The Prime seems to have no trouble achieving notable firsts. It was the first tablet with a Tegra 3 processor to go to retail, and now it’s the first tablet to have official Ice Cream Sandwich support. The update, scheduled originally for January 12th, actually went live after a surprise announcement on January 9th during Nvidia’s CES conference.
Since we still have our Prime review unit, this update provides us with a unique opportunity to compare Honeycomb and Ice Cream Sandwich side-by-side on the same device. This update is important for the Prime - and all upcoming Android tablets - because the operating system is something that’s currently holding back a number of products with great hardware.
Honeycomb was never an OS that impressed me. It’s often jerky, lacks elegance, and has poor app support. So long as Honeycomb was the version of Android shipping on tablets there was simply no chance for an Android tablet to defeat the iPad 2. The software simply wasn’t up to the high standard set by iOS.
Ice Cream Sandwich is a chance at redemption. The rumors have spread like wildfire. Various sources have reported improvements including better multi-core support, a faster web browser, improved notifications and much more. Official announcements have generally limited themselves to commenting on feature improvements, however - going into the ICS update I didn’t have any expectations for performance improvements because none were ever provided by Google. Nvidia also never set any expectations about the improvements, if any, we’d see from Tegra 3 processors running ICS.
Now that the Prime is updated we can test ICS out for ourselves. Let’s jump in, starting with the interface updates.
Introduction, Design and Ergonomics
The original ASUS Eee Pad Transformer was a bit of an upset in the tablet market. Before its launch, there was no particular reason to believe that ASUS would be able to provide a better product than any of the many other PC manufacturers entering the Android tablet fray. Sure, I like most of the ASUS products that I’ve been able to review, and I believe they have some good engineers. But they also had no experience beyond a few Windows tablets and convertible tablets.
Yet they were successful. At the time I called the Transformer "the best Android tablet on the market today” and gave it with a Gold Award. Consumers apparently agreed, as it flew off shelves with such speed that ASUS has decided to debut a follow-up only half a year after the original hit the market.