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In the past, we've concluded that tablets are expensive, given their relatively narrow purpose. That's still very much the case, and Asus' Eee Pad Transformer is a great example of how quickly the cost of these devices add up. In order to really exploit the Transformer's advantages, you need the docking station (to the figures below, add another $150).
The reality is that, at the end of the day, you're probably going to pay more for the Eee Pad Transformer than you would for a notebook based on higher-performance desktop-derived hardware.
|Tablet Pricing||16 GB||32 GB||64 GB|
|iPad 2 (Wi-Fi)||$499||$599||$699|
|iPad 2 (AT&T 3G)||$629||$729||$829|
|iPad 2 (Verizon 3G)||$629||$729||$829|
|Iconia Tab A500 (Wi-Fi)||$399||$499||-|
|Eee Pad Transformer (Wi-Fi)||$399||$499||-|
Compared to other Android-based tablets, the Eee Pad Transformer is certainly unique. But it's only a standout if you're willing to purchase the docking station as well. And even then, the combination isn't perfect. For example, the touchpad is missing a right-click option. That's a particularly glaring omission that stands out when you're trying to work between two documents or copying URLs. At the end of the day, you're still compelled to use a mixture of touch gestures and keyboard input in lieu of the docking station's touchpad.
Although it's not as obvious when we compare the performance of multiple tablets based on mobility-oriented hardware, adding a very notebook-feeling docking station makes it hard to ignore the fact that this isn't in the same league as a notebook at all. Yes, tablets have come a long way. However, if you're going to spend $500 or $600 on a device that becomes a notebook, more performance is certainly available from a purpose-built laptop centering on low-voltage x86 hardware. Just take a look at page six of Asus' Eee Slate EP121: A Windows 7-Based Tablet PC for a benchmark comparison between ARM and x86 platforms.
Most folks have a tendency to hunt-and-peck for keys when they type on virtual keyboards. As a result, you don't feel the lack of performance as acutely, since there's plenty of time to process between each action. However, with a physical keyboard attached, typing becomes second nature again. As you start working more productively, you're faced with the realization that long pauses between commands are going to become more common. The video above illustrates this observation well. When we enter a search phrase in the browser, there's a noticeable lag if typing occurs rapidly, and when we mistype something, holding down backspace results in slow and delayed character deletion. Little nitpicks like that continue to make it hard to embrace tablets completely.
As always, Asus demonstrates innovative thinking with the Eee Pad Transformer, and its docking station is really what makes this device such a differentiated piece of hardware. We like that. At the same time, the platform on which the Transformer centers doesn't seem quite ready to stand in as a notebook replacement yet. Perhaps Tegra 3 will be the chipset able to rectify this. We'll have to wait until later this year to know, though.
Enter to win an Eee Pad Transformer of your own. You could also win a Samsung Galaxy Tab, an Acer Iconia Tab, or a Lenovo IdeaPad K1! Simply read the rules and then fill out our SurveyGizmo contest form. Everyone already entered in the contest through Google Docs is still in the running to win!