I have had the Asus Transformer Prime for a few weeks now. I’ve bought some accessories for it, I’ve plugged in my xbox controller to it, I’ve downloaded a load of tablet specific apps and I think now is an ideal time to review the thing. The Prime is such an amazing product I will probably miss something in the review. So if I do leave a comment and I’ll try and reply with details.
The Prime is gorgeous. There I said it, I will even go so far to say that I love the metallic purple colour of the metal, at first I was like “crumbs it’s purple” now I really like the colour. It is a really well put together device. The tablet and the dock are made of the same material and it really feels like a premium product. It definitely feels like it’s worth £500.
With the Prime you get a good selection of slots, connectors and buttons. You get a micro sdhc slot, a full size sd slot, a full size usb slot, micro hdmi connector, headphone socket, 2 charging points, volume button and a power button. As I mentioned in the initial impressions the micro sd slot is a little shallow meaning that a card would stick out slightly. Another slight niggle with the Prime is when you have it in netbook mode, getting to the power button is a little difficult. I guess I will get used to it though.
The keyboard is one of the main things that draw people to the Transformer range and this keyboard is great, it is a six row keyboard which includes a separate row for numbers and another row for media controls, brightness, wifi, screenshots, volume etc. The keyboard certainly makes typing anything out a pleasure. Even responding to an email is much quicker on the keyboard. I even search through the Android Market using the keyboard on the Prime. I just prefer it to onscreen keyboards, especially on a tablet where the onscreen keyboard is huge and you have to stretch your fingers across the screen. The keyboard dock is nice and easy to attach and detach, the screen feels solidly in place whilst docked. The other good thing about they keyboard dock is that it has a battery in it. This extra battery keeps the main tablet topped up with charge. It does it quite strangely though, it will keep charging the tablet until it has no more charge left and then it takes charge from the tablet to power the keyboard. You can then charge either the keyboard on its own, the tablet on its own or both together. It certainly takes a bit of getting used to. I quite often find that I have no power left in the dock yet plenty in the tablet.
The mouse trackpad on the Prime is an interesting addition. It’s handy for quickly selecting items on screen or repositioning the cursor to type something. Coming from using a laptop most days I keep trying to scroll with the trackpad which unfortunately doesn’t work. A quick tap does act as a left click though, which is nice. It certainly makes using productivity apps like Google documents or Polaris easier.
Lastly for hardware I should mention the screen. The Super IPS+ display is great. Colour reproduction is great. Viewing angles are great. Touch response is great. Visibility outside is great (with the IPS+ mode turned on). The screen really does help the Prime with its premium feel. Once you have cleaned all of the finger print off anyway.
Asus include quite a bit of software with the prime you get app backup, app locker, file manager, glowball, mycloud, mylibrary, mynet, polaris office, press reader, super note and webstorage. So the Prime is pretty capable without having to install a load of apps. With most of these apps though I am already invested in their equivalents, i.e. Dropbox or Sugarsync for storage or Kindle for books. Still it is nice to have some decent apps to fall back on. Most interestingly they include mycloud which needs a desktop component on your pc, but then it allows you to sync your device and also to remote desktop into the pc as well. Yes there are going to be other apps available to do this. But having it built in ready to go out of the box is great.
The other thing about the Asus software is that they have included a good selection of widgets for the weather, the date, the batteries, your book, unread emails plus all of the Ice Cream Sandwich ones. So out of the box you really are set up.
The Prime shipped with Honeycomb which was nice but as soon as I connected to wifi it quickly updated to Ice Cream Sandwich. In the main Ice Cream Sandwich seems to make the whole tablet experience more coordinated, but it does bring its own problems. Samsung Galaxy Nexus owners have reported random reboots on their devices. The Ice Cream Sandwich update for the Prime brings the same “feature” to the Prime. Asus have been working with lots of people over at XDA Developers and are apparently going to release a fix soon. Asus UK tweeted last week that an update to fix this had started to roll out. I still haven’t had this update. But Asus certainly don’t sit around and hope problems go away, they seem to have a fairly decent team working on making the Transformer Prime as bug free as possible. This is really my only gripe with the Prime. People complained about wifi being poor, mines good. People complained about gps, it’s a tablet for god sake why do you need gps, unless you going to use it as a damn expensive huge sat nav.
