Asus Transformer Review
So basically how this came about is that i got tired of my dell mini. I loved the fact I could install the OSX, but the Atom CPU just wasn't cutting it. I looked over other netbooks and wasn't that impressed. The next step was obviously tablets and currently the king is the iPad 2. The problem with the iPad was that I already had an iPhone, so why would I want a bigger version of my cell phone? I was also looking for something with HDMI out and expandable memory, so it looked like Android tablets were my only option which I didn't mind because I have always wanted an Android device. Then I discovered the Asus EEE Pad Transformer, and when I found out you could attach a keyboard to the device it was an obvious choice.
This thing is a tiny powerful beast. With the nVidia Tegra 2 dual core 1ghz (people have oc’ed this thing to 1.5ghz), it'll do almost anything you throw it (keyword almost, but we will get to that later) . 1080p MKV videos, no problem, graphic intensive games with ease and multi tasking abilities that the iPad wishes it could pull off.
The thing is also very nicely built, while not as light as the iPad 2 (1.5lbs total, about .3 lbs heavier) it feels well built and something that would be able to take a couple of falls without a problem.
Battery life is great too, coming in about 6-7 hours when watching movies, browsing the web, checking email and playing games is pretty good. Attach the keyboard dock to it and you will get double that.
The screen on this little guy is also amazing. The very bright LED powered IPS screen is gorgeous and it's viewing angle is even better (at 178 degrees) anyone and everyone can see what is playing on this screen. I am able to look at the screen for hours and get no real eye strain, which is great, because this thing has now become my full time e-book reader (Kobo app rules!).
The camera isn't bad either, while the front is rated at 5MP, it's definitely not as good as my iPhones (which is fine because I never ever plan on using this as a camera). The camera on the front rated at 1.2MP which is more the good for video calls (whenever you feel like adding video support to Android Skype we would all appreciate it).
The keyboard dock is great but in my opinion a little over priced if you pay MSRP of $150.00 can/US. Luckily I was able to find it online for $110. With the dock you get almost full sized keyboard, a multi touch trackpad, a full SD card reader, two USB slots that will read external HDDs, a mouse, charge your phone with etc. and of course another battery. The keyboard feels great and compliments the tablet really well. The only problem though is that it can be a bitch to attach the dock to the tablet securely. The first time took me a couple of minutes to do it properly, but with practise you will get the hang of it (mostly...). Another downside though, is the dock will double the weight of the entire unit. My beef with the keyboard dock is as soon as it’s plugged in, auto correct and spell check are turned off, which definitely sucks when trying to do some office work with Quick Office or Polaris Office (which only comes with Asus tablets and better IMO) because those apps don’t have built in support for spell checking. I started writing this review in Polaris Office, jumped to Quick Office to try it, back to Polaris but now using Google Docs to edit the document and spell check it. One of those guys need to add spell check support! Also, they need to add the option that disables the trackpad while typing, it’s really annoying and really easy to do on such a small device.
I do have some beefs with the the way Asus came up with their design decisions. For one, the headphone jack in to the top right of the tablet. That means that the cord could dangle in front of you while are using the thing in it’s default configuration (yes i know you can just flip the tablet and let the accelerometer do it’s things, but that means you are technically using it upside down), especially when you use the keyboard dock. Also, I want to kick the dbag who decided that using a proprietary connector would be a good idea, then kick him again when he decided that you couldn't buy a replacement cable if you wanted to, and then kick one last time for only supplying a two foot data/power cable with the device. I would really love for someone at Asus to justify that decision for me. Also the adapter itself is based on USB 3 because of the extra voltage USB 3 puts out compared to USB 2, meaning unless you have a computer with a USB 3 slots in it, you can’t charge it when plugged into the PC. Another bad choice in my opinion.
Now here is the best and worst thing about the Transformer. Android is a great mobile/tablet OS and Asus did some great things with it. The default look is beautiful. They integrated the keyboard and trackpad really nicely into the OS where as you can use the dock with pretty much no problems. The Asus email app is great and so are the included Asus widgets. It's fast, optimized really well and really responsive. It's also, in my opinion, a gorgeous looking piece of software. I love iOS, and think the elements and UI are really nice looking, but man do I hate the way the icons looks. You think Apple could pull of something nicer looking. With Android, I have no problems. Also, I love widgets. My sports, email, weather, kobo and Pulse widgets are awesome.
Navigating the OS is also really easy as well. I can swipe through the screen with my finger or do a two finger swipe on my trackpad. I can open an app up with a trackpad click or a finger click, and being able to do both whenever I want to is great. This thing really makes a good case that netbooks should have a touchscreen monitor.
Having flash on the device is almost great, but barely over good. While going to my favourite sites and seeing i can view their content no problem, flash runs slow as on Android. If there are flash elements on webpage, scrolling will be slow. Also, for whatever reason, 720p flash videos ran like ass on this device, but work fine on the Xoom and Galaxy Tab 10.1. I really don't know who to blame for that, Asus or Adobe, but it needs to be fixed because 720p HTML5 videos on youtube work without issue. Who know’s, with Ice Cream (Android 3.2) just around the corner, it may fix that and hopefully bring full hardware acceleration, something that the iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch and iOS have.
A big problem though is the number of apps available. While there are tons of Android apps, a very very tiny amount of those apps are actually optimized for tablets and then you have to worry if those apps will actually work on your device as it may not be compatible. Fragmentation is bitch and is a big problem with android. Anyone telling you otherwise is rather just ignorant to the fact or a straight android fanboy. I have a up to date, top of the line android device, but that doesn't mean I can ran all the apps available to the OS. It's a giant pain in the butt when you see an app you want on the start page of the Android Market, click on it just to see it isn't compatible with your device. This is especially annoying as companies like Sony are swaying developers to make games that only work on their devices. Google has to figure this out. It's killing the user experience. I want to play Hockey Nations on my device, but I can't, because it's for the Xperia Play only...
Also, a lot of programs like to freeze and lock up. Yes that may be the app's fault, but I get a lot more of them as compared to the app's I use on iOS including the stock apps (music app like to freeze on me once in a while the music app will crash). What's funny is the Android OS is so good at detecting that sort of thing and letting you know about it. It's like Google is so used to apps not working well on their OS.
Honestly, the only thing missing from the Android is the proverbial Google Beta tag.
I really love this thing, but I am not in love with it because of the software issues it has and the proprietary cable. These things needs to be fixed and I have no doubt that they will be. Would I recommend this over an iPad to a normal not tech savvy person? No. To geeks like us though I would because we can deal with stuff like this and can fix things on our own, where as grandma and sister can’t. While Apple's device may not have the hardware or the openness that this thing does, it has the user experience down perfectly. Also, this thing is $100 (comparing the 16gb and 32gb models) cheaper then an iPad, which is another reason why I chose it over the said Apple device. Android tablets are getting there, but clearly the iPad is still the king.
- Solid hardware that looks great too
- Great OS
- Keyboard Dock
- Screen is brilliant
- Battery life (especially with the dock attached)
- Light weight (half the weight of my current gen macbook and a bit lighter then my old dell mini with the keyboard dock attached)
- Flash runs like ass
- OS lacks polish (need full hardware acceleration!)
- App selection
- Proprietary cable and can't buy a replacement
- Can’t charge over USB 2
- Headphone jack placement
- Didn't mention it, but the volume is really low on this thing via headphones or the built in speakers, needed Voodoo Control Plus to fix that. Annoying as a heavy music listener.