Asus Eee Pad Transformer Review
Is it a tablet? Is it a netbook? No, it's an Asus Eee Pad Transformer! Somewhere in between the two, this smart new device from ASUS operates as a standalone tablet with Honeycomb, a 10” IPS screen and a 1GHz dual-core NVIDIA Tegra 2 processor. Take things one step further and you can get a full sized keyboard attachment bundled in, turning the tablet into an Android netbook. If past experience is anything to go by, devices that try and do too many things tend to be jacks of all traits and masters of none, so lets see if the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer breaks the mold and scores highly across the board.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer comes with similar front panel aesthetics to the Motorola XOOM, with the same screen aspect ratio and a distinct lack of physical buttons. Despite not being as lithe as the iPad 2 and upcoming Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, at 12.9 mm thick it doesn't feel as cumbersome as some other tablets due to a curved ergonomic backing which has a bronze textured finish. With the same finish on the underside of the keyboard, the whole package feels very unified indeed.
Question: What do you get if you cross an Apple iPad 2 and a Motorola XOOM display? Answer: An Asus Eee Pad Transformer screen, of course. With the best of both, it combines the IPS technology found in the iPad 2 with the Motorola XOOM's higher resolution. What this practically means is better viewing angles and a sharper image. While the XOOM's picture also has a tendency to look washed out and under-saturated, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer raises the bar with bright, vivid colors and good contrast levels, though the screen doesn't feel quite as responsive as the one on Apple's tab and loves finger-prints.
The fascia is where you'll find both the front facing 1.3MP camera and light sensor directly above the display when in landscape. Along the left side are the only physical buttons, in the form of power and volume rocker, while on the right side, a mini HDMI slot, audio jack and microSD card slot are housed. On the underside is a proprietary power connector while on the back, the main 5MP snapper. The bronze textured backing looks good, but feels a touch hollow despite the tab feeling durable on the whole.
transforming dock also add 2 USB ports, a full sized SD card slot and an additional proprietary charging port. The keyboard keys are individual chiclets and deliver fantastic typing speeds, being well spaced out and offering a good amount of feedback when pressed. The keys are a modified layout to accommodate Google's Honeycomb, offering a home button and a row of function keys as well. Below the keyboard is a wide aspect-ratio track pad and left/right click buttons, while above is the hinge element.
Upon connecting the tablet and dock, there really is very little to suggest they are not a single netbook-esque package. The mechanics are secure, the design - strikingly unified, and the interaction in terms of functionality - extremely cohesive. When we used the Asus Eee Pad Transformer out and about, people were shocked at the detachability of the two, with the only downside of using it out and about relating to the hinge. When disconnected, the hinge protrudes out at an angle and makes the keyboard element an awkward shape to stow away.
With a pretty attractive look and feel, a Motorola XOOM beating price tag and a gorgeous display, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer is definitely good. The dock component however makes the device's design border on greatness. Asus have honed their netbook expertise to deliver a cohesive, considered accessory that works seamlessly and doesn't come with a Motorola ATRIX dock price-point. Some areas could be more refined, namely the hinge when the two elements aren't one, but at $693 (£429) for the tablet and dock combination, it's by no means a deal breaker.