asus-eeepad-transformer

The Transformer is a stunningly lovely device!

I don’t know what my readers really feel about my writings, but I’m really glad that there is huge number of people who really appreciate my work here. I have been receiving plenty e-mails, buzzes and comments looking forward to read the review on the Transformer. To all you “ASUSthiasts” out there, once again, I’m here to review on of the most legendary products of ASUS – which has already claimed the best selling tablet in US e-tailers including Amazon.com and BestBuy apart from reaping 5-stars award winner by Stuff Magazine in UK – The ASUS eeePad Transformer. Then again, this will be an unbiased review like what I have done for the previous devices already.

The “Transformer”

We are talking about a device that can be transformed from a tablet into a notebook and vice versa by just docking it on a full-featured QWERTY Keyboard Docking Station (KDC – sold separately). The device itself is monstrous enough without the KDC, and once it is docked, it delivers a totally new experience. During lengthy reading hours or gaming time, you can use it as a tablet and when you have plenty of emails to respond – where typing is a concern, dock it and suddenly the environment becomes much more productive.

The External Hardware

The ASUS eeePad Transformer has a scratch proof cover

When I had my first look of the Transformer, I was immediately reminded of my Bronze HTC Hero. The finishing of the hardware signifies the quality that ASUS has been delivering in their computers and laptops – stunning. But looks are not just what the Transformer has. The flowery mesh at back does not leave any fingerprints unlike the Motorola Xoom and apart from that, it is scratchproof too. It feels rigid – somewhere in the middle of business-ready and adventurous at the same time. The tablet itself has a power button, volume buttons, HDMI port, external MicroSD slot, 3.5mm headphone jack, and external stereo speakers. At the back is a 5-MPx camera with autofocus and 720p video recording and the front has an IPS LCD screen, a 1.2-MPx front facing camera and ambient light sensor. The Pad weights at 680g and has a dimension of 171 x 276.8 x 12.98mm. I can’t make this sound so perfect, so I had to come out with a negative point. While most of the hardware is scratch-proof, the metallic sides are still prone to scratches and dents. In fact, the engineering unit that I received, had slight blemishes on the metallic part which made me wonder why did ASUS left the edges scratchable. All in all, the hardware is excellent and I will not shy to give it a score of (8.8/10)

The Keyboard Docking Station (KDS)

Since the KDS is much more of an “accessory” and has to be purchased separately, I was supposed to put its section at the end of the review. However, the dock just seems so important that without it, I would assume it like buying a convertible car that doesn’t retract its roof – pointless, but it will get the things done nevertheless. In fact, the name itself is Transformer for the fact that it can be transformed between a tablet and a laptop. If you are buying just the tablet, you are only buying a form without the trans.

The first row of the keyboard keys are merely shortcuts. I thought for a long time why did these keys had to be here at all. After using the device for a few days, I finally realized that when I was using the Transformer with the KDS, the screen had lesser fingerprints because literally EVERYTHING can be done on the keyboard without touching the screen at all. I’m serious. You might be thinking about the scrolling? Worry not, the touchpad has multi-touch feature which allows you to scroll using both fingers – flawlessly. I tried using the device for 2 hours without touching the screen at all and I succeeded. It also has four-ways arrow keys with PgUp, PgDn, Home and End functions. If there is something that you will miss on this keyboard, it might be the Function keys (F1 – F12). I’m not sure about you guys, but since I use a MacOSX as my work and personal laptop, those keys are rare sight to me. To me, the KDS completed the transformer and since the rivals do not have it, I will not give it any rating. If you are going to buy the Transformer, buy the KDS as well. Seriously!

The Display

ASUS eeePad Transformer features a 178° viewing angle on its IPS display

This is the part that I’m most excited to talk about. Its gotta be the reason why I ditched the Motorola Xoom (I’ll explain the story at the end of the review). When I got my hands on the Garmin-Asus A10, I was not really happy with the screen. The A50 changed things a bit by improving the screen, but I was still not happy enough with it. I was really sceptical about the screen of this device especially since I had seen the screen of the Motorola Xoom earlier on. When I turned on the device, I got the shock of my life. The IPS (In-Plane Switching) technology is what I would call the breakthrough of LCD market and THE technology of touchscreens. It delivers a stunning 178° viewing angle. Note that 180° is practically impossible because you would be lying on the same level as the panel and will not even see the screen. This means, the Transformer’s 10.1″ screen delivers a MAXIMUM viewing angle possibilities. But that’s just the beginning. The display panel is scratch-proof too and I personally tried scratching it with a pen – only to be frustrated (pun intended). The colors are extremely vivid and just stunning – even under the sun. I read a whole The Star’s subscription of 223 pages under the sun, by the pool without any problems. The display has a full HD resolution of 1280×800 which was plugged to the cinema’s display to wow us during the launch. The 10 fingers multi-touch means you can finally start typing faster on the touchscreen.  The display is just the reason to fall in love with the device and honestly, seeing is believing. I give it a score of (9.5/10).

Storage

Here is one reason why I reviewed the KDS upfront. It unlocks one very huge feature on the Transformer – the USB gateway. This means, storage is no longer an issue! The device boasts a built-in flash ROM of 16GB and a MicroSD slot which was successfully tested with a 16GB SD card (I believe it can support 32GB too of course). With the USB, you can connect your external hard disk drives and choose the storage of your choice. Still need a reason for not buying an iPad? Lol! Still not enough? Fine! ASUS threw in unlimited online cloud storage for you to store your files and access them from anywhere. Now you have so much space, even your typical laptop doesn’t deliver this much.

