Later this month ASUS will start shipping their second generation Transformer tablet, known as the Transformer Prime. What makes it unique is that it has a keyboard dock that makes the thing look like a bonafide laptop, and better yet the dock comes with an integrated battery that promises to give you an additional 6 hours of usage. It gets better though, the Transformer Prime is the first device to ship with NVIDIA’s new quad core Tegra 3 chip inside. While we’re in the process of securing a review unit and publishing our thoughts on the device, we thought we’d share what others are saying the tablet.
First up is Engadget, who concludes that:
“The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has had a long run as the top-tier Android tablet in the 10-inch size, but that position has now properly been usurped. The original Transformer was a very good tablet and it successor steps up another notch. The Transformer Prime is thinner and lighter than the rest and, with 32GB of storage available for a dollar under $500, it’s a better deal than most of the top-tier contenders.”
But, and this is a big but, the software still isn’t perfect:
“We were sorry to still see some occasional stutters and hiccups from time to time, instances where the device would hesitate for just a half-second or so before responding. It’s the kind of thing we’ve seen on just about every Android device to date and it’s a bit of a shame that even four whopping cores running at 1.3GHz can’t do away with them.”
Next there’s The Verge, a hot new tech site started by a bunch of Endgadget defectors:
“The Prime is an incredible piece of hardware. It has a marvelous display, form factor, the best camera on any tablet yet, and it’s new quad-core internal organ puts more graphics and gaming power in your hands than you’ll know what to do with (quite literally in fact, until the games start appearing). And then there’s also the added keyboard dock that adds over 10 hours of battery life and really does transform the tablet into a highly-usable laptop.
But a true laptop replacement isn’t about raw power; it’s about the productivity that power enables, and Honeycomb just isn’t up to the task. The operating system hasn’t been optimized for that ridiculous processor or that beautiful display, the app selection remains pitiable at best, and it’s just not that intuitive to use. ASUS may have produced a brilliant piece of engineering at a price that’s competitive with the iPad, but Android hasn’t yet matched iOS when it comes to unlocking all that potential.”
So what do they say about whether or not you should buy it?
“Companies like Twitter, The New York Times, Flipboard, and Facebook, which make some of the most popular iPad apps haven’t released Android tablet apps yet. Ice Cream Sandwich alone cannot fix the Android tablet problem. I continue to recommend the iPad over Android tablets to family and friends because I know they won’t go searching for certain apps and come up empty-handed or be forced to apps originally designed for phones on a larger screen.”
And finally there’s AnandTech, which may not be the leader in terms of following the daily news cycle, but that’s OK, because their in-depth reviews and feature articles are unmatched by anyone else on the web. Their 6,100+ word piece on the Prime has a lot of key quotes, here are a few of them:
“The Prime is everything the original Eee Pad Transformer was missing. It’s thinner than an iPad 2 or Galaxy Tab and built out of aluminum and glass. Other than minor details like the buttons and connectors, your hands never touch plastic when using the Transformer Prime. Even those plastic buttons look and feel great. The tablet is just beautiful.”
“What’s one of the biggest risks when you give reviewers only 39 hours to review a product? If something is wrong with the review sample, there’s hardly any time to fix it. This time I drew the short straw and my Transformer Prime review sample arrived with highly questionable WiFi performance. Both range and performance were impacted by whatever plagued my sample.”
“Despite having many cores at its disposal, NVIDIA appears to have erred on the side of caution when it comes to power consumption. While I often saw the third and fourth cores fire up when browsing the web or just using the tablet, NVIDIA did a good job of powering them down when their help wasn’t needed. Furthermore, NVIDIA also seems to prefer running more cores at lower voltage/frequency settings than fewer cores at a higher point in the v/f curve. This makes sense given the non-linear relationship between voltage and power.”
“From a die area perspective I’m not entirely sure having four (technically, five) A9 cores is the best way to deliver high performance, but without a new microprocessor architecture it’s surely more efficient than just ratcheting up clock speed.”
“Performance [of the GPU] is still not quite up to par with the iPad 2.”
“The Prime reaches price parity with the iPad 2, and as a result it must meet a higher standard. ASUS doesn’t disappoint – the Eee Pad Transformer Prime has the best display I’ve seen on a tablet to date.”
“Scrolling is rarely as smooth as I’d like it to be via the dock’s trackpad. Many times the gesture just won’t register on the trackpad or the trackpad will detect my two fingers but it won’t scroll. With the screen inches away I found myself preferring to use the touchscreen for scrolling and stuck to using the dock for typing.”
“Assuming the WiFi and minor dock issue I encountered aren’t widespread (ASUS insists they aren’t), I am comfortable calling the Eee Pad Transformer Prime the absolute best Android tablet on the market today.”
Despite AnandTech saying that ASUS insits that his review unit was just a bad sample, the folks at C|Net had the exact same problem. It was so bad that they simply refused to review the Prime, and instead posted a hands-on:
“The reason you’re reading a hands-on and not a full review is because of the performance issues we experienced with the Prime, particularly its webpage loading speed. We didn’t think it fair to post a performance rating on what could be a faulty unit. The webpage loading was painfully slow compared to both the iPad 2 and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 in both real-world tests and using Speedtest.net. We also experienced download speeds of equal quality when attempting to get apps from the Android Market. We used a closed Wi-Fi network to test these speeds.”
“We spoke with both ASUS and NVIDIA representatives and they were unable to replicate our performance issues.”
To end this review roundup we’d like to just point out a statistic from The NPD Group:
“U.S. tablet sales, excluding iPad sales, soared to more than 1.2 million units sold from January through October and brought in $415 million in revenue at retail.
1.2 million divided by 10 months = 120,000 tablets that aren’t iPads were sold per month during the first 10 months of this year in the United States. During Apple’s last fiscal quarter, which roughly covers July through September, they sold 11.12 million iPads; that’s over 3.7 million per month during one quarter.
Now yes, comparing Apple’s international sales figures versus NPD’s numbers for America may seem a bit unfair, but The Verge puts it nicely:
“I continue to recommend the iPad over Android tablets to family and friends.”
Something tells us we’ll come to the same conclusion.