Asus Transformer Prime (TF201)

Asus' Transformer Prime combined with Ice Cream Sandwich is an excellent tablet. For now, this is the one to get — at least until the TF700T comes down the line.


8.8
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User Rating

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CNET Editor

Craig was sucked into the endless vortex of tech at an early age, only to be spat back out babbling things like "phase-locked-loop crystal oscillators!". Mostly this receives a pat on the head from the listener, followed closely by a question about what laptop they should buy.


By now, most of you hanging out for the Transformer Prime have read about the US launch, its Wi-Fi and GPS issues and its Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) update woes. Even the initial demonstration model that Asus showed to us displayed the now well-known "blind-screen effect".

You would have also read that Asus is working hard to fix the issues that it can, and, indeed, despite our review sample coming with Ice Cream Sandwich pre-installed, another update was available the moment we started testing.

First impressions? This thing is thin. It's also lighter than the iPad 2, and, when combined with its champagne-gold backing, presents quite the drool-worthy device.

Hardware

Asus loves claiming world firsts, and in this case it's claiming the first Tegra 3 device. This quintuple-core monster uses four cores when under load, and a fifth, low-powered core to save battery when executing lower-performance tasks. This means that we should see some pretty crazy battery times out of the Prime — provided that the core switcher is smart enough.

Unlike the previous Transformer, Asus is bundling its 32GB and 64GB SKUs of the Prime exclusively with the keyboard dock; you won't have the option to buy the tablet separately. The 32GB model with the dock will cost you AU$799, while doubling your capacity will run AU$899. Just like the Transformer, plugging in the keyboard dock considerably extends your battery life.

The tablet alone comes equipped with a mini-HDMI port and microSD card reader, while plugging in the dock gains you a full-sized USB 2.0 port (down from two in the original Transformer) and a full-sized SD card reader.

The IPS screen, especially when Asus' "Super IPS+ mode" is turned on, is gorgeous. This is a tablet absolutely built for video, and, combined with something like MX Player, it should keep you quite happy. We can only imagine what the upcoming 1920x1200, TF700T version of the tablet will look like.

The speakers are certainly passable for the size of the device, although they could do with more volume capability.

Considering the space that Asus has had to work with, it has done quite well with the keyboard. Likewise, the touch pad is quite usable, including such multi-touch gestures as double-finger horizontal swiping to move between home screens or flip between images. A double-finger vertical swipe, as one might expect, scrolls.

Compared to

Asus Transformer
Prime TF201
Apple iPad 2 Samsung Galaxy
Tab 10.1
Asus Transformer
TF101
10.1-inch 1280x800 screen 9.7-inch 1024x768 screen 10.1-inch 1280x800 screen 10.1-inch 1280x800 screen
Super IPS+ IPS Super PLS IPS
Quad-core 1.3GHz Dual-core 1GHz Dual-core 1GHz Dual-core 1GHz
Proprietary port, mini-HDMI, microSD,
headset jack, USB 2.0, SD reader
Proprietary port, headphone jack Proprietary port, headphone jack Proprietary port, mini-HDMI, microSD,
headset jack, 2x USB 2.0, SD reader

The Ice Cream Sandwich experience

Ice Cream Sandwich itself is a marked improvement over Honeycomb, especially in terms of tightening up design and adding extra animation to make things appear smoother. The Tegra 3, for the most part, keeps these animations silky smooth, and Android has never looked so good. The experience isn't 100 per cent complete, though; rotate the display on the apps screen, for instance, and although the image starts to rotate as well, eventually it blanks out to realign, rather than providing a seamless transition.

One of Ice Cream Sandwich's headline features, the auto-panoramic photograph stitch, disappoints on the Prime. While it does successfully stitch together an image, the Prime dumps to such a low resolution while recording that it may as well be using a webcam from the '90s. Photography is otherwise decent with the 8MP camera, and video is fine, too — so it's sad to see such a feature being poorly implemented.

(Credit: Asus)

Just like the Transformer, Asus has brought a bevy of customisations to the Prime. Apart from some signature widgets, like mail, date, location and weather, you can also take screenshots using the recent-apps key in either JPEG or PNG formats, change performance modes and customise the touch pad.

