With nigh on every manufacturer trying its hand at an iPad competitor, Asus has pitched something different. The Eee Pad Transformer mixes a slate with a keyboard and mouse to concoct a device that’s half-notebook and half-tablet.
The first Asus tablet out of the gate, the $799 Asus Eee Pad Transformer offers some features that remind us of other tablets, while throwing in others that really shake up the game.
Much like a lot of the current competition, the Transformer is powered by a dual-core 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. It’s also one of the first tablets we’ve seen with the latest version of Google Android Honeycomb, aka Android 3.1. Because of this, the Eee Pad Transformer is able to take advantage of new features, including the ability to use USB peripherals, mouse support, resizable homescreen widgets, and improved support for Adobe Flash.
Under the hood, the Transformer provides 1GB of RAM, Bluetooth 2.1, WiFi 802.11 b/g/n, GPS, 32GB of storage capacity, and a battery capable of around 10 hours of operation.
Unlike the competition, the Transformer comes with a keyboard dock that’s equipped with a QWERTY keyboard, a trackpad mouse and an extra battery to extend the operating life of the tablet. You’ll also find two USB ports and an SD card slot on the dock.
The tablet itself acts as the screen, providing a 10.1 inch multi-touch capacitive display protected by Corning’s scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass. You’ll also find a nice selection of ports on this component, including a combined headphone and microphone 3.5mm jack, mini HDMI, and a microSD slot.
On the rear of the tablet sits a 5 megapixel camera with auto-focus, while the front provides a fairly standard 1.3 megapixel camera.
Performance – what works
Asus’ first attempt at a tablet looks like an interesting compromise between the utility of a netbook and the ease of use found in a touchscreen computer.
Picking up the Transformer for the first time, it’s hard not to be impressed by the build. While made from plastic parts, the tablet comes across as a well-constructed device. Unlike some of the other tablets we’ve come across, it doesn’t slip out of your hands either, a textured pattern on the rear surface allowing for a more secure grip.
In use, the impression is just as good, with Honeycomb operating well and allowing us to jump between applications quickly.
Interestingly, this is the first time we’ve seen a company attempt to modify the Google Android Honeycomb look. Practically every manufacturer has given its take on Android for mobile phones, but none outside of Asus has yet shown customisation of Honeycomb. For the most part, Asus hasn’t changed much, but what it’s done has made things look a little easier to use. Back, Home, and Recently run apps – Google’s three key control buttons – have, for example, been rendered as white lines on black, making them easier to decipher.
Asus has also included a few extras to further personalise the Google experience, adding widgets for showing the time, emails, weather, and your recent photos on any of the five home screens. A live animated wallpaper has also been thrown in, and displays the current capacity of your battery as indicated by a diminishing tank of water.