The tablet world is really starting to get interesting as Android 3.0 begins to appear in more and more devices. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer is the most impressive we’ve seen so far – not only because of its specifications and build, but because it comes with its own add-on keyboard.
A complete package
That keyboard is the thing that makes the Eee Pad Transformer stand out from the currently available competition. Dock the tablet section onto the keyboard and it rotates nicely on its hinge, closing down just as a laptop would. You can fire up web apps or on-board apps (including the pre-installed Polaris Office, which lets you create Word and Excel-compatible documents) by tapping the screen or using the trackpad, and type away to your heart’s content.
The keyboard is really nicely made, too. It feels solid and responsive to the touch, and is certainly up to prolonged periods of use. It adds a few extra features too – including two USB ports into either of which you can plug a mouse – plus there’s an SD card slot. But perhaps the biggest benefit of attaching the keyboard is the fact that it contains an extra battery. When docked, Asus says the Eee Pad transformer will deliver 16 hours of life – seven hours more than the nine hours claimed for the tablet on its own.
Undocked, the tablet functions like other Android 3.0 tablets we’ve seen. Its 10.1in, 1280×800 pixel screen is bright and sharp.
The Eee Pad Transformer has a fair few ports and connectors around its edges. The left-hand edge contains the main power switch as well as a volume rocker, while on the right there’s a 3.5mm headset jack, mini-HDMI connector and microSD card slot. There are speaker grilles on the left and right edges. There’s a 5-megapixel camera on the back, which sadly lacks a flash. At the front is a 1.2-megapixel camera for videoconferencing.
Powering the Android 3.0 device is a very capable dual-core Nvidia Tegra 2 processor. The Transformer’s 16GB of storage memory is easily expanded using the microSD card slot on the tablet, as well as plugging in SD cards or USB storage devices on the keyboard. Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS are present, but there’s no SIM support.
Here come the grumbles
Metal is used in abundance in the tablet and keyboard, and helps give a real quality feel to things – though giving in to a plastic backplate does detract from the overall feel. And we don’t like the proprietary charging connector – we’d have preferred a standard USB plug. And we also think its cable is too short. It didn’t reach from our wall socket to our very-close-by desk.
Nor do we like the way the whole setup is top-heavy when in notebook mode. It’s probably unavoidable, but it does mean the whole thing has a tendency to topple over when you tap the screen, unless you anchor the keyboard section with one hand.
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- Superb keyboard; excellent docking mechanism; good battery life.
- A few minor design niggles.
Those few design niggles aside, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer is the best Android tablet we've seen to date. The bundled keyboard is what really makes the package versatile. Unlike other tablets we've seen so far, we have no trouble in believing some people could use this as their main and only computer.