Asus also includes a few applications, including SuperNote, a note taker in which you can record finger swipes, keyboard entries, photos, voice and more. Don't expect handwriting recognition, though; this is pure note taking only.

Also included is Amazon's Kindle app, App Backup and App Locker (the latter password-protecting apps to prevent running), a file manager, Layar, Movie Studio, Polaris Office and Asus' collection of cloud tools. Of note, Asus is now giving all new users a permanent 8GB of cloud storage to play with.

Sadly, even in its Ice Cream Sandwich incarnation, Android hasn't managed to bring in universal keyboard shortcuts. There's no delete key on the keyboard, and while most apps will obey the Shift + Backspace shortcut to enact it, not all do, including the bundled Polaris Office. This seems to be more the fault of rogue apps rather than Google's, but it's clear that some enforcement needs to be done here if Google wishes Android to continue to encroach on the PC space.

Performance

BrowserMark benchmark

  • 96,288
    Asus Transformer Prime
  • 90,748
    Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7
  • 87,665
    Apple iPad 2
  • 84,330
    Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1

(Longer bars indicate better performance)


Subjectively, 3D performance ran without a hitch, although not everything is coded to take advantage of Tegra 3's quad-core architecture. It's impressive to see such frame rates and graphical detail on a portable device. During our tests, we also had no issue with Wi-Fi dropouts, with the supplied tablet performing well. If you have issues, we'd recommend returning your tablet to the store for a replacement.

Battery life, the most important thing, is actually in line with the original Transformer, once you turn on Asus' Super IPS+ mode, with the tablet lasting 4.5 hours playing back a 720p video, and the dock giving it another 3.5 hours to play with. No doubt with screen brightness turned down it would last much longer — this is a worst-case scenario.

Conclusion

Asus' Transformer Prime combined with Ice Cream Sandwich is an excellent tablet. For now, this is the one to get — at least until the TF700T comes down the line.



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The_Glenn
5
Rating
 

"ASUS? Never again."

The_Glenn posted a review   

The Good:Robust and gutsy unit and good keyboard dock

The Bad:Terrible Wi-Fi connectivity

My unit was sent back to ASUS 3 times and replaced due to mainly disgracefully poor wi-fi connectivity. There were other issues including poor service from ASUS. The replacement unit had marginally better wi-fi... enough to make be not want to use it. At home and within 9 metres and in line of site, I would get 2 or 3 bar signal. Tin foil improved the signal. If I was in Maccas or KFC and wanted to use their wi-fi.. no luck at all due to signal and I would tether to the mobile. Took it back this week again and the tech told me there were loads of complaint about wi-fi and the best thing to do was credit the unit and go buy a Nexus.

Pity really as I loved the look at feel of the unit and it has a robustness to it. 14 months (they extended the warranty for stuffing me around) of putting up with the poor wi-fi over 2 units is enough to turn me off ASUS.

 

"Glass Screen exploded"

possum29 posted a comment   
Australia

The Good:Was really happy with the eeepad until this problem. Only other issue was that it is hard to get accessories to fit the eeepad, like screen protectors.

The Bad:Glass Screen Exploded.

Was happy with the Asus Transformer Prime until the glass screen exploded. My teenage daughter had the tablet on her bed and was not even touching it when suddenly the screen started cracking and then just cracked all over. There was no weight on it. No reason that we could see for this. Unbelievable. I bought it at Christmas so we have only had it for 7 weeks.

 

WillD posted a reply   
Australia

The strongest grade of notebook glass breaks for no apparent reason while in the care of a teenage girl? Quite unbelievable indeed.

hgoh
9
Rating
 

hgoh posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Everything, great screen resolution, lots of games to play

The Bad:YouTube app seems a bit buggy, slow copying of files from SD card

I've had mine for almost a year and still loving it. I take it into the field all the time, the long battery life and it's small size is great.
No problems with tethering with my phones wifi either or picking up other wifi hotspots.

The only thing that annoys me is the slow copying of files from an SD card into the internal memory. My workaround is merely to store movies etc on a couple of 32GB SD cards rather than copy them over.

