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Asus Transformer Prime TF201: A Tablet With A Higher Calling

Asus TF201: An Evolved Transformer

We weren't able to review Asus' Eee Pad Transformer Prime when it first launched. But in light of Apple's new flagship tablet, the third-generation iPad, we thought it important to follow up and question whether the Asus effort still measures up. After all, Apple has a knack for generating headlines that suggest its competition cannot compare.

Certainly, the iPad's market performance continues to be a powerful force. However, the fact that other manufacturers are building and selling their own Android-based devices means that there has to be room to grow outside of Apple's walled garden.

Peeking Into A Shopping Bag On iPad 3 Launch Date

As a case in point, on the morning of the iPad 3’s release, a few of us headed out to take pictures of the lines forming for Apple’s latest gadget. While we were out there, we noticed that several people had forgone the queue and were walking out of Best Buy with Android-based tablets in their bags.

Interestingly, every tablet customer we saw without an iPad instead had the Transformer Prime TF201. And, after reviewing Asus's tablet, we can see why. Even if benchmark numbers give Apple the advantage (and they do), Nvidia's innovative Tegra 3-based design is enjoyable to use on a day-to-day basis.

We truly appreciate the Transformer's portable footprint. Apple's new iPad 3 adds features and functionality, consciously choosing a high-res display, a more powerful GPU, and a higher-capacity battery over a thinner or lighter form factor. As such, the iPad 3 weighs almost 0.2 lbs. more than Asus' Transformer Prime. That doesn't sound like much, but over an extended period of time, it means the difference between merrily browsing the Web and taking a break (or just wishing we worked out more often).

iPad 2 (3G)iPad 3 (4G LTE)TransformerTransformer Prime
Screen Size9.7"9.7"10.1"10.1"
Aspect Ratio4:34:316:1016:10
Weight1.33 lb1.46 lb1.5 lb1.29 lb

Physically, the Transformer Prime is a clear winner. At 8.3 mm thick, it’s the thinnest tablet we've tested, and that's part of what makes it a much more portable option than Apple’s iPad 2 or 3.

Asus' Transformer Prime is designed similarly as its predecessor, facilitating a smooth transition for users familiar with the original. The ports and buttons are all located in the same places, even.

It's still easy to tell the two tablets apart, though, regardless of whether they're turned on or off. Whereas the original Transformer employed an ABS (plastic) molded shell, the Transformer Prime's body is aluminum with a stylish ripple design on the back. Asus' focus on aesthetics is commendable. That's one of those areas where Apple receives all of the glory, and other vendors are doing a much better job of creating usable designs that look good as well. For instance, a micro-texture on the Transformer Prime helps resist fingerprint build-up. Additionally, Asus went a step further and applied a hydro-oleophobic coating to the chassis to repel oil.

Some of the Transformer Prime's other evolutionary improvements include:

  • Nvidia's Tegra 3 SoC
  • A Super IPS+ display
  • A better rear-facing camera

Tegra 3 is the best-supported architecture for 3D gaming on a tablet, with a number of high-quality titles available. Moreover, Asus' emphasis on usability provides other tangible advantages. For example, the Transformer Prime's Super IPS+ mode goes a long way to address readability issues under bright ambient lighting. And if you’re a shutterbug, the relatively large F2.4 aperture, combined with an LED flash and 8 MP sensor, translate to improved image quality.