30
Nov
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Around midday yesterday, I received my review kit for the Transformer Prime, complete with dock, wireless gamepad, and HDMI cable - meaning I'm well equipped to take a deep dive into the hottest new tablet to hit stores. But to be completely honest, an in-depth review on a product this brand-spanking-new requires more hands-on time than can be had in two days. The full review will be up on Friday, but in the interim, enjoy the initial impressions and gadget porn below.

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First up, let's run over the specs, largely from our official announcement post:

  • 10.1-inch SuperIPS + display with Gorilla Glass
  • 1.3GHz quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 Processor with 12-core GPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 32GB or 64GB internal storage with microSD card slot
  • microHDMI port
  • 8MP F2.4 rear shooter with continuous flash for video recording, 1.2MP front camera (1080p camcorder!)
  • 8.33mm thin
  • 586g (1.29 lbs.)
  • 12 hour battery life playing 720p video, 18 hours with keyboard dock
  • Metallic spun finish
  • Two available colors: Amethyst Gray and Champagne Gold (show below, respectively)
  • Android 3.2.1 - will be updated to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) as soon as possible after release
  • $499 for 32GB model, $599 for 64GB, and $149 for the dock
  • North American availability is expected to begin the week of 12/19 - this is straight from Asus's mouth in the Prime details that were sent to us (and again confirmed a few hours ago), contrary to the other "official" date of December 8 that we heard earlier today. That said, they're basically shipping them out as fast as they can make them, and some very limited supplies may begin to trickle out earlier than that. 

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Asus further steps things up with other goodies, perhaps chief of which is variable power settings that function much the same as those on a laptop. "Normal" mode is effectively high performance, with everything capable of running at full speed as needed. "Balanced" caps the CPU at 1.2GHz, and "Powersaver" mode sets the ceiling at 1GHz for single/dual-core modes, 700MHz when three cores are being used, and 600MHz when all four main cores are active. I'd love to tell you it works like a charm, but the hell if I've had even the slightest urge to crank things down from "Normal." I will at some point in the next day or so, for science!

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Enough about the tech inside - let's move on to the outside. All class here, as expected: the entire package is incredibly attractive thanks to the slim dimensions, relatively light weight, and spun aluminum design. The color - in my case, amethyst gray - is certainly appealing (definitely more so than the brown used for the original Transformer), though in some lighting it takes on a strong purple tint that some people may not enjoy. Regardless, I think the design and color are both stunning.

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But we've seen thin, light, beautiful tablets before (although in my opinion, the Prime is the best yet) - what many of you are really here for is the performance. After all, this is the first tablet to come packing four cores (or five, if you count the companion core) via the highly-anticipated Tegra 3 processor. I've run the Prime through real-world use cases (movies, games, browsing, email, and so on), and I have to admit that I'm absolutely amazed. I had high expectations going in, and they've all been surpassed - no small feat.

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For example, browsing is fantastic whether you have plugins enabled or not. Truth be told, I don't know that I have ever used a device with such smooth browsing. Another example is gaming - as expected, games are absolutely stunning. Glowball stands out the most graphically, though Da Vinci, Riptide GP, and Shadowgun are both plenty impressive.

Luckily, it seems all that extra power doesn't take a toll on battery life; in my use, the battery seems likely to outlast my TF101 (original Transformer), and Asus's real-world testing scenarios seem to reinforce that:

Battery Life with Docking Station – Streaming video from SD Card

System Setup –  Test One

ASUS Transformer TF201

ROM – US 8.8.3.23

Pad + Docking Station

1080P video playback (six files in the playlist, replay the playlist located on the SD card until the unit shutdowns)

MX Video Player

WiFi on

log in to Gmail (send an email every 15 minutes to the test account)

log in to Browser (open three tabs, Asus Home Page, MSN and CNN)

log in to You Tube

Open Polaris Office Document

Open SuperNote

Open Angry Birds

Panel set to 50%, always on

Balanced Performance

Volume  level  - 33%

Battery Life – 10 hours and 39 minutes (Pad Only Results)

Battery Life – 16 hours and 18 minutes (Pad + Docking Station)

 

Battery Life with Docking Station – Streaming video via WiFi

System Setup –  Test Two

ASUS Transformer TF201

ROM – US 8.8.3.23

Pad + Docking Station

1080P video playback (stream a 1080P video via WiFi until the unit shutdowns)

MyNet via home media server

WiFi on

log in to Gmail (send an email every 15 minutes to the test account)

log in to Browser (open three tabs, Asus Home Page, MSN and CNN)

log in to You Tube

Open Polaris Office Document

Open SuperNote

Open Angry Birds

Panel set to 50%, always on

Balanced Performance

Volume  level  - 33%

Battery Life – 10 hours and 2 minutes (Pad Only Results)

Battery Life – 15 hours and 27 minutes (Pad + Docking Station)

Reported battery life claims of up to 12 hours for the Pad and 18 hours for the Pad/Docking station are achieved playing back a 720P video clip off the SD card in airplane mode, power saving mode, and video set at 60nits.  Actually, those numbers were easily exceeded with the retail units.