Re the GPS: Asus sent me the GPS booster attachment as soon as I registered it with them.

hgoh
9
Rating
 

"My MacBook is feeling lonely now"

hgoh posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Everything, great screen resolution, lots of games to play

The Bad:YouTube app seems a bit buggy, slow copying of files from SD card

I've had mine for almost a year and still loving it. I take it into the field all the time, the long battery life and it's small size is great.
No problems with tethering with my phones wifi either or picking up other wifi hotspots.

The only thing that annoys me is the slow copying of files from an SD card into the internal memory. My workaround is merely to store movies etc on a couple of 32GB SD cards rather than copy them over.

Re the GPS: Asus sent me the GPS booster attachment as soon as I registered it with them.

ShaunB Facebook
4
Rating
 

"Great in theory - unreliable in reality"

ShaunB posted a review   

The Good:Arguably the best unit spec-wise

The Bad:I've had 2 and they both died in 30 minutes!

If they worked they would be great but...

Purchased 2 units from a retailer and both died within 30 minutes. Even if I get a unit that isn't faulty, how much longer would it last?

 

ada101 posted a comment   

One question, Can I root it and install custom firmware? If so, I'm sold!!!

Mark_Knedz
10
Rating
 

"excellent tablet if looking to replace a laptop for web browsing and media viewing."

Mark_Knedz posted a review   
Australia

The Good:everything

The Bad:nothing yet

This tablet is excellent... the detachable keyboard makes emailing a breeze and when on the road the extra battery life the dock prooves invaluable. I have had no issues with connenctivity even through my phones' wireless hotspot which is patchy at times. Over all an excellent and powerfull device with great screen, replaced my laptop for web browsing, social networking and basic document editing.

AngusH Facebook
9
Rating
 

"Better than my iPad :) an honest opinion."

AngusH posted a review   

The Good:Battery life, screen resolution and brightness, connectivity is great! Speakers are beefy, ICE CREAM SANDWICH! And the rest.

The Bad:I personally have nothing large enough to mention, a few bugs, but updates will fix this.

At the time of writing, I've had mine for two weeks. Now I'm in Thailand and I'm on the top floor of my hotel and still have a connection to the wifi, its still smooth and its still fast.

These people with poor connectivity issues I'm putting down to their POOR wireless networks. Play with the settings on your router. Why do you need a 100% connection anyway? If you're at home and you're downloading, just do it on your desktop.

Worried about no 3G? TETHER!!!! If you can't, then get a new phone, not a tablet with a new mobile plan, you're just a fool if you do.

The only things that's **** is the cursor movement. The zoom cursor is so average. Waiting for a bug fix. But its so miniscule.

BUY ONE. ITS AWESOME! And ICS owns iOS. Finally!

 

jamesee posted a comment   
Australia

Unfortunate that android developers tend to feel the need to abuse those with views and experiences that differ to thiers but I guess there could be vested interests to protect...

niksrulz Facebook
10
Rating
 

"The Best Tablet Of 2012"

niksrulz posted a review   
Australia

The Good:Battery ,Build Quality ,Looks ,Performance

The Bad:Youtube App search trouble when attaching keyboard

Seriously !! 5.7 user rating !!

Looks like apple fan boys trolling around, I've been using it from last 3 months and Apart from youtube app trouble with keyboard .. Everything about this tablet is just amazing..

To name a few ::

Battery Life , Graphics , Resolution , Build Quality and Yeah Performance !!

I'm an android developer and My tablet is full of apps and games so I've tested it with pretty much everything !!


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User Reviews / Comments  Asus Transformer Prime (TF201)

  • The_Glenn

    The_Glenn

    Rating5

    "My unit was sent back to ASUS 3 times and replaced due to mainly disgracefully poor wi-fi connectivity. There were other issues including poor service from ASUS. The replacement unit had marginally..."

  • possum29

    possum29

    "Was happy with the Asus Transformer Prime until the glass screen exploded. My teenage daughter had the tablet on her bed and was not even touching it when suddenly the screen started cracking and ..."

  • hgoh

    hgoh

    Rating9

    "I've had mine for almost a year and still loving it. I take it into the field all the time, the long battery life and it's small size is great.
    No problems with tethering with my phones wifi..."

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