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Android 4.0 (On the Transformer Prime) Ice Cream Sandwich Review: Tastes Like Honey

Author: Matt Smith
Subject: Mobile
Manufacturer: Google

Battery Life, Verdict

Battery Life

The operating system can have a huge impact on battery life, even when the hardware remains the same. I was a bit disappointed with the endurance of the Prime in our review, but ICS might help compensate for it. Let’s find out.

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It appears that ICS has improved battery life on the Prime. Results in our two battery benchmarks went up between 20% and 25%, which is a significant increase.

Of course, it’s possible that other devices will see similar increases if they are updated to ICS. This improvement puts the battery life almost on par with the original Transformer, but if the Transformer also receives ICS (as it is supposed to) the Prime might once again be left behind.

There is a base level of expected performance from a tablet’s battery, however, and I think the Prime now at least meets it. In our best case scenario, the Peacekeeper Browser Benchmark at 30% brightness, the Prime lasted over eight and a half hours. And don’t think that 30% brightness is an unrealistic setting, either. If you aren’t using the Prime in a brightly lit room or near an open window on a sunny day, 30% is adequate. 

Verdict

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For tablets, Ice Cream Sandwich is a mixed bag. Anyone who was expecting a major revision to the interface is going to be disappointed. Google never promised that, at least not for tablets - and that would be fine if Android didn’t have flaws. But it does, and it seems as if we’ll need to wait some time before they’re addressed.

Performance is also a concern. In our testing we saw that the overall performance picture seems to have worsened in some areas and improved in others. Overall, I’d say the Prime now feels a little quicker with ICS installed, but anyone expecting a big boast in speed will once again be disappointed. The new operating doesn’t squeeze much more out of the quad-core Tegra 3 than did Honeycomb. 

Battery life is the only area where we see a substantial gain after installing ICS. This alone is important. On the Prime it makes the underwhelming endurance at least adequate. If we see similar improvements in other ICS tablets it may finally be possible for Android tablets to trade blows with iOS in this area. 

Though I’m not happy with Ice Cream Sandwich overall, I am pleased to see that it has enhanced battery life on the Prime. Yet I still don’t feel that the Prime is worthy of an Editor’s Choice, and that’s entirely due to the operating system. It remains significantly behind iOS, and as long as that is the case, it will be nearly impossible for any Android tablet to knock Apple off the top of the tablet hill. 

 

January 19, 2012 | 05:22 PM - Posted by -KenC (not verified)

I have it on the Xoom and have not done a thorough analysis yet, but it definitely runs faster -- and web browsing was pretty darned fast to begin with. Yes, you can access the notifications from the Locked screen on the Xoom. The App launcher was updated, but I haven't figured out what enhancements were implemented yet, either. Many of the user features are not only nicer looking, they are easier to use. There is also a 'developer option' area in settings, which appears to be new.

Thanks for the article.

January 19, 2012 | 06:15 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

It's odd then that the Prime update didn't include those features.

I've shot ASUS an email to see if there is a reason why they're disabled.

January 19, 2012 | 06:01 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Appreciate the updated review, but really question your objectivity. Would very much like to see Ryan's impressions of the device.

January 19, 2012 | 06:18 PM - Posted by Ryan Shrout

Matt is not an Apple fanboy by any stretch. And he has way more experience with these devices in recent months than I.

I am still planning on spending some time with one, maybe the upcoming 1920x1200 version.

January 19, 2012 | 07:43 PM - Posted by pdjblum

Copy that. Just hard to believe when hard core apple guy josh topolsky praised ICS, saying he found it better than IOS. And the review at Anand on the nexus stated:
"As far as Ice Cream Sandwich is concerned, it really is Android perfected. Everything is smoother, faster and nearly all of our issues with the OS have been addressed. ICS brings Android into 2012 and gives Google a great platform to begin to introduce new features going forward. Android is now very close to UI performance parity with iOS, which eliminates a major tradeoff you had to make in the past. If you were hoping for ICS to be iOS with a Google logo on it, you'll be sorely disappointed. However if you're a fan of Android and just wished it were smoother and more polished, Ice Cream Sandwich is what you've been waiting for."

January 19, 2012 | 07:51 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

That's from the Galaxy Nexus review - so, from ICS on a smartphone.

January 19, 2012 | 09:05 PM - Posted by pdjblum

You are absolutely right. Just figured it would have improved the tablet experience to the same extent, more or less. Matt suggests little change at best outside of the battery life.

Guess I am just disappointed in that I really wanted to hear that this device was terrific in every way, and not once again, playing second fiddle to you know what.

January 20, 2012 | 01:54 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

A lot of the enhancements are either things Honeycomb already had (thumbnail multi-tasking) or things that are much more useful for smartphones (like the data usage monitor, camera app improvements, lockscreen camera/notification access).

January 19, 2012 | 11:43 PM - Posted by 8bitvoxel (not verified)

Matt, just a tip, you can remove the apps from the thumbnail view with a swipe now.... You can also press and hold to get a menu to then remove them as you've found but the reason they removed the tiny X to close these thumbs is because they implemented the swipe to clear which is better than the tiny x. Just though you should know since this "issue" took up a whole paragraph in your review, but isn't actually a problem.

Thanks for the updated impression though.

January 20, 2012 | 01:44 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

Thanks! That's much better. I have updated the review to reflect this.

January 20, 2012 | 05:44 AM - Posted by mr_raider (not verified)

Matt there is a quicker way to kills apps in ICS from the task switcher. Just swipe the tab to the right and will disappear from the list.

January 20, 2012 | 10:05 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

To create folders you just drag an app onto another app and it automatically creates folders. Really easy... Not to be disrespective but try to spend more than 5 minutes on a review. The multitasking and creating folders are much improved.

January 20, 2012 | 01:43 PM - Posted by Matt Smith

It does this on the desktop. But I thought ICS was going to offer this in the app tray, too? This does not work there.

January 21, 2012 | 11:14 PM - Posted by Cubits (not verified)

Why would you need that in the app tray? All of the apps you use should be on the home screens, at least in grouped folders. The app tray is where your barely-used apps go. I don't recall google ever promising anything about that, and my vanilla ICS equipped galaxy s is also left without that ability.

Also, after going back to back between honeycomb, gingerbread, ics, and my ipad2, the benchmarking falls a long way short of summing up the perceived performance improvements inherent within ICS. ICS, even on my ageing galaxy s is mountains faster at browsing (scrolling, but especially in zooming) than honeycomb ever was thanks to going to a panel-loading style and the much more extensive hardware acceleration. Side by side, my single core ICS phone is a match for my ipad 2, and that's a heck of a benchmark in terms of fluidity.

Playing with the prime running ICS, it is perfectly fluid between home screens where my tf-101 jerks about in HC. While ICS might not have brought that many new features to the table(t), it was clear that the goal of the update was refinement (to close the massive rift between earlier versions and iOS). In that respect, it truly hit it out of the park, regardless of what sunspider says.

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