Asus Eee Pad Transformer – a first impressions review

Asus has been around for a number of years, but are fairly unknown to the average person despite the high chances of having used a computer with an Asus part already. The company is renowned for their computer motherboards and graphics cards, in addition to making decent laptops and notebooks at a more affordable price than the likes of Sony and Apple – with a performance that’s on par too.

The Computer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this January saw a large number of tablet devices unveiled, from Acer, Motorola, Dell, Viewsonic and HP. Asus Eee Pad Transformer was amongst the plethora of large touch screened products  announced as CES, running from the then rarely-seen in action Android ‘Honeycomb’ 3.0 OS – which has been especially design for tablets and not mobile phones.

The Eee Pad tablet has a twist that no other large touch screen product posses, it’s keyboard docking station can be attached to the tablet is a secure way with three interlocking connectors. This is where the Asus device gains the moniker ‘Transformer’, with its ability to transform from a tablet computer to a laptop – providing the Eee Pad with the best of both worlds.

Asus’ Eee Pad is 271mm long, 177mm wide, 12.98mm and weighs 680grams – almost the size of an A5 pad. As a comparison, the original iPad came in at 242.8mm in length, 189.7mm in width and was 13.4mm thick whilst weighing in at 730 grams. The Eee Pad clearly beats the iPad in form factor, although the new svelte iPad 2 beats them both hands down.

The Transformer’s Corning Gorilla scratch-proof 10.1-inch 1280×800 capacitive touch-screen  is very responsive to use, with a powerful Nvidia Tegra 2 1Ghz dual-core aiding in its performance. It has the same CPU as featured in devices such as the LG Optimus 2X, Motorola Atrix and Xoom; which are also coupled with the Nvidia GeForce graphics processing unit, in order to deliver Adobe flash and video.

A CPU of that magnitude is now commonplace in tablets today, to mobile phones, with all that it needs handle with the likes of HD video – especially at 1080p. The previous generation of handsets could only cope with 720p media, with Android ‘Froyo’ 2.2 where the newer versions are  more capable, on a better than average 1GHz processor.

The Eee Pad 5megapixel camera enables 1080p video capture, whilst the front facing 1.2MP is used for the video chat and conferencing . The Transformer’s mini HDMI port can display images externally up to 720p, but One Mobile Ring has confirmed 1080 is on the cards for a future firmware update.

Asus Eee Pad docking station is extremely portable we found, along with being a lot more robust than other offerings. The keyboard also delivers a power source, besides just a physical keyboard. The docking station provides a further 6.5 hours of power to the tablet, which already has 9.5 hours and together they reach 16 hours in total.

Android ‘Honeycomb’ 3.0 is the choice of OS running on the platform, which is also appearing on the Motorola Xoom although the Eee Pad Transformer is the first to arrive, with the Moto to follow soon afterwards. The Eee Pad arrives with some added benefits; Bluetooth 2.1, SD/eMMC card reader, PC Polaris Office 3 that supports the editing of documents including PowerPoint (.ppt), Excel (.xls) and Word (.doc), unlimited on-line storage and 10-finger multi-touch display support for multiple player games.

Asus’ Eee Pad Transformer offers a fairly unique proposition in the tablet world, having the ability to be used as a standard laptop or just as a tablet – when the need calls. Having said that, the £50 cost for what some might see as just a docking station might be a little pricey for some. This is when the 16GB version already costs £379. As a tablet, the screen is very responsive, with a good OS driving the device and possibly the best one at that price point. As a laptop the Asus Transformer delivers a good experience with a battery life of 16 hours, delivering a longer life than even seen in netbooks.

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