Performance

The Transformer comes with a Cortex-A9 nVidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor clocked at 1GHz. I would love to venture more on the processor, but since this is an engineering unit and I have to return it soon, I did not root it. Of course, the rooting part will be following soon when I get my own device this week :). The Transformer also carries a 1GB LPDDR2 RAM which is powerful enough to perform all the multi-tasking that you need on this device. This device packs enough juice to deliver non-stop action and fun and it deserves a score of (7.9/10).

Camera

The Transformer has dual cameras. The rear camera bears a 5-Megapixels hardware while the front camera has 1.2-Megapixels. Sadly, there is no flash for the rear camera. To be honest, the camera is not something to be looked forward to. I have mobile gadgets that take better pictures, but nevertheless, you never know when you have to capture that special moment, so its not bad to have it on the device. Besides, the front-end camera is a lot better than other front-facing cameras that I have seen so far. I know I will be using that more than the one in the rear so its fine for me. Then again, my judgement on the camera is not to be taken seriously because this is an engineering unit. If ASUS drops the source code to github (which the chances are VERY slim since Honeycomb is closed source), its definite that the hackers will soon be fiddling with the code to get the best result from the camera. 720p video recording is yummy to have on a big screen too. Although it looks awkward recording a video using a tablet, but hey, it might just turn into a trend. For now, the camera gets a score of (5.2/10).

Navigation

I’m really looking forward to get my hands on my own device soon so I can root it and install Brut Maps on it to test the GPS and navigation. I really dislike Google for the fact that they lock the navigation for a huge number of countries. So far, I have tested the GPS with geo-tagging and Maps. It works like a charm. There were minor glitches for example, the weather widget on the homescreen wouldn’t update the location but then again, this is an engineering unit and things are definitely expected to be better on the actual devices soon. As much as I want to write about the navigation, I really don’t have much to test until I have my own rooted device. We can save this for our conversation in the future most probably. I can’t give a valid score for this yet.

User Interface

The Transformer that we Malaysians will receive is pre-loaded with Android Honeycomb 3.0. Yes, it will get the 3.1 update soon and the engineers have started working on it. No date has been published, but if I have something worth sharing, I will definitely do so. If you have played with the mobile Android OS (Cupcake/Donut/Eclair/Froyo/Gingerbread), you will still find Honeycomb in a totally new experience. At first, the interface looks a bit difficult if you are conditioned to the previous OSes, but after sometime, it starts to feel very comfortable indeed. In fact, after using the Transformer for a few days now, I feel like I can perform tasks faster on the Honeycomb than the Gingerbread of my Nexus One. There are icons that need some proper labelling which at the end of the day, you will end up guessing and doing trial and errors – especially on the GMail application. There was one thing that captured my attention though. The keyboard has a “swype-like” feature by default. If you have used swype before, you will be glad to find this feature included. Although the accuracy is not as perfect as the Swype (95% I would say), it is pretty cool to have – especially since we have the KDS anyway to speed things up. Overall the user interface is neat and structured, giving it a comfortable score of (8.0/10).

Extras

3.5mm headphones jack, HDMI, microSD, right speaker, SD card and USB port

The Transformer comes with DLNA (Digital Living Network Alliance) which enables you to share content of your Transformer across other devices. This makes media management very flexible especially when you are particular about the files that reside on your device. The Transformer also has a “MyCloud” application which has three sub-applications within – MyContent, MyDesktop and @Vibe. MyContent allows you to manage the contents on ASUS’ Cloud storage which comes with 1 year of unlimited storage. MyDesktop allows you to control your devices remotely. Think of “TeamViewer” or “VNC” if you must. Its kinda cool to see your Transformer taking control over your home computer – useful when you have a powerful media setup and like to enjoy it from the couch without touching the peripheral devices ;). Finally, @Vibe includes a radio station and music player for the audio lovers. For this, the Transformer deserves a score of (8.5/10)

The Verdict?

So, I had my hands on the Motorola Xoom before I did on the Transformer. I was pretty impressed with it. I knew I was going to be getting the Transformer too. I was thinking of purchasing the Motorola Xoom for myself and the Transformer for my wife. After getting my hands on the Transformer, I changed my mind. My wife is taking the Xoom and I’m keeping the Transformer. Hey, I do love my wife. She’s getting the more expensive deal so its all fair :D. Why I loved the Transformer? First, scratchproof and tough built hardware. Second, super awesome IPS display. Third, its an ASUS dude! I’ve been an ASUSthiast long before Android even existed while Motorola Xoom will be the first hardware I ever buy from Motorola. In other words, I personally loved the device so much that I’d rather give the more expensive gadget to my wife although she will not be fully utilizing it.

Nothing is perfect

Left Speaker, Volume controls, Power Button, Power Slot, USB port

Like always, this becomes the most important part of my reviews. What are the facts that pull down the fame? First of all, the KDS has a bulky docking part which lifts the gadget a bit from the back. This folding latch is pretty tight too and sometimes Im scared that I might bend the metal instead. Also, the metal portion of the hardware is not scratchproof. Watch out for that too. On the KDS, the USB ports have nice dust protectors but they didn’t provide the protectors for the HDMI port, headphone socket, SD and MicroSD slots. Not to mention the market apps that are not downloadable but we blame Google for that rather than the Transformer hardware. Those are the only “imprefections” that I was able to identify really.

Overall ASUS eeePad Transformer Satisfaction Score = 9.2/10

Shahz