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Asus' Android Enhancements And Honeycomb 3.2

Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101: A Tablet In Disguise
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Home Screen: Eee Pad TransformerHome Screen: Eee Pad Transformer

We already dug deep into the Honeycomb UI on page three of Motorola Xoom: The First Android 3.1 (Honeycomb) Tablet.If you're not familiar with Honeycomb, consider starting there. Everything from navigation, app installation, syncing, and screenshots is discussed.

Asus Enhancements

Eee Pad TransformerEee Pad TransformerXoomXoom

The "normal" keyboard in Honeycomb features four rows of keys. No matter what tablet you're looking at, though, they're basically all letters. Entering mixed input (like numbers) requires that you hit some sort of function key.

Eee Pad TransformerEee Pad TransformerXoomXoom

Asus tweaks the UI on its Eee Pad Transformer so that's no longer a problem. Now you get an Android keyboard that features five rows, the fifth dedicated to displaying numbers. This is a welcome addition when you're editing spreadsheets or entering numbers into a search engine. But it also serves to make the layout more familiar to folks accustomed to desktop keyboards (another big positive for anyone having a hard time with a transition to tablets).

Honeycomb 3.2: Not Much New Happening

By now, most manufacturers have pushed out 3.1 or 3.2 updates. From a firmware standpoint, every update brings with it a performance boost. The list of changes in 3.1 was fairly short. Widgets are now resizable, though this only applies to the Gmail, calendar, and bookmark widgets. In addition, the multitasking switcher now holds the last 18 apps (up from five). 

In Honeycomb 3.2, there are three major changes according to the Android developer release notes.

New User Features
  • Optimizations for a wider range of tablets
    Android 3.2 includes a variety of optimizations across the system to ensure a great user experience on a wider range of tablet devices.
  • Compatibility zoom for fixed-sized apps
    Android 3.2 introduces a new compatibility zoom mode that gives users a new way to view fixed-sized apps on larger devices. The new mode provides a pixel-scaled alternative to the standard UI stretching for apps that are not designed to run on larger screen sizes, such as on tablets. The new mode is accessible to users from a menu icon in the system bar, for apps that need compatibility support.
  • Media sync from SD card
    On devices that support an SD card, users can now load media files directly from the SD card to apps that use them. A system facility makes the files accessible to apps from the system media store.

Like Honeycomb 3.1, the performance enhancements in 3.2 are limited to graphics. That's why you're not going to see vastly improved scores from CPU-bound tests.

The media sync feature isn't much of benefit. It only adds native support for apps to read and write to SD cards in the same way the 3.1 update added native USB support. However, it was possible to read and write to an SD card in Honeycomb 3.1 using the OI File Manager, which we covered on page four of Acer Iconia Tab A500: A Tablet With Honeycomb 3.1.

The most useful feature of 3.2 is dubbed "compatibility zoom," and it addresses applications developed for smartphones with smaller and lower-resolution screens by upscaling the image.

System Panel: Stretch with 3.2System Panel: Stretch with 3.2System Panel: Zoom with 3.2System Panel: Zoom with 3.2

It's a convenient feature overall, though it isn't perfect. For example, with System Panel, you get the option on the task bar to stretch or zoom the image. However, that's option isn't always available, which is what we see when we open IxChariot's endpoint. Instead, the image is automatically zoomed.

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  • 4 Hide
    americanherosandwich , September 13, 2011 4:28 AM
    If only some of them sold for $99... but a chance to win one of four for free = just plain awesomeness!
  • 0 Hide
    compton , September 13, 2011 4:42 AM
    Having recently tried the Transformer in person, I can say that it doesn't feel cheap and the novelty of the docking system could be awesome in future iterations. But as I recently found out with my $99 HP TouchPad, tablets have a long way to go in some areas. In the TouchPad's case, many of it's problems seem to go away when overclocking it's processor from 1.2Ghz to 1.8Ghz +. Of course, it's battery life is already less than compelling so you don't really notice the higher power usage. Like so much in life, better and faster hardware makes all the difference. Higher clock speed overcomes many of the problems HP could have ironed out had they given WebOS more time.

    The Transformer is a not-insignificant step forward for Android tablets. As an optimist, I believe the next iteration will be pretty damn good. But like the TouchPad, who knows how much longer it's going to be around?
  • 3 Hide
    Dangerous Beans , September 13, 2011 4:43 AM
    americanherosandwichIf only some of them sold for $99... but a chance to win one of four for free = just plain awesomeness!


    Yeah, if you are American. Hey Toms, how about you find some way to only display the comp if the reader is on an American IP address.
    Or better yet, find a way to let us enter.

    What is the point of a 32gb model when the tablets has a micro sd slot? I can get 2 32gb mSD cards for the extra $100 bucks.
  • 1 Hide
    clonazepam , September 13, 2011 6:00 AM
    I went to the verizon store to get help choosing some decent headphones for my bionic. While I waited for him to go in the back of the store and get a few models, I started playing pinball on the galaxy tab 10.1. When he came back there was that brief moment I couldn't decide to keep playing and ignore him, or set it down. win win here.
  • 1 Hide
    clonazepam , September 13, 2011 6:03 AM
    Dangerous BeansYeah, if you are American. Hey Toms, how about you find some way to only display the comp if the reader is on an American IP address. Or better yet, find a way to let us enter. What is the point of a 32gb model when the tablets has a micro sd slot? I can get 2 32gb mSD cards for the extra $100 bucks.


