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Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101: A Tablet In Disguise

Meet Asus' Eee Pad Transformer

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 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 Gallery

Thickness Compared to AA Battery
iPad (3G)iPad 2 (3G)XoomIconia A500Eee Pad Transformer
Length9.56"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 Ratio4:34:316:1016:1016:10
Weight1.6 lb1.33 lb1.5 lb1.65 lb1.5 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.

Image 1 of 2

Left Side

Image 2 of 2

Right 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.

Top

Bottom: 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 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 2XoomIconia A500Eee Pad Transformer
Front-Facing0.3 MP (640x480)2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)2.0 MP (1600 x 1200)1.2 MP (1024 x 768)
Rear-Facing0.7 MP (960x720)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)5.0 MP (2592 x 1944)
FlashNoneDual-LED flashSingle-LED flashNone

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.

  • americanherosandwich
    If only some of them sold for $99... but a chance to win one of four for free = just plain awesomeness!
    Reply
  • compton
    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?
    Reply
  • Dangerous Beans
    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.
    Reply
  • clonazepam
    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.
    Reply
  • clonazepam
    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.
    Reply
  • Geef
    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
    Reply
  • ps3hacker12
    BTW WARNING ITS A US ONLY COMPETITION : (
    Reply
  • siege_templar
    i am so sad, i cant enter comp due to:
    under 18
    and i live in aus :(
    isnt tomshardware from germany?
    Reply
  • anonme
    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.
    Reply
  • anonme
    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.
    Reply