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Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101: A Tablet In Disguise

Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101: A Tablet In Disguise
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The Eee Pad Transformer is aptly named; there's more to this thing than meets the eye. Asus is the first to market with a tablet that pulls double-duty, attempting to replace your notebook, too. We put it through the paces to see how it really stacks up.

Do you want to win an Eee Pad Transformer of your own? How about a Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, an Acer Iconia Tab A500, or a Lenovo IdeaPad K1? We're giving away all of those Nvidia Tegra 2-powered tablets and more (special thanks to the TegraZone team for providing the prizes)!

Read through our Eee Pad Transformer review and, on the last page, follow the link to fill out our entry form on SurveyGizmo. Good luck, Tom's Hardware readers!

Some of the best conversations we have are with writers from other sites. Lately, the buzz between our colleagues has been about HP’s recent decision to discontinue the TouchPad and put webOS up on a shelf. After writing and then publishing our own TouchPad review, we thought the device might be in a bit of trouble. But we didn't anticipate HP ending things the way it did. But what does that mean for the tablet scene? We’re now down to two players working on tablet-oriented operating environments: Apple and Google. While the iPad 2 continues to set the standard, there’s a growing collection of Android-based tablets legitimately putting pressure on Apple.

Beyond what they cost, functionality is the major barrier preventing tablets from enjoying even greater success. The devices continue to operate best as consumption-oriented tools. They augment your computing experience, rather than replacing it. As a result, it's difficult for many folks to justify spending big bucks on a piece of hardware that merely complements other systems. 

Several vendors are trying to bridge the gap between tablet and notebook, hoping to turn the former into a true successor to the latter. The most interesting implementation we've seen so far comes from Asus. Dubbed the Eee Pad Transformer, it’s the first tablet we’ve tested that performs double duty as both devices.

Asus Eee TransformerAsus Eee Transformer

The Eee Pad Transformer is slimmer than the Xoom and A500, but its beveled edge makes the comparison difficult. Asus tapers the Transformer near the sides, where it’s slightly thinner at 0.35". Functionally, this doesn't really matter because you still need a cover that accommodates the tablet at its thickest point, which is 0.5". And at 1.5 pounds, Asus' tablet weighs roughly the same as Motorola's Xoom.

Click to View Picture GalleryClick to View Picture Gallery

Thickness Compared to AA BatteryThickness Compared to AA Battery


iPad (3G)
iPad 2 (3G)
XoomIconia A500
Eee Pad Transformer
Length 9.56"9.5"9.8"10.2"
10.7"
Width7.47"7.31"6.6"7"
7"
Height.5".34"0.5"0.5"
0.5"
Screen Size9.7"9.7"10.1"10.1"
10.1"
Aspect Ratio4:34:316:1016:10
16:10
Weight
1.6 lb1.33 lb1.5 lb1.65 lb
1.5 lb


As with the Xoom and A500 (and unlike either iPad), Asus employs a wide-aspect (16:10) display. That's really the common choice being made by manufacturers selling Android-based tablets. They're focusing on video playback, it seems, which is why most folks hold these devices in landscape mode.

We discussed this in the Xoom review, but Apple takes a different approach, replicating the experience of using a pad of paper. That's why it employs a standard (4:3) aspect ratio. Nothing prevents you from using a wide-aspect display in portrait mode, but it's a little awkward since you lose horizontal workspace.

Left SideLeft SideRight SideRight Side

The layout of the buttons and I/O ports also reflects the expectation you'll be using the Transformer in landscape mode. On the left, you have the power button and volume rocker. On the right side, you have the headphone, microphone, miniHDMI, and microSD ports.

TopTop

Bottom: Docking Slot, USB connectivity, Docking SlotBottom: Docking Slot, USB connectivity, Docking Slot

The proprietary connector on the bottom of the Eee Pad Transformer serves three functions. With the included proprietary cable provided by Asus, you can charge the tablet or sync to a computer. If you own a docking station (more on that in a bit), the port also operates as a pass-through connector that lets the Transformer function as a notebook.

Back: 5.0 MP CameraBack: 5.0 MP Camera

Asus opts for a cleaner aesthetic design than what we've seen on competing tablets. Forget about a dual-tone color scheme or the use of rubber and aluminum. The Eee Pad Transformer's chassis is made of molded ABS plastic with a simple logo plastered dead-center. The case has a subtle texture that helps you maintain a firm grip, but it also helps hide traces of fingerprints.

CameraiPad 2
XoomIconia A500
Eee Pad Transformer
Front-Facing
0.3 MP (640x480)
2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)1.2 MP (1024 x 768)
Rear-Facing
0.7 MP (960x720)
5.0 MP (2592 x 1944) 5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)
Flash
None
Dual-LED flash
Single-LED flash
None


The camera setup is a bit of a disappointment. While the front-facing 1.2 MP camera is sufficient for Skype, it still falls shy of what you'd get from a competing Android-based tablet. With that said, our bigger complaint involves the lack of a flash on the rear-facing 5.0 MP camera, which is something we get from other Android-based tablets like the Xoom and A500.

The two stereo speakers on the sides of Asus' tablet offer better audio performance than the iPad's mono speaker, but they're too weak to be of any practical use, other than for receiving generic audio notifications. Of the Android-based tablets we've reviewed, the Xoom's speakers sound the best. That's still not a ringing endorsement, though. If you plan to watch a movie or listen to music, use the audio port on the left side to connect a pair of headphones instead.

Display 51 Comments.
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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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