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The dock, too, is amazing - it's incredibly thin and light, especially in comparison to the original TF101 dock. It feels better, too - the keys have an almost rubberized texture to them now that's quite pleasing.

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It's still too early for many other details, but I'll leave you with a tl;dr: thus far, the Transformer Prime seems to be the best tablet I've ever used in virtually every regard.

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Feel free to ask questions in the comments below - assuming they're valid/reasonable/answerable, I'll be following pretty closely and will address them as possible. And once again, be sure to check back on Friday for the full review!

Aaron Gingrich
Aaron is a geek who has always had a passion for technology. When not working or writing, he can be found spending time with his family, playing a game, or watching a movie.

  • garyngkt

    Just wondering is the IPS+ display a big difference compared to current TF101?.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Definitely a lot brighter. I'd much rather have the 201 in outdoor or bright situations than the 101.

  • John

    Is the Prime compatible with the first gen keyboard? I know dimensions are different but my question is, does it fit?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Unfortunately, no. Or at least, they say they aren't compatible in the marketing materials, and I'm unwilling to possibly break either the review unit or my own dock in trying to force it.

    • Tyler C

      It is not compatible with the first keyboard.

  • exxpired

    How much heat did you notice when testing the battery life with all the stuff running?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      The battery test in block quotes is from Asus's testing, not my own. I have yet to do my own rundown tests (I'm hoping to do them tomorrow and/or Friday). However, even after using for 1-2 hours (maybe 50% of which was gaming), it didn't feel uncomfortably hot. No discomfort having it rest in my lap during that time.

  • thedexter

    I'm using a Galaxy Tab 10.1. The screen is very good. Can you please compare it with the Transformer Prime? Does IPs display (plus the keyboard dock) worth the switch?

    Thanks, I'll be waiting for the long review!

    • Aaron Gingrich

      I don't have a 10.1 on-hand, but I did just send back the 8.9 review unit last week. I'd say they're fairly comparable, though my off-the-cuff (and totally unscientific) reaction is to say the TP is brighter, while the 8.9 is perhaps more saturated, which is typical of Samsung.

  • Joshua

    Any change to the keyboard layout? I'd be pretty happy if they dropped the left Fn key for a recent apps key. It doesn't do much to begin with and having two is just ridiculous.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Here's a (crappy) comparison shot that I didn't use: http://k.minus.com/iKHldrooqdZ4J.jpg.

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        Looks like it is exactly the same, which I'm kind of upset about, as it forces you to buy something brand new that looks exactly as before but for another $150. Sure, the slot and profile may be different, but without some sort of an exchange/upgrade program, it's kind of a slap in the face.

      • Ron Amadeo

        ...Why are the 1 and 6 in white circles?

        • Aaron Gingrich

          It's apparently there to help your hands find their place in darker situations. Similar to the little bump on the J and F keys on a normal KB.

  • Alex1x

    1. How would you compare it to the market leader (ipad 2) in terms of smoothness?
    2. I've noticed from my experience with Galaxy 10.1, at "1st" touch of finger the Galaxy is about a half second lagging (I guess it's waking), any lag with first touch? (sorry if I'm confusing)

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Truth be told, I haven't used an iPad 2 in quite some time, but if memory serves the iPad was still smoother. I'm going to go out on a limb here and guess that once ICS drops, the TP will be just as smooth and a bit faster (and definitely more powerful) - it really comes down to hardware acceleration. Still, the TP is damn smooth - we're basically splitting hairs at this point.

      2) Yup, still has that issue most of the time, though I'd peg it at half a second tops - barely noticeable. microSD cards make the problem worse (I actually went through a similar discussion on my SGSII review with a commenter), but luckily the TP doesn't have one. In any case, there's a VERY brief delay when not connected to the dock. When it IS connected to the dock, the screen comes on right away and unlocks by the time you get it all the way open.

      • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

        I'm not sure Alex was talking about the on button delay, but rather just interacting with the screen itself, but I'm not positive.

  • MoxFulder

    What do you think about the volume/weight in comparison to TF101+dock ? It is a revolution or just a minor evolution ?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Definitely a revolution when compared side-by-side. Even two days in, it just boggles my mind that, so far as I can tell, they made it better in literally every single way, including making it smaller and lighter. Absolutely mind-blowing. Together the TP+dock is decently hefty when held alone, but it's about the same as a netbook... but gets better battery life when docked and running WiFi (not to mention it's arguably cooler, more fun, and IMO, preferable).

      In the scope of computing in general, including ultraportables? An evolution. But, again, in comparison to the TF, it's pretty damn amazing.

  • ZRod

    So would you let us know how the battery is for gaming? I got the clearanced HP Touchpad but am looking to switch to this.
    My siblings tend to steal my tablet when I am over and my little brother was playing life and space station frontier for awhile which ate through my battery faster than winnie the pooh goes through honey. surprising cuz this thing usually lasts all day of heavy usage mostly internet browsing. It is running cyanogen 7 and is overclocked to 1.78 GHz per core.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      I gamed for about 30 minutes this morning and experienced a roughly 6% drop. Extrapolate and you get maybe 8 hours of battery life, but keep in mind that's with WiFi on, and frankly isn't anywhere near scientific.

