ASUS Transformer Prime TF201 Keyboard Dock Review
Battery Life, Living With, Conclusion
To see how the dock’s massive battery extends life we ran it through our usual array of battery life tests, which includes YouTube streaming and Peacekeeper battery life benchmarks at a display brightness of 30% and 70%. The results? See for yourself.
Attaching the dock extends endurance by between 60% and 70%, a figure that’s nothing to scoff at. With the battery attached, I was able to achieve endurance figures of up to thirteen hours and two minutes. Our benchmarks are no walk in the park, so these results are impressive.
Living With The Prime’s Keyboard Dock
When I received the original Transformer with its dock, I wanted to write the majority of the review on the tablet. That was a personal goal I set to help test out the device and its dock. It was a goal I quickly abandoned because I found that using the tablet as a laptop was as pleasing as sticking my hands in a bee’s nest. The small size, odd layout and limited selection of decent office apps had me cursing within ten minutes.
I set myself the same goal this time around, and frankly, I managed no better. This new dock may be thinner and lighter and sexier, but for me it does nothing to solve the problems that I had before. My fingers fumble over themselves as they try to use the small keys, my palms move nervously as they try to find a comfortable position, and my shoulders hunch inwards as the experience of using this tiny device seems to give me the unconscious urge to tie myself up in a knot.
This is not a solvable problem. As with a netbook, the issue for me is one of physical size. This device is too small for me to be comfortable with, no matter what. Even if everything else was perfect, this simple issue would spoil the party for me.
But everything else isn’t perfect. Apps are rarely designed with keyboard use in mind, which makes the dock feel more like baggage than a helpful peripheral when using many of them. Worse, some apps that you’d expect to be useful are actually terrible. The Google Docs app for tablets seems half-baked. The included Polaris Office app is a lot better, but still a far cry from Microsoft Office or the full-fledged Google Docs experience.
For me – and, I think, for most people – the keyboard dock isn’t going to suddenly turn the Prime into a laptop replacement. It is going to give you the chance to use your Prime as a laptop replacement in a pinch, and for some people that will make sense. If your communication needs during your travels are limited to snapping off a few emails, the Prime’s dock will serve you well. But if you need to regularly type more than a few hundred words the experience sours quickly.
I find myself wondering what ASUS could do about the problems this product faces. The dock has a lot going for it including a latch mechanism that work beautifully and a thin profile that doesn’t compromise durability.
Yet the keyboard is limited by circumstances outside of what its designers could ever address. The keyboard needs to be bigger, but it can’t be – that would look and feel ridiculous. It also needs to have better support from the operating system and apps, but that's probably not a high priority for app developers.
And then there’s the price. I was under the impression that the dock was supposed to be $150, but availability at the price seems limited (many places are sold out, or listing the dock as a “pre-order” item). Amazon is selling them for $239.99, which is just far too much. If you do need a keyboard for your Prime and/or you want amazing battery life, the $150 asking price is reasonable (but not a steal). Anything higher makes the dock lose appeal.
Despite the passage of time and the release of a new a tablet, my conclusion is the same as that I reached when reviewing the original Transformer. The Transformer Prime is the best Android tablet on the market today – and the dock has nothing to do with that fact. It is a tablet first, and slapping a dock on to it doesn’t magically transform it into a competent laptop, even if that’s what the tablet’s name suggests.