The Asus Transformer High is launched in three days to customers in the United States, and already the opinions have began rolling in. The hugely hyped Android pill, which is the primary on this planet to return with a quad-core Tegra three processor, is of evident hobby to someone searching for a pill that competitors the iPad in energy and design. Let’s see if it gives you on that iPad-beating promise.
Immediately upon pulling it from the box, I do quite like the design of the Asus Transformer Prime. It’s not particularly similar to the first Transformer, but rather a fairly drastic redesign. The aluminium backing of the unit feels good in the hand, particularly compared to the plastic of many competing Android tablets, and its slim design still includes a good selection of ports, including micro HDMI and micro SD.
The screen is also worthy of praise, proving easy to read even outdoors thanks to its SuperIPS+ setting. The camera too is a winner; it doesn’t compare to top-end smartphone cameras but is far ahead of anything included on a tablet before. Finally, that keyboard dock is a great addition; better than any other dock I’ve seen although not quite as good as a true laptop keyboard.
Joanna Stern from The Verge said it best; this is “the first tablet that rivals the iPad on design, build, and size while not just copying it.”
The most unique feature of the Asus Transformer Prime is its powerful Tegra 3 processor, four cores running at 1.3 GHz, paired with a gigabyte of quick DDR3 RAM. It’s a mixed bag here, at least for normal OS tasks – some are faster, others feel about the same; web browsing is particularly unimproved. One thing that the Prime has going for it though, is that all of these tasks take up much less CPU power thanks to the use of a low-power companion core for low-intensity tasks.
When you get into a game though, the tablet begins to shine, particularly as you can hook up a game controller to really get things going. Performance is excellent in all of the titles that are available, and hopefully more will be soon. Another area of strength is streaming video; it’s quite possible to play 1080p content (both on the tablet itself or pushed to an HDTV over HDMI) without any stuttering or visual/aural artefacts.
This is the one area in which the Asus Transformer Prime falls down – whilst the Prime includes an almost-stock version of the latest version of Honeycomb, Android 3.2 for tablets, it just doesn’t come close to the iPad in terms of usability.
Thankfully, the latest version of Android, 4.0 or Ice Cream Sandwich, should be coming to the Asus Transformer Prime by the end of the year. This should represent a massive leap forward for the usability of the tablet, if it’s anything like as polished as it is on my Galaxy Nexus.
The Asus Transformer Prime is the first true competitor to the iPad. Whilst the spectre of the forthcoming iPad 3 still exists, this is the best argument for Android on a tablet in a long time, with a great physical design and very powerful internals. There’s little to dislike about the Transformer Prime, and with the coming Ice Cream Sandwich update it could prove as easy-to-use as the iPad as well. Check out the new Kindle cover, third party Kindle covers and the Panasonic Lumix case.