Asus’ original Transformer was Stuff’s Product of the Year 2011, and the new Prime is all that and more. With a quad-core Tegra 3 processor inside, it’s the fastest tablet ever.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: premium feel
The Prime is a truly gorgeous piece of kit. In pure tablet form it’s thinner and better built than any other Android out there, with a smart metal back adding to the premium feel. The crowning glory, though, is the stunning 1280x800 screen: clear, bright and entirely free from viewing-angle black spots.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: keyboard
Unlike its predecessor, the Prime is only available in a bundle with the keyboard dock. In our book, that’s a good thing: its second battery will give you an extra 6hrs of juice, its USB port will welcome input from mice and Xbox or PS3 controllers and with the two sections hinged neatly together you’ve got a netbook killer.
Our one complaint about the keyboard is that the keys have less depth than on the original – typing could and should be a more tactile experience. Still, it provides a handy, accurate input option and the trackpad comes with its own onscreen pointer. It’s a little flighty, but you soon get used to it.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: cameras
You’ll look a bit daft using a tablet as a camera, but the 8MP lens on the back of the Prime is capable of taking reasonable snaps. True, they’re a bit soft and noisy next to those you’ll get with the best smartphones, but colours are good and the video autofocus works effectively. A 1.2MP front cam allows for Skype calls.
Asus has put a lot of effort into developing the sound quality of the Prime, and the machined holes on the chassis hide decent speakers with large resonance chambers. You’re still going to want to use headphones for listening to music, but effects are clear enough for a bit of gaming or movie watching.
Transformer Prime: no Icecream Sandwich
Considering how gorgeous and next-gen the Prime is, it’s a shame it doesn’t come with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich pre-installed. Still, an upgrade is promised on a yet-to-be-decided date, and Asus has avoided clogging the OS with unneccesary bloatware of its own.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: quad core power
With no other quad-core tablets out there, few games in the Android Market are built to show off the Prime’s extra processing muscle. Fire up one of the 3D game demos from Tegra Zone, though, and the tablet’s console-worrying potential becomes clear. OK, so the demos aren’t much fun in themselves, but once the big software boys get on board it’ll be a different matter.
The Tegra chip doesn’t come into play much when web browsing, but the Prime is a top-notch multi-tasker. There’s nary a moment’s pause as you flick betwen the umpteen apps you have open, and every swipe and prod is met with a smooth, purposeful response.
Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime: HD video
Many tablets and netbooks find chewing through 1080p video something of a struggle, dropping frames and jerking around. The Prime handles this highest of resolutions with ease, making its HDMI output much more than just a gimmick.
But the best thing about the Prime is its ability to work just as well as a netbook when you want it to. Type real words into real documents in real apps, use a real mouse if you want, and plug in SD cards and USB sticks to transfer movies, photos and music. If you want a pure tablet experience the iPad 2 is still your best bet, but for the most complete Android environment this is a clear winner. Even without Ice Cream Sandwich.