Android really does need developers to catch up. They need to start making apps that really take advantage of the extra space on a tablet. Apps like Plume, Pulse, File Manager Pro, Expedia, Amazin Kindle, Sky+, Movies, BBC News or WordPress are prime examples of apps that really make it a pleasure to use a tablet.
Apps like Facebook, Google+, Tunein Radio, Read it later, Tweetdeck, Lovefilm or speedtest are some apps that are great on a phone but load them up on a tablet and bham stretched out graphics, huge empty spaces, incorrect orientation, not happy. Ice Cream Sandwich does it’s best by expanding some apps to full screen, which is helpful but not ideal.
When the Prime was first announced people were astounded by the sample photos that appeared. I just don’t get tablet photography. I wouldn’t take my Prime out for a walk to take photos, I would take a normal camera or my phone maybe. But I can’t speak for everyone. The rear camera is a 8 million pixel with a f2.4 aperture which does certainly take some good photos. So guess what I did? I took my Prime out for a walk and took some photos of slightly snowy Nottingham. I’ve took each photo twice. Once with the Prime and then once with a Samsung Galaxy S2 so you can compare the quality.
So there you go. In my opinion from the few shots I took the Galaxy S2 takes nicer photos. The colours on the Galaxy were just a bit more vibrant. The camera on the Prime is good just not astounding.
The Prime also take nice panorama shots. Here is one I took on the riverside. Just click it for a bigger version.
The video recorder on the Prime is capable of taking 1080p video as well. So below is a sample of the video quality.
Another thing people complained about with the Prime is it only had one speaker. Yes it has one speaker but it is surprisingly good. Using headphones the quality of the sound is amazing, there is even a built in graphic equalizer to tweak the levels if you want. Watching videos is great. It easily handled some dvd rips and a 720p film I played on it. YouTube playback was good as well. It handles whatever you can throw at it really. Having a hdmi out on the tablet as well really lets you share pictures, music or film on your tv. It saves lots of time transferring media over to a laptop or something.
The Prime really comes to life when you start to play games on it. It feels like the almost designed it to be a mobile games console with a keyboard for good measure. The full size usb slot on the keyboard dock means you can plug in a Xbox usb control pad and play compatible games such as Grand Theft Auto. OnLive was also really good on the Prime, especially with the control pad plugged in, it meant I could play games that were meant for the OnLive console on my Prime. The Tegra 3 chip really does help with games like Shine Runner, Samurai 2, Sprinkle, Riptide, Soulcraft or ShadowGun as the developers have added little extra bits to really take advantage of the new chips capabilities. Again having hdmi out lets you play games on the big screen, so your friends or family can watch how the game is going.
Questions from the readers
In our initial impressions post reader “Andreweheath” asked “What is the printer support like”.
There is no printer support built in to Android. But Google have come up a great service called Google Cloud Print. Which all depends on your printer as to how complicated it is. My printer was not a compatible one so I installed Cloud Print from the Market and I could then print. But you need to have your pc turned on and Google Cloud Print set up. If you have a compatible printer then you can print without the pc being on.
The other question was from “Pedro T Henriques” who asked “Any comments on the battery performance, with and without the keyboard?” and my answer is that using the keyboard dock most of the time keeps the tablet charged up for a good while. I have to charge the Prime dock every few days and the tablet only once a week. That is light use most days. Having the dock plugged in at most times really helps keep the Prime alive. Sorry it’s not more scientific.
The Asus Transformer Prime is really an amazing device.
Yes the initial rush to pre-order was unheard of in the Android world and Asus dealt with terribly. Many suppliers are still struggling to get hold of them.
What on earth Asus were thinking announcing the Prime HD at CES I don’t know. No doubt if it does come out in the summer there will be a lot of discounted Transformer Primes floating around.
To give them their due, Asus have handled the bugs with Prime admirably. We reported the other day about the fix for reboots (I still haven’t had it) and this will be about the third update they have released. This is different to some manufacturers who release a product full of bugs and barely ever update it.
One thing that would certainly make the Prime better would be a 3g model. Asus have said they have no plans to release a 3g model. It would really make the Prime a truly mobile power house. You could do anything out and about that you wanted. I guess instead you can just tether wirelessy, which I tried and it worked flawlessly.
So if you want a great tablet to use for every possible imaginable task then this is for you. Or if you want to spend enough money to get an iPad yet you really don’t want an iPad get one of these. It really has amazing potential, the rest is really just up to you.