Review Index:
Feedback

ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Review: Assemble!

Author:
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: ASUS

Introduction and Design

View Full Size

Tablets may be the darling of the tech industry, but they’ve also received their fair share of criticism as well. One of the most consistent barbs throw towards them is the tablet’s inability to serve as a competent platform for content creature. While it’s technically possible to write a document or edit an image on a tablet, it’s certainly not enjoyable.

Part of the problem is the lack of a keyboard and mouse. Touchscreens are beautiful and intuitive, but they’re not precise. While third-party cases and docks have tried to solve this issue, they’re often both clunky and expensive.

It’s little surprise that a tablet designed specifically to work in conjunction with a keyboard dock has hit the market, but it is surprising that the first such device comes from ASUS, a company with relatively little experience building mobile products. The Eee Pad Transformer is already the second-best selling tablet on the market (after the iPad, of course) and reports indicate sales are constrained by supply rather than demand. What is it that has made the Transformer a quick success? 

Continue reading our review of the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer tablet!!

One thing’s for certain – it’s not just the hardware inside. As you can see below, this Eee Pad is packing a familiar Nvidia-powered punch that is similar to that found in numerous Android Honeycomb tablets as well as some Android smartphones.

View Full Size

Since an innovative new architecture obviously isn’t the Transformer’s selling point, it must be design that is shifting units so quickly. Let’s dive in and see what this tablet offers.

Design

View Full Size

Tablet design is rarely worth much comment, as most are exactly as thin and slab-sided as the category’s name would suggest. Despite this, ASUS has managed to create a product that’s recognizable and attractive even without the dock attached.

Differentiation has been accomplished using two strategies. The first is simply color. Most of the tablets on the market are available only in monochrome – you can choose white or black, but nothing in between. The Eee Pad Transformer, however, comes in an elegant and unique shade of brown that ASUS calls Espresso. In addition to this, the backside of the tablet, as well as the underside of the dock, is coated with a geometric star pattern. These two subtle touches combine to make the Transformer appear both handsome and original.

View Full Size

Build quality is robust. The back of the tablet is made of hard plastic, but its tough and thick enough to avoid the cheapness that is associated with the material. Along the sides of the tablet you’ll find aluminum, and both the sides and interior of the dock are coated with the same. Most importantly of all, the mechanism which attaches the tablet to the dock is large and sturdy. It feels capable of surviving a few lumps and it’s also solid enough to keep the tablet from rocking or swaying while attached to the dock.

September 6, 2011 | 04:12 PM - Posted by Scomma (not verified)

Great review, I personally wish it was 3G tab, but soem day it will :) Thanks guys for great review!

September 7, 2011 | 11:58 AM - Posted by jimmyveri

I'm in love

September 8, 2011 | 09:48 AM - Posted by JonathanCR (not verified)

This is a nice review of a great tablet. My wife has one and it is an excellent bit of kit, and so versatile. I agree with you that over-focusing on the dock actually does the Transformer a disservice: it's a great tablet in its own right. But I disagree with you about the keyboard - I find it perfectly fine for typing with, certainly the equal of any netbook keyboard. It really is an impressive piece of technology, especially when you can plug almost anything into the USB ports and have them work as if on a laptop. (One exception: an external DVD drive won't work in this fashion, so don't expect to be able to plug one in and watch DVDS on it. That is a limitation of Android rather than of the Transformer itself.) I really like its somewhat retro design, almost steampunk in feel, which does indeed differentiate it from the crowd of iPad wannabes.

I must also mention that the lag when using the dock to type in the browser is a known issue, and one that can be circumvented by downloading another browser instead.

Asus did a great job with this, remarkably so when, as you say, they're not exactly known for tablets. I especially like their attention to detail on the software. As you say, Polaris is a nice inclusion (essential really, given how the device is marketed) and actually one of the best mobile office suites available (and it's not available on any other tablet). Asus have also made some subtle but genuinely useful changes to Android, unlike some of the clunkier changes that other tablet makers have implemented. For example, they've added a setting to the browser to have it load PC versions of websites by default instead of mobile versions. That is useful.

I have an iPad 2 myself, which is also a great thing, but I think the Asus Transformer is its equal. This is partly because it is quite different. If you want to use the device for work and productivity, the Transformer seems to me a much better choice than the iPad. (Conversely, the iPad is better for other things.) In my view the Transformer is the only Android tablet really worth considering (unless you have a religious objection to Apple, as some people do), because it is the only one that really offers something different. The other Android tablets are, to varying degrees, just not-iPads and don't offer compelling reasons to choose them instead, especially given the poor selection of apps available for Honeycomb compared to the vastness of the Apple app store. The Transformer, by contrast, does things that the iPad can't, and for some people these will more than make up for its weaknesses in other areas.

September 8, 2011 | 01:06 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

I do agree that the keyboard is about as good as many netbooks, but I'm generally down on netbook keyboards as well. I just don't find that sort of experience comfortable, not only because of the small keys, but also because of the lack of palmrest space below the keyboard.

Using another browser hadn't occurred to me. Hopefully that tip will help other Transformer users who run in to issues with lag.

I'm happy that you're enjoying your Transformer. It is the best Android tablet out there today. If I were going to buy one right now, a Transformer without the dock is what I'd go for.

September 9, 2011 | 05:22 AM - Posted by Johan (not verified)

What's a "content creature"? Sounds scary!

September 10, 2011 | 11:07 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Nice review. The performance charts need a little help. Do longer bars indicate better performance?

September 10, 2011 | 11:27 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

YOU ARE WRONG-the right click button always does something in Android. It is another back button. Did you even use the TF101!

October 5, 2011 | 04:28 PM - Posted by MikeP5 (not verified)

You did a great job on this article. I would really love it if you expaned a little more on the subject. pacman game online

October 12, 2011 | 12:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is the 3G upgrade firmware-based or hardware - i.e. is the circuitry already built-in but just needs new firmware to 'activate' it, or do you actually need to buy another unit?

November 3, 2011 | 06:41 PM - Posted by Britgeezer (not verified)

I'm looking for a tablet with ability for:

-Skype
-Kindle/Amazon books
-USB connector to ext HD to run MKV files.
Is this it am I still looking?

November 13, 2011 | 04:04 AM - Posted by Digital Loupe (not verified)

Have made one review for TF101 myself. Weak points of this device is slow response time from keyboard.But overall it's good price/performance
digitalloupe reviews

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Allowed HTML tags: <a> <em> <strong> <cite> <code> <ul> <ol> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <blockquote><p><br>
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.

More information about formatting options

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.