Asus is probably the first manufacturer to out a quad-core tablet and also the first one to set the tone on netbook-cum-tablet form factor. Check out our full review of the Asus Transformer Prime TF201 after the jump.
I reviewed the first Asus Transformer and was already impressed by it back in September 2011 (although it still has the thickness and weight of a typical netbook when attached to the docked). The Transformer Prime took it up one more notch by shaving off a few more millimeters on the side. I suggest reading that review first before this one to get a better perspective of the dockable tablet experience.
The tablet alone is very thin, probably the thinnest we’ve used and reviewed. At 8.3mm, the Transformer Prime bested even the iPad 2 and the Galaxy Tab 10.1 in the thin-ness category.
The power button is at the top left corner, the volume rocker is found on the left side along with the micro-HDMI port and the microSD card slot. The 3.5mm audio port is on the right side.
The keyboard dock now has lesser ports from the previous tablet, with only a single standard USB port and SD card slot on the right side while the charging port in on the left.
The tablet snaps right into the dock pretty neatly using the 40-pin USB connector port along with two additional latches on both ends. To un-dock, there’s a slider lock on the dock to release the latches.
There’s a metallic cradle along the docking port to set the tablet firmly and place and not break the latches from the strain.
Unlike the first Asus Transformer, the Transformer Prime is mostly made of aluminum giving it a good solid build that matches the iPad 2.
The back panel or the lid is sand-blasted with a concentric pattern that’s similar to the design used by Asus for their Zenbook. The huge Asus logo is carved smack at the middle and the speaker grills are inconspicuously integrated on the left corner of the back panel. The 8-megapixel camera is center top corner along with the LED flash.
The Transformer Prime sports a Super IPS+ LCD which is much brighter than the previous IPS display of the TF101 especially in the outdoors. Asus claims it’s 50% brighter and that’s evident when you place them side-by-side.
You can turn on Super IPS+ mode when in the outdoors for better readability but that will eat up a bit more battery in the process.
I tried to use the screen in the outdoors and it still cannot stand against the bright blue sky. However, there’s definitely some great improvements there compared to the old IPS display on the TF101.
With a screen resolution of 1280×800 pixels, the Prime has a pixel density of 149ppi – the same one on the TF101. It’s not the highest in terms of PPI but still better than the 132ppi of the iPad 2.
On paper, the Transformer Prime has all the goods you’d want in a tablet. Only biggest complain is the absence of 3G connectivity (though I think there’s a variant for that as well but it was not released in the Philippines).
Asus Transformer Prime TF201 specs:
10.1-inch Super IPS+ display @ 1280×800 pixels
Gorilla Glass Display
NVidia Tegra 3 1.6 GHz quad-core processor
32GB and 64GB internal storage
1GB DDR2 RAM
1.2MP front-facing camera
8MP autofocus camera with LED flash
3.5mm mic & headphone combo jack
micro HDMI port
micro SD card slot
USB 2.0 port (dock)
SD Card slot (dock)
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n
Bluetooth 2.1 w/ EDR
up to 18 hours of battery life (w/ dock)
Google Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich
And for those who look for more storage options, you have a 32GB and 64GB variant plus additional 32GB via microSD card and another 32GB via the SD card slot on the keyboard dock (SD cards sold separately). That’s a total of 128GB if you max out on all the options.
The Prime TF201 is one of the first tablets to run Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich that optimizes the experience for both a handset and a tablet. We did a comprehensive overview of Android ICS here but Asus also added a few customizations to the tablet. What I liked is the battery indicator that shows separate battery life of the tablet and the keyboard which is pretty helpful so you know if the dock is already drained.
This is our first taste of a quad-core Tegra 3 processor and I have to admit the tablet performs really well, especially on gaming. This is very evident in the Quadrant and NenaMark 2 results we got out of the tablet.
NenaMark 2 gave it a very impressive GPU benchmark score of 49.7fps, almost twice the scores we often see in other tablets (i.e., Tegra 2 based tablets). Antutu Benchmark also gave the Prime a 10,979 score while Quadrant Standard got a great score of 3,962. These number alone represent the highest cumulative scores we’ve ever tested on a tablet.
Having a full physical keyboard dock in one of the biggest advantages of the Transformer Prime. This allows you to be more efficient when doing some productivity work. The dock likewise adds 6 more hours of battery life to the tablet giving you more time to work even when you’re un-plugged for the entire day.
I’ve managed to write half of this review on the tablet itself but the relatively cramped keyboard and small recessed keys can be a bit uncomfortable to work with at times (pretty much the same experience with a netbook). Still, having a physical keyboard makes it much easier when you’re typing really long articles like this one.
And since the dock comes with an additional SD card slot and full-sized USB, you have the option to plug them to additional devices and more storage options. Obviously, the dock option is more attractive to folks who see the Prime as a netbook replacement rather than just a simple all-touch tablet which everybody else is offering.
The 8MP camera on the Prime is actually pretty good. Photos are clear and crisp with minor distortion or noise. It doesn’t degrade well on low-light conditions though. Asus also added a few nifty features into the camera, including a panorama shot.
Additional camera settings include ISO selection (50-800), focus mode, anti-flickering, white balance, exposure compensation and flash mode. The LED flash isn’t really useful for distant subjects and tends to flood them when used in close proximity.
The Prime can also record 1080p videos and has a time lapse feature which I really liked. Here’s a sample of a time lapse video take with the 8MP camera at full resolution.
Even on low-light conditions, the video quality is still very good. Check out this time lapse video of Manila Bay against the dark blue skies and gloomy sunset (don’t forget to tick the 1080p version to see the full HD video).
For multimedia, the Prime is great with movie playback thanks to that Super IPS+ display. The speakers at the back of the lid is decent but not really that loud (it also faces the back so it’s not much of any help).
As for battery life, the Transformer Prime lives up to the promise of 16 hours total when docked. At optimal settings, this is pretty doable (even on video playback) but once you change the display settings and performance mode, the battery life gets a bit shorter than expected. In any case, you’d be able to use the tablet over 10 hours even when you’re connected and online.
There were some earlier reports that this model had problems with WiFi connectivity and I actually initially noticed multiple-disconnections on my home network on the first weeks that I used the tablet. However, subsequent firmware updates from Asus seemed to have resolved that issue and I no longer experience the same in the last week or two.
The Asus Transformer Prime TF201 retails for Php32,995 in stores and comes with the docking keyboard out of the box. The combination of a quag-core processor, large internal and expandable storage, Super IPS+ display and ICS makes it one of the most desired Android tablet in the market right now.
Disclosure: I sought help from Asus Philippines to get reservations for a unit which I bought at full price from Accent Micro.