We love
Fantastic screen for the price, Honeycomb has been sensibly tweaked
We hate
No more attractive than the Xoom
Verdict
We didn't know Asus had it in them. A cracking tablet with some caveats.
Launch Price
£379.98

asus-eee-pad-transformer-review

When we first saw the Asus Eee Pad Transformer back at CES in January, we never anticipated that Asus would get it on sale so quickly. We expected it to be just another of Asus’ harebrained schemes that never really quite came off, and yet here we are, three months on, and we’re holding not just the cheapest Android Honeycomb tablet, but the best one too.

Build

It’s what’s in the Asus Eee Pad Transformer that counts, not the look of it. When laid flat on a surface it looks like your average 10.1-inch tablet, but the underside is a bronze mess. It’s sporting the same mottled design that we’ve seen on many an Eee PC, but this time, it’s pure metal.

That results in a sturdy finish – it certainly feels more premium than the more expensive Xoom, but it is however, a chunkster at 680g. Compared to the waif like iPad 2, there’s no competition. It sounds vain, but we urge you to at least handle one of Apple’s babies before ordering either way – those extra millimetres really do make a discernible difference.

Asus has positioned the lock button on the side, a much more sensible spot than the back of the tablet (Yes we mean you Motorola), but loses a lot of goodwill for using a proprietary port for connecting via USB and charging. You’ll also find a mini HDMI port on the side for screen mirroring on your telly – that requires a different cable than the micro HDMI port on other new phones and tablets, but in our experience it’s one that’s a bit easier to come by. You don’t get one in the box, but it’s not a key feature by any means.

Screen

We’ve got to hand it to Asus here: this is the best capacitive touchscreen we’ve ever seen on a tablet priced to undercut the iPad. It’s far brighter than the display on the first Honeycomb tablet, the Motorola Xoom, with broad viewing angles – hardly surprising when you consider the panel uses IPS tech, just like an iPad.

Buy the Asus Eee Pad Transformer now

We’ve had the privilege of being able to test a lot of tablets, and we have to admit we do think Apple’s made the correct compromise with its more square screen ratio. The 1280×800 resolution on Honeycomb tablets we’ve seen so far results in a slate that’s just far too wide, and top heavy when held in portrait mode since it’s so long. But it’s a matter of personal preference, and you won’t be disappointed by the colour at any rate.

Android Honeycomb

For a while, it looked like Google had managed to keep tablet makers from messing with the vanilla Android 3.0 experience. That’s quite evidently not the case with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer however, which sports a custom look and exclusive apps all of its own. But you know what? Asus has pulled off the rare feat of actually improving on Android.

Check out our best Android tablet Top 5 now

The homescreen weather widget and redesigned navigation icons are of no particular interest, but we’re really quite taken with the keyboard. Asus and Asus alone has apparently realised that on a tablet there’s actually enough space to include a separate line for numbers as well as one for word prediction – the result is an extremely fast typing experience for a slate of this size.

The custom apps are also welcome, including a DLNA media streaming app, cloud storage and remote desktop access. But our issues with Honeycomb itself still apply. Apps designed for Android on mobile work with varying degrees of success – Flash works fine but the BBC iPlayer app, which uses Flash, does not – and the number of Honeycomb tablet apps is meagre.

It’s still a complete guessing game as to where the options and settings buttons on an app are going to appear, the browser can still conk out on you and there’s the odd delay swiping through screens, tapping on text fields and loading up apps which can frustrate on occasion. In other words, this is a rewarding and powerful tablet OS, but one that will require some patience. If you don’t have that, get an iPad.

Performance and battery life

Honeycomb tablets continue to impress us with their longevity: you can get a solid eight hours of use out of the Asus Eee Pad Transformer with brightness high, Wi-Fi on and email syncing away in the background. Left on overnight with email whirring away still it tends to lose about 10 percent of its battery life – switch account syncing to manual and it’ll go for much more.

Best Android apps of all time: Top 100

It’s more of a mixed bag when it comes to hardware – this is another dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 tablet that doesn’t quite feel like it’s living up to its hardware potential, except when it’s playing back HD video. Why on earth is there lag, ever, just moving across homescreens?

Now, about the transforming part

In case you missed the hype at launch, and are still wondering why it’s called a Transformer, take a look. You can plug it into a separate keyboard dock and use it as a netbook, complete with on screen cursor, USB ports, and extended battery life.

We’ve gone into much more detail about it here. It’s certainly a nice idea, and the best attempt yet at it, but truth be told, we still don’t see ourselves using this accessory enough to make it worth the outlay and expense on your shoulders of having to carry the damn thing around – it is very heavy. But at just £50 more for the bundle, it’s still remarkable value.

Verdict

Asus has been trying to break into the mobile category for a long time, and rarely with much critical success. We’d say that with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, it’s finally cracked it, and at a superb asking price. It still suffers from the fate of looking fugly next to an iPad 2, but if you know you don’t want iOS, it’s still the next best thing. We can take or leave the keyboard dock though.

