ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Android tablet
ASUS Eee Pad Transformer review: The Eee Pad Transformer boasts a 10.1in screen, and an optional, detachable keyboard dock accessory
- Unique keyboard dock accessory
- Good battery life
- Flexibility of Android OS
- Top-heavy when connected to dock
- No USB ports without dock
- No 3G capability
The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer's optional keyboard dock accessory gives it a unique edge over the competition when it comes to Android tablets. Its top-heavy design, and lack of 3G connectivity are annoyances, but the Transformer remains a worthy purchase if you're looking for an Android tablet.
Price$ 799.00 (AUD)
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ASUS Eee Pad Transformer: Software
The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer ships with Google's Android 3.0 Honeycomb platform, but is one of the first tablets in Australia to receive the latest 3.1 Android software update (we received the update over the air during our test period). Android 3.1 equips the Eee Pad Transformer with improved UI transitions, an expandable and scrollable recent apps menu, and resizable home screen widgets, along with improvements to the standard Browser, calendar, e-mail and gallery apps.
The software is largely a 'vanilla' version of the Honeycomb OS, though ASUS includes its Waveshare UI on the Eee Pad Transformer. Additions include a file manager, a MyCloud storage app, a MyLibrary books app, and a MyNet app for streaming multimedia content via DLNA. The MyCloud app offers one year of unlimited cloud storage. ASUS also includes handy e-mail, clock and weather widgets, though we found these made scrolling through home screens sluggish and choppy, even if they do compliment the Honeycomb look and feel.
Most of the core Honeycomb functionality remains unchanged in the 3.1 version of Android. The Eee Pad Transformer's Web browser is slick, fast and displays Flash content. It also supports tabbed Web browsing and the entire browsing experience is as close as you'll find to a full desktop or notebook computer. ASUS' on-screen keyboard feels cramped and uncomfortable, though you can easily switch to the standard Honeycomb keyboard for a better experience.
The Android Honeycomb user interface, particularly the home screen, looks striking and is easy to use, and the handling of notifications is excellent. The recent apps list also makes flicking back and forth between recently used programs a breeze. We love the flexibility of live widgets, and they are particularly useful on a tablet device with much more screen real estate than a smartphone.
Despite all Android Honeycomb's positive experiences, it is clear the software is still in its infancy, even after the 3.1 update. The default Web browser still automatically switches to mobile versions of many Web sites, Flash video performance remains hit and miss, and despite the presence of pretty powerful specs, the Eee Pad Transformer often felt sluggish when performing basic tasks — such as opening the apps drawer, and switching between running applications.
A more pressing issue is the lack of third-party apps in the Android market that have been designed with a tablet in mind. Many common apps, including the official Twitter and Facebook apps, have not yet been optimised for the larger screen size the Eee Pad Transformer offers. Default Google apps like Maps, Gmail and YouTube worked excellently, and there are a few downloadable apps like Angry Birds and Pulse News Reader that filled the screen perfectly and worked without issues. However, many apps in the Android Market simply resize to fit the Transformer's screen. This issue will, of course, change over time as the platform evolves and develops, but means the current user experience offered by Android tablets is still very much a work in progress.
ASUS Eee Pad Transformer: Other features
The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer supports HD video playback and recording, but the default video player is lacklustre and supports minimal file formats. Thankfully, it's easy enough to download a better alternative from the Android Market.
The Eee Pad Transformer also has a rear 5-megapixel camera, and a 1.2-megapixel front camera for video calls. Although both take significantly better quality photos than the iPad 2, the quality of still images and HD video recording can't match those captured with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1v.
ASUS claims the Eee Pad Transformer's battery is good for up to 9.5 hours on its own, or 16 hours when connected to a fully charged dock connector. We recorded figures of around seven hours standalone, and about 14 with the dock connector — though less than specified, this is still a great result.
The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer is available through retailers Harvey Norman and JB Hi-Fi. It costs $599 for the 16GB Wi-Fi model, and $799 for the 32GB Wi-Fi model with optional keyboard dock included. The keyboard dock accessory sells for $199 on its own. Unfortunately, the Eee Pad Transformer remains a Wi-Fi-only device for now, though ASUS says a version with 3G connectivity may come at a later, unannounced date.
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