ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Review: Assemble!
Camera Quality, Portability, Interface & Software
Both front and rear cameras can be found on the Eee Pad Transformer tablet. The rear mounted camera is rated at 5 megapixels, while the front mounted camera offers 1.2 megapixels.
Quality is best described as acceptable. The rear-mounted 5 megapixel unit can snap excellent photos on a bright sunny day, but quality decreases noticeably when used indoors. There’s no LED flash, so the camera becomes essentially useless in dark rooms or outdoors after dusk. While the camera can take reasonable pictures, using such a large device to snap photos both looks and feels absurd. There’s no easy way to hold the device, and as a result the tablet’s modest weight suddenly feels significant.
The 1.2 megapixel camera on the front is entirely acceptable for basic video conferencing, but not much else. Fortunately, that’s all anyone will ask of it.
Alone, the Eee Pad Transformer tablet weighs in at 1.5 pounds and is about 10.5 inches wide by seven inches deep and half an inch thick, although it’s slimmer throughout much of the chassis due to a tapered design. These stats make for a device that’s easy to stick in backpack, messenger bag or even most purses without trouble, but they’re entirely average for the class.
Attaching the dock to the tablet adds about 1.4 pounds and another half inch of girth, resulting in a package that’s about the same size as your typical 10.1” netbook. This is more remarkable than it sounds. Remember, an iPad user who wants a similar experience must buy – and then lug around – either a beefy third-party case with built-in keyboard or Apple’s own iPad keyboard dock, which isn’t designed to be portable and weighs only a fraction less.
There’s another trick in the dock, as well – an extra battery. The tablet’s battery alone is rated at 9.5 hours, which is on par with competing products, but the dock adds another 6.5 hours of power when it’s fully charged. In our real world YouTube streaming test, reality came close to the claims. The tablet alone lasted 8 hours and 24 minutes, while the dock extended life to over 14 hours! While the endurance of the tablet alone is only good, adding the dock makes it excellent. Forget all-day computing; how about two-day computing?
Even alone, this tablet would provide excellent portability. With the available dock, it’s the most portable tablet on the market. While the dock does add substantial bulk, it’s easily left at home for short trips where the keyboard and/or the battery will not be needed. This is flexibility that no other tablet or netbook can match.
Interface & Software
Android Honeycomb is the operating system that powers the Transformer, and as of this writing it’s been updated to version 3.2. This was a quick deployment of the upgrade, a trend that will hopefully continue in the future.
Most of the surprises come from the pre-loaded apps, which are in some cases quite useful. The MyNet app allows for the sharing of media files via DNLA, a nifty feature if you have a home theater with compatible equipment. There’s also a handy pre-baked productivity app called Polaris Office. While basic, it provides compatibility with both Google Docs and Microsoft Office. ASUS could have left its customers high and dry, searching for a tablet-friendly productivity app on the Marketplace, but instead has gone to the trouble for them.
While Honeycomb itself is remarkably stable, I did run in to some software issues with the dock. Attempting to use the dock with the browser often provided negative results. There was significant lag on some sites, and other sites failed to accept input from the dock at all. Problems such as this made web browsing with the dock attached a frustrating experience.
Otherwise, Honeycomb is as it has been. I recommend that anyone completely unfamiliar with Honeycomb take a look at our Motorola Xoom review, which provides an in-depth look at its features.