP camera is sufficient for Skype, it still falls shy of what you'd get from a competing Android-based tablet. With that said, our bigger complaint involves the lack of a flash on the rear-facing 5.0 MP camera, which is something we get from other Android-based tablets like the Xoom and A500.

The two stereo speakers on the sides of Asus' tablet offer better audio performance than the iPad's mono speaker, but they're too weak to be of any practical use, other than for receiving generic audio notifications. Of the Android-based tablets we've reviewed, the Xoom's speakers sound the best. That's still not a ringing endorsement, though. If you plan to watch a movie or listen to music, use the audio port on the left side to connect a pair of headphones instead.

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  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 14 September 2011 15:36
    "Apple takes a different approach, replicating the experience of using a pad of paper. That's why it employs a standard (4:3) aspect ratio."

    isn't paper closer to 3:2?
  • 0 Hide
    voloda , 16 September 2011 03:22
    I wonder why Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is missing this contest???
    Or it was a personal favor to apple geeks???
  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 18 September 2011 08:00
    Quote:
    I wonder why Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is missing this contest???
    Or it was a personal favor to apple geeks???

    Possibly to do with the current legal wranglings and hence its lack of availability.
  • 0 Hide
    mi1ez , 18 September 2011 08:00
    Quote:
    I wonder why Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is missing this contest???
    Or it was a personal favor to apple geeks???

    Possibly to do with the current legal wranglings and hence its lack of availability.