Asus has come up trumps with its Eee Pad Transformer Prime tablet. It comes with a 10.1in touchscreen, can run Google Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich and has a detachable keyboard dock that makes it a hybrid tablet/laptop device. See also: New iPad review.

Design and build quality
For starters the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime looks a darn sight nicer than its predecessor. This time around there is an attractive spun metal case in keeping with the firm’s ultrabook line-up, instead of the less premium plastic used before. Its more rounded design is available in Amethyst Grey or Champagne Gold colours.

The build quality is of a high standard with a premium feel to the product. The Eee Pad Transformer Prime feels sturdy in the hand with its strong and durable metal casing. A minor design quibble is that an inserted microSD card sticks out a few millimetres creating an unnecessary sharp edge.   

The Eee Pad Transformer Prime has been trimmed down in both size and weight coming in at an impressive 8.3mm thick and 586g, making it thinner and lighter than its main rival the Apple iPad 2. What sets the Transformer Prime apart from the rest of the tablet market is its optional keyboard dock which turns it into a netbook-style device. This adds on an extra 8mm at its thinnest point and a further 537g.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

Hardware Improvements
ASUS has improved the hardware on the Eee Pad Transformer Prime compared to the original. The most notable change is the processor which is an NVIDIA Tegra 3 1.4GHz quad-core chip. It’s the world’s first quad-core tablet and easily one of the most powerful around. The RAM is still a healthy 1GB but internal storage has been increased now with either 32GB or 64GB.

NVIDIA touts a performance increase of five times with the Tegra 3 compared to the Tegra 2 but we don’t think it’s quite that dramatic. However, the Eee Pad Transformer Prime is a speedy device. Performance was slick across the board whether browsing the web, media playback or gaming. The tablet is an extremely capable bit of kit.

Upgrades don’t stop there because the 10.1-inch display has also been improved. ASUS has opted for a Super IPS+ screen with a resolution of 1280 x 800 with Corning Gorilla Glass. The screen looks seriously impressive with crystal clear images and a high pixel density of 149dpi, higher than a lot or rival tablets including the Apple iPad 2 which has a pixel density of 132dpi.

The screen has a Super IPS+ mode which can be turned on for outdoor use. This effectively ramps up the brightness so the screen can be viewed more easily.

Although taking photographs with a tablet isn’t exactly the most elegant method to choose, the Eee Pad Transformer Prime is a nevertheless a good choice. It has an 8MP rear facing camera with an LED flash and a 1.2MP front facing camera for video chat.

Keyboard dock
The Eee Pad Transformer Prime comes with an optional keyboard docking station which converts it into a netbook type device. ASUS has again done a great job with this, even though not much has changed from the previous model.

It has the same metallic finish as the tablet with the same locking mechanism and Scrabble-tile keyboard as the Eee Pad Transformer. It has a 40-pin power connector, multi-touch trackpad, full size SD card slot, one full size USB port and its own battery. The extra battery is said to add on six hours of life to the 12 that the Eee Pad Transformer Prime promises on its own.

The dock is good in general but it’s not without fault. We like the hot keys on the keyboard for things like home, back and for quick adjustments for controls like brightness. However, some of the keys are on the small side, notably the arrow keys and both shift keys. We also found the trackpad quite resistive to the touch, especially when scrolling vertically and overly sensitive at times.

Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
Google’s latest iteration of its mobile operating system is a joy to use. Although the Eee Pad Transformer Prime ships with 3.2 Honeycomb, it is upgradable to ICS straight away via an over the air update.

The difference between Honeycomb and ICS isn’t that dramatic so existing users will be able to adjust easily. However, the jump from 2.3 Gingerbread and ICS is quite significant. There’s the usual set of horizontal homescreens, menus and widgets but things are laid out differently.

One of the highlights of ICS include the multitasking bar which shows you any apps that are running so it’s easy to quickly switch between tasks and close apps. ICS is very customisable with resizable widgets. Unfortunately there’s no inclusion of the face to unlock feature which can be found on the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and no Android Beam because the Eee Pad Transformer Prime doesn’t have near field communications (NFC) technology.

ASUS has customised the user interface in places, most notably the notifications and settings bar. This has a slightly different look to the standard one and includes three different performance modes: Performance, Balanced and Power Saving.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime

Battery Life  
ASUS touts a whopping battery life for the Eee Pad Transformer Prime of a possible 18 hours. This mammoth figure is achievable when using the tablet battery and the keyboard dock battery. The tablet can manage up to 12 hours on its own and the dock adds a further six hours of juice.

Whether you can realistically hit these targets is another matter and will depend on what you use the tablet for. If you’re using the Eee Pad Transformer for these things it’s good at like gaming and video then you will drain the batteries much faster.

Nevertheless the tablet offers the best battery life on the market, however you use it. We’ve been using the Eee Pad Transformer Prime for more than 48 hours and we’ve depleted the keyboard dock battery but still have an impressive 72% left in the tablet battery. Our usage was fairly regular involving a lot of internet browsing, using various apps such as Facebook and playing demanding games.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: Specs

  • 10.1in Super IPS+ 1280 x 800 touchscreen
  • NVIDIA Tegra 3 1.4GHz quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • Android Honeycomb 3.0 upgradeable to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • USB 2.0
  • microHDMI
  • microSD
  • 2-in-1 audio jack
  • SD card reader
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 1.2MP front camera
  • up to 18 hours battery with keyboard dock
  • 263 x 180.8 x 8.3mm
  • 586g.
  • 10.1in Super IPS+ 1280 x 800 touchscreen
  • NVIDIA Tegra 3 1.4GHz quad-core processor
  • 1GB RAM
  • 32GB storage
  • Android Honeycomb 3.0 upgradeable to Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • WiFi
  • Bluetooth 2.1
  • USB 2.0
  • microHDMI
  • microSD
  • 2-in-1 audio jack
  • SD card reader
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 1.2MP front camera
  • up to 18 hours battery with keyboard dock
  • 263 x 180.8 x 8.3mm
  • 586g.

OUR VERDICT

The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime is a well-designed and well-built product that has been executed superbly. Not only does it look great it has a long list of impressive specifications and features. Its hybrid nature sets it apart from the competition and it all comes for a fairly reasonable price.

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