  • IceBeam

    Hey reviewer, its not “messing” with vanilla Android to preinstall some apps, and add some widgets, widgets are optional and can be removed.

    And regarding waif, hey somebody prefers someone with a bit of heft to them instead of that starved look ;)

    • Anonymous

      No you’re right entirely – we’re really quite happy with Asus’s tweaks. But in general, OEM skins detract from the Android experience. Motoblur is dire, LG’s launcher is inexplicably laggy on a dual core phone and Sony Ericsson’s X10 skin was a disaster.

      Interesting theory about the heft – have you held an iPad 2?

      • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KLK7CATMDGJI72FL57VKXT2R5Y James

        I have, and it’s still heavy. 80 grams won’t make a difference. Funny how you didn’t mention the increased sharpness on the Transformer due to it’s higher resolution compared to the iPad 2. The screen looks so much better than the iPad 2′s.

        • Anonymous

          I wouldn’t say that’s true at all – yes it’s sharper but it’s set quite low. I prefer the “painted on” effect of Apple’s screens on its recent iOS devices.

          • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_KLK7CATMDGJI72FL57VKXT2R5Y James

            Ugh any excuse to big up Apple. I tried an iPad 2 in store and the screen doesn’t look like it’s “painted on glass” at all. This screen is better, get over it. The iPad 2 is still heavy, get over it.

          • Anonymous

            I have to agree with Ben here on the “painted on” effect of the screens, it really does enhance the experience and make it feel like you are “holding the internet in you hands”. I would like a like a lighter iPad also but I am not willing to sacrifice the great battery life to get it.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_5WI5PORPGDDBPWBENW4UQ52G4A Ashraf

    Good review, I think you mean ‘mesh’ in 3rd line of Build section above, and what is ‘waif’?!! Regarding the screen ratio, I think you are right, but why would you hold it in portrait mode anyway, you don’t do that with laptops or netbooks, and why would I be using a tablet where I can’t sit and put on a table- I must be either standing in a que or waiting for the bus!
    I think Honeycomb’s UI was designer and more usable with a wide aspect ratio vs. the iPad’s iOs.

    • Anonymous

      Hey Ashraf! Thanks, glad you liked it. Nope, I meant mess, though mesh would also apply. It looks like Asus has stolen a picture frame and melted it down for the back of the tablet.

      I find holding an iPad (and the much smaller Galaxy Tab) in portrait mode much more convenient, especially for typing. The way I see it, it makes more sense to compare the experience to a mobile than a laptop since it’s touchscreen and a mobile OS – and you hold them in portrait most of the time.

      PS Chambers definition of waif: “any pathetically undernourished-looking person”.

  • Rp33064

    Agreed…good review and appears to be very honest. We here in the states are waiting with bated breath for this great slate.

  • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_46BQR7IP3SUCOVRV7LHQP7YHIU Bart

    What are some of the apps/games that come with this?

    • Anonymous

      No games – I pretty much ticked it off with the custom apps I mentioned. Media streaming, a couple of boring ebook apps and an excellent cloud storage service. Oh, and Polaris Office. Other than the cloud storage, there’s nothing you can’t find easily on the Android Market for free – and even then there’s the superb Dropbox, just with slightly less free space online.

  • http://twitter.com/midnightz Eman Zaman

    “Fugly”? There is minimal difference between this and the iPad 2 in looks.

    • Anonymous

      On the front perhaps. They’re very different beasts when looked at from the other sides however.

  • Anonymous

    You say about a “proprietary port for connecting via USB and charging” as a negative, but does not the iPad/Pod/Phone have the same issue? They also have a proprietary port.

  • http://profiles.yahoo.com/u/6MMVGBWIDCF6DM7NZBD2ODQNHI Stutheim

    Posted EVERYTHING but screen size!!! Hello???

  • Guest

    So this or Ipad2? I don’t care about 3g or psychical keyboard and I find ios too restricted… ?

  • jaamgans

    The shape of the screen is essential for the docking station/keyboard (wouldn’t have worked if squarer). I quite like it even in portrait mode, as it makes a really nicely spaced keyboard making text entry even quicker. I note when mentioning the dock/keyboard you didn’t say about the extra battery and ports it has that makes up for them not being included on the pad and is quite a biggie that really should be mentioned even if not reviewing it fully – thus if you can get the bundle price makes it a major yes even if you aren’t going to use that often. With the docking station you get about another 4-6 hours depending on your use – plus it can effectively turn it into a 10 inch netbook. The connection is very easy and locks solid with no play – just as easy to disconnect and the dock charges the tablet ensuring the tablet charge is as high as possible.

    Honeycomb is still definitely beta rather than an alpha product, however despite that you can see it is going to be just as good as gingerbread etc if not better once the bugs are resolved – which are reasonably few and far between and don’t create a major impact.

Hot chat, right here!


Our most commented stories right now...