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UPDATE 2: Our original keyboard dock’s lock switch was indeed faulty, and a second model secured the screen just fine. We’ve update the post accordingly.

UPDATE: We’ve spoken to Asus about our issues with the dock’s lock switch to hold the screen in place, and it appears we may have a problem. We’ll update again when we’ve ascertained whether our unit is faulty or not.

We’re currently putting the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Honeycomb tablet through its paces and we must say, it does a whole lot more than the barebones Motorola Xoom. It even comes with its own keyboard dock to turn it into a netbook – there’s a huge amount of potential for this combination, but based on our testing, Asus has some big hurdles to clear first as well.

We’ll break down the tablet’s own merits in a full review shortly, but we thought we’d tackle the keyboard dock on its own as it’s not a compulsory purchase – it’s certainly far less expensive than the Motorola Atrix‘s own dock (£50 more for the bundle), but more importantly, is it worth your time and effort?

Yes and no – if you’re after an Asus Eee Pad Transformer itself, it might prove to be a nice option to have. It’s not a reason to go for the tablet itself over any however.

The dock itself is an impressive piece of construction. If anything, it’s too much so: it’s like an Eee PC keyboard cast out of metal. Combined with the Eee Pad Transformer tablet/screen, it’s an incredibly heavy, fairly thick and rather delicate creature. It is in keeping with the bronze, mottled design of the tablet itself though, and the keyboard is well spaced and sturdy with minimal bounce and depression.

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Much more of a concern, and a potential dealbreaker, is the lock switch to keep the tablet in place on its stand. When locked, the tablet can still drop out when the dock is held upside down, and it feels shaky at best. It’s a glaring issue in an otherwise superb hardware design job.

Along the top are your typical Windows keyboard hotkeys, transported to Android: you can pause and play media, adjust the screen brightness and volume, and even toggle Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. In place of a Windows key at the bottom is an Android Home button, which is a nice option to have when the onscreen navigation buttons decide to stop working. In fact, our only real issue is with the right shift key, which is bunched up against tiny cursor keys, to the dismay of touch typists everywhere.

The trackpad meanwhile works far more smoothly than on previous Android netbooks we’ve seen from the likes of HP and Toshiba. Once the screen clicks in, you can scroll around quickly and easily, and roll down web pages with two finger swipes – this is how you can swipe through the homescreens in keyboard dock mode also. We also popped a mouse into one of the two USB ports the Eee Pad Transformer keyboard dock houses, and had no troubles getting around with it – the combination of mouse and keyboard particularly made Gmail fly.

Speaking of those USB ports – there’s also an SD card slot as well which, and you can access files on all three via Asus’s file manager. Unfortunately, we’ve yet to manage to get it to play any videos of any format from a memory stick, but you can at least copy everything across.

There’s no question that this is the most impressive attempt yet to run a tablet OS on what is essentially a laptop – it’s not sans Google apps like the Toshiba AC100, and it’s not a hot mess like the Dell Inspiron Duo.

However, though Android’s processing power ought to make it better for copping movies on the train while doing some email, its lack of file format support still makes this a hard sell over super thin laptops like the Portege R700, or the iPad 2 with an SD card connector.

Still for £50 more, if you’re a frequent flyer and an Android addict, it could prove a worthy add on.

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