    They could do international possibly, if any international persons agreed to help pay shipping (I bet). A UK site I won't name allows international entries and lets them know up front they'd try to work with you on the shipping costs, etc.

    Wanted to add. I bought a transformer and dock for my mother. She's in her 60s and loves it. She takes it to work, to the coffee shop. I set it up for her, my first time with Android, and it definitely has its uses.
  • 0 Hide
    Geef , September 13, 2011 6:42 AM
    Well the first thing I think of when I'm looking at a tablet is NOT watching a movie in the park or playing around like most commercials show. I actually think of when I get up off the computer chair to head to the toilet. I don't read the newspaper here so where else am I gonna get my up to date info? Only bad thing I can think of for that is needing to wash hands and Tablet. :p 
  • 0 Hide
    ps3hacker12 , September 13, 2011 7:17 AM
    BTW WARNING ITS A US ONLY COMPETITION : (
  • 0 Hide
    siege_templar , September 13, 2011 8:48 AM
    i am so sad, i cant enter comp due to:
    under 18
    and i live in aus :( 
    isnt tomshardware from germany?
  • 0 Hide
    anonme , September 13, 2011 9:27 AM
    On the other side of the screen argument it seems to be one of the few that does not need closed curtains.
    Heavens forbid, it sounds decent outdoors too thoug OLED is probably better.
  • -5 Hide
    anonme , September 13, 2011 9:27 AM
    On the other side of the screen argument it seems to be one of the few that does not need closed curtains.
    Heavens forbid, it sounds decent outdoors too thoug OLED is probably better.
  • -5 Hide
    anonme , September 13, 2011 9:27 AM
    On the other side of the screen argument it seems to be one of the few that does not need closed curtains.
    Heavens forbid, it sounds decent outdoors too thoug OLED is probably better.
  • 0 Hide
    Device Unknown , September 13, 2011 10:32 AM
    I have been a loyal follower since Thomas first had his site up. I remember reading your BIO, you had this pic of you up, and how amazed I was at your dedication from leaving the medical field as a Doctor to taking technology to new heights with overclocking etc. Thomas always impressed me and I could not be happier with his success in life and with Thomshardware. Been a long road, many years. (I overclocked my first 486 DX2-66 thanks to you)
    I have entered every contest I could, haven't won, but will always be a loyal follower!
    To the other posters about this being US only. It's not the shipping costs, it's the laws and regulations on sending US hardware to other countries. Not impossible but too much of a bureaucratic pain to try to send anywhere in the world.
  • 0 Hide
    Lyrick , September 13, 2011 12:50 PM
    Is there any way to test the OpenGl and other video benchmarks at the same resolution? Maybe through the use of a video out or downscaling the other products to apple resolution. It seems unfair to bench Apple products at 1024 x 768 and others such as the asus transformer at higher resolutions like 1280 x 800.
  • 2 Hide
    cknobman , September 13, 2011 1:50 PM
    While I understand the position of the articles author I think the ASUS Transformer fills its niche perfectly.

    I purchased my ASUS Transformer for only $299(that was my ceiling price for a tablet) on sale and did so knowing that this tablet was not meant to replace my notebook for content creation.

    I can say since my wife and I have owned this tablet (2 months now) we have only used our laptop 1 time (and it was very frustrating using it that 1 time). The tablet is the perfect utility for doing couch surfing, social networking, light casual gaming, and QUICK information lookup on the web (which is what we do most often). This tablet was the perfect escape from the 5+ minute bootup and 3 minute shutdown of our laptop for situations where all we wanted was to hop on the internet and look up some information real quick.

    We never turn the tablet completely off and the touch of the power button and it is ready to go instantly. The battery will literally last an entire day (even with heavy usage), we stream netflix, and stream movies-pictures-videos straight from my server.

    All in all we are 100% happy with our Asus transformer and dont regret the purchase in any way.
  • 0 Hide
    Au_equus , September 13, 2011 2:11 PM
    the tf 2 iteration will be priced at tf 1's current price levels with the tf 1 price dropping. a tegra 3 tablet for $400 in november? it'll beat out the competition for the next few months, that is if it is no longer delayed
  • 2 Hide
    jabliese , September 13, 2011 2:48 PM
    No stupid facebook, hooray!
  • 0 Hide
    Anonymous , September 13, 2011 3:31 PM
    the newest version of Glbenchmark has an off screen test at 720p which can be used to compare devices with different resolutions
  • 1 Hide
    JohnA , September 13, 2011 3:50 PM
    Got to play with an Ipad 2 for a good while this weekend. Can't see a good reason to pick this over it, unless price is your only concern. The Ipad beats it in every other way.
  • -2 Hide
    megamanx00 , September 13, 2011 5:26 PM
    I have the 16GB version and I like it. It's great as a tablet, but it's not replacing my i7 laptop for doing any kind of work :D 
  • 2 Hide
    randomstar , September 13, 2011 6:20 PM
    I bought a 10 inch tablet, but I just could not get away from needing to be able to do remote desktops and handle office doc, outlook. so i bought the Acer W500 - and could not be happier. I had purchased the A500 and took it back. note- it has a dock base similar to this one, but as it is a generic USB connection, you can use a USB extension cable to get keyboard to work from a vehicle mount!
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