ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Review: Assemble!
User Interface and Connectivity, Display and Audio Quality
User Interface and Connectivity
When used as a stand-alone tablet the Transformer’s interface is not much different from the competition. The large 10.1” capacitive touch display is smooth and responsive. There are only two buttons on the tablet itself, one for power and a rocker for volume control. Both are comfortable, but the volume control position makes accidental volume changes a possibility while handling the tablet in landscape orientation. Opposite of the power and volume buttons you’ll find HDMI out, a headphone/mic jack, and a microSD card reader.
The dock is the real user interface story. Compared to most tablet docks or accessory keyboards, it’s a wonder to use. It’s large and intuitive – anyone who has ever used a laptop or netbook will feel at home. Individual keys are quite small, however, and the keyboard feels cramped as a result. My first fifteen minutes with the device were frustrating, as my fingers were confused by the diminutive layout, but I eventually adjusted.
This same comment can be applied to the touchpad, which is a throwback to the tiny, fiddly touchpads that were common on the first netbooks. There are individual left and right buttons available on the touchpad rocker, but the right-click function often does nothing, since it’s not commonly used in Honeycomb.
Besides the additional user inputs, the dock also adds laptop-like connectivity in the form of two USB ports and a regularly sized SD card reader. I tested each USB port with several different keyboards and mice and found that all worked instantly. I was even able to use a mouse scroll wheel to move between home screens.
Display and Audio Quality
Shallowness is part of the tablet market. It’s all about the looks, or rather, how the display looks. It’s both input and output, so it has to be great.
The good news comes right from the spec sheet – this is an IPS display. While the iPad has offered IPS since its birth, this feature isn’t common among Android tablets. The difference is immediately apparent when viewing from an angle. The Eee Pad Transformer doesn’t wash out quickly and remains completely intelligible when viewed from any reasonable angle.
Contrast and white saturation also proved themselves excellent via the Lagom LCD test images, but black levels were less impressive, which may be why the display doesn’t have the “pop” I expected. The entire top row of the black level test page was not easily visible, although the 4th and 5th blocks could be made out on close inspection. While the display on this tablet is excellent, and better than most of the competition, the iPad 2 still has a slight edge.
Audio quality is not up to the same high standard. Both bass and volume are lacking, but despite this, audio distorts badly as volume is raised towards its maximum. I’ll go far as to say that the speakers are entirely unusable in any room with a moderate amount of background noise. If there’s a TV on in the background, or music playing in another room, it’ll likely be enough to drown out this tablet.