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Asus Transformer Prime: The two-in-one device

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Asus Transformer Prime: The two-in-one device


Asus's Transformer Prime is a tablet that thinks it's a PC that runs a tablet OS that aims to do the things that a laptop lets you do on hardware that's almost notebooklike with a processor that's possibly faster than what you have on your desktop, but one that is still meant for slates.

Comprendez?

Simply put: If you're looking for a single gadget that lets you swipe when you want and speed-type when you need to, then this device could be it. The operative phrase being 'could be'. So, can Transformer Prime do a double duty as a laptop and a tablet? We find out.

Prime as a tablet
Make no mistake: The Prime, which runs on Android 4.0-aka Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS)-is primarily a tablet. And its brushed aluminium 'metallic spun' design, with buttons and ports that are smartly integrated into its curved sides, makes it a very good-looking one at that.

It sports a 10.1-inch capacitive screen protected by Gorilla glass. Its Super IPS+ display is very bright - and this helps during outdoor use. Its colours, though not as punchy as what is found on Super AMOLED screens, are pleasing to the eyes. And as is typical of IPS panels, the viewing angle on this slate is fantastic.

As for its camera, the 8MP rear shooter on the Prime is capable of detailed photos. And this makes Prime the tablet with the best camera in the Indian market at the moment. Videos, which can be shot in 1080P (full HD) resolution, are not as sharp, but are better than what has been seen in other tablets so far.

On the software front, the device is a mixed bag. When compared to other Android tablets, most of which run Honeycomb, its performance is superb: Scrolling is smooth, apps open in a jiffy, and there is virtually no stutter or sluggishness in the user interface.

ICS retains all the goodies for which Android is famous. The web browser, with support for tabbed browsing and modern web standards, is very good. Multitasking has been improved and, not surprisingly, the support for various Google services like Gmail is top-notch.

Given its Tegra 3 processor, the tablet makes for a good video player. In our tests, it handled full HD movies in formats such as MKV, AVI and MP4 with ease.

The tablet, however, lacks quality third-party utilities. Android may have lakhs of apps but the ones that can utilize the large screen and better hardware on this slate are few. Also, when compared to the quality of offerings for the iPad, the app experience on Android still has room for improvement.

What is noticeably lacking on the Prime, however, is 3G connectivity; a factor that limits its usefulness as an anywhere-computing device.

Prime as a laptop
As Asus will tell you, the real appeal of Prime is in its keyboard dock. Just like the tablet, the dock is built with brushed aluminum and feels solid.

The key with Prime is that unlike what others tablet makers sell, Asus's dock is not just a keyboard. It also has a battery in it, which recharges the tablet when Prime is plugged into it. The dock also has a slot for USB devices, including pendrives, and a SD card reader. If a user wants, a mouse can be connected to the device through USB port.

Asus claims Prime can be transformed into a laptop. But we found the reality is more nuanced. Prime The laptop, just like Prime the tablet, is a mixed bag.

Asus has spent lots of time on the dock. There are no function keys like F1 and F5 - Android doesn't need them. But in their place Asus has put keys that allow a user to control settings like brightness, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and lockscreen etc. There is even a key that mimics the function of the 'back' button on Android.

The keys are better than what cheap laptops and netbooks have. Despite the thin profile of the dock, they have some degree of feedback. This helps in accurate typing. Touchpad, however, is average.

It works well and Asus has even enabled two-finger swiping to mimic touchscreen experience, but we would have preferred one with a smoother surface. Also, we felt that there was a hint of lag in cursor movement when we used touchpad. The same cursor responded well when controlled with a mouse.

After using it for over a week, we felt Prime, with its dock, is better than a netbook. It has a better build quality, better display and the goodness of touchscreen, which is easier to use while web browsing instead of relying on trackpad.

But it is not as good as a laptop. Though that's understandable. Android is primarily a smartphone and tablet OS. It not only lacks the flexibility of a full-blown PC operating software but also the rich apps that are available on computers and laptops.

Sum of it all
Seen separately, Prime The tablet and Prime The Laptop are fine devices. But not exceptional. iPad is a better tablet. And a cheap laptop will work better as a PC.

But when seen in its entirety, Prime is a product with enough merit in it to stand out in the crowded tablet market. Anyone who is looking to get something that is better than a tablet and better than a netbook, will find Prime - and the prospect of carrying just one device instead of two - very appealing. It's unique. It's fun to use. Besides, it has a stellar battery life of around 15 hours when used with the keyboard dock (10 hours without) on web browing, push email, social networking and video.

At the same time, we can't help but feel Prime could have been a more compelling proposition. Instead of Rs 49,999 Asus could have been a little more aggressive on the pricing. And of course, there is the curious case of the missing 3G, which limits the usability of the tablet on the go.

Vital specs
Processor: 1.3 Ghz Quad-Core Tegra 3, Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich) 8MP primary camera, LED flash, 1.2MP front-facing camera, 1GB RAM, 10.1-inch Super IPS+ screen (1280x800), 263x180.8x8.3mm, 586 grams (1.1Kg with dock), Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1, Mini HDMI, 3.5mm headphone jack, micro SD card port; also 1 USB port and card reader in the dock


Source: TOI
 
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