      So, honestly? I'm not really sure - I need another day to do a proper battery rundown.

  • SaltyWafflez

    Can you link to the official release statement?

    • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

      Not sure there's one available. Everything was communicated by ASUS PR via email.

      • SaltyWafflez

        Is it possible for you to post a screen cap of that?

        • Aaron Gingrich

          I'm not really comfortable posting a screencap of our email, it's generally considered pretty confidential. How about you just take our word for it, since we have absolutely 0 reason to make this up?

  • Ignacio Armijo

    I foresee an early birthday present to myself (only by about 2 months lol) �

    • ZRod

      Well happy early bday! One hell of an epic early bday present. Super excited to read the mass amounts of reviews to come over the next few days!

  • gweilo8888

    How's the audio compared to the TF101? I know they've downgraded from stereo to monaural, and the speaker location seems even worse than ever, but equally I know Asus is hyping the audio. Is it noticeably clearer and/or louder than the TF101, and were the early previews right in claiming that the dock now includes a subwoofer?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      The speaker on the tablet itself is in a stupid place and it isn't especially loud (I could just barely hear it over the sound of my exercise bike, for example), and I haven't tried listening to music with or without the dock yet. It's on the list for today.

      • gweilo8888

        Thanks. This seems thoroughly dissappointing, especially considering that Asus are hyping the Prime's audio. Do you honestly consider it to be any better than the TF101 in terms of audio?

        • Aaron Gingrich

          Just gave it a shot with my latest favorite song and the audio quality is good. I'd say it's than the TF when laid face-down (since the speaker is on the back now, rather than the sides). Sounds pretty good too, truth be told. I'm listening while I type, and... pleasantly surprised.

          Doesn't seem to be any extra speaker/sub in the dock. I have it docked now and nothing changed.

      • gweilo8888

        Thanks for the info, Aaron. One more for you: how's the microphone? On my TF101 it's essentially completely useless unless I turn the tablet sideways, so I can't see the screen, then talk into it from a distance of 1-2 feet.

        If I put the tablet on the table in front of me, docked and at the usual distance you'd expect to use a netbook at, the microphone barely picks me up at all. In fact, even if I get right up in front of the screen, it will barely pick me up. Side-on makes it of no real-world use to me.

        Is the TF201 better in this respect?

      • Jeremy Vidal

        How about while holding it? Do you feel the sound pumping on your right hand since the speakers are placed there? Is it annoying you?

        One review said that when you cupped your hand over the speakers, the sound actually got better. In your opinion, is it the same with you or do you hear a muffled sound?

        :D

  • http://www.AndroidPolice.com Artem Russakovskii

    Aaron has now gone to catch some zzzs, but he'll answer all the questions in the morning Eastern time. Keep asking, guys.

  • kev

    12 core!? Yes please!

  • Greg

    The Nvidia Tegra 3 has four cores as well as a companion core, making it five cores total, therefore it is Prime!

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Touche!

    • Perry Ahern

      You beat me to it Greg - that's what I was going to post! :-)

      I can't wait to get this tablet...

  • Aatif Sumar

    When you said 'Smoothest browsing experience you've ever had', did you mean for a Tablet or any device including a PC?
    Also, since it has to be asked, is it smoother than the iP@d2?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      It's pretty damn smooth, even with flash enabled. I suppose technically the iPad remains ever-so-slightly smoother, but again, it's not doing flash.

      It's not smoother than my PC, though you have to factor in that my PC doesn't scroll smoothly, it scrolls in chunks because I use the mousewheel. And, you know, I tend to keep my PC decently powerful.

  • kellett23

    What's the wireless game pad like, can you post a picture please

    • Aaron Gingrich

      I'll definitely post pictures and details with the full review. For now, I can say it's comfortable and super easy to use - open the box, plug in the tiny little USB dongle, pull out a sticker, and you're all set. You can control the entire phone with the game pad - in other words, it's not limited to games.

      On the downside, the game has to support the pad. Rather limiting at the moment.

      • gweilo8888

        One presumes that the game pad is not part of the standard product bundle, just something Asus is giving to reviewers, right?

        • Aaron Gingrich

          Correct.

    • Cameron Summerson
      • Aaron Gingrich

        That's the one!

  • James

    Can you please tell me if it has haptic feedback.

    • Aaron Gingrich

      It does.

  • Jerry

    Do you have any information on the bootloader? Will it be easily rooted and did you root the original TF?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Bootloader is locked - only options provided on power on + vol down are Wipe and Boot Into Android.

      As for future modability, I can't say - I'm not a developer and haven't heard from any on the subject. Sorry!

  • Greg

    Is there really ONLY a MicroSD in the Dock? Did they really pull a Nexus with that?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Dock has full SD and USB. There's a microSD on the tablet itself.

      • TA

        What's the file structure for when you have internal memory, microSD in the tablet, AND SD in the dock?

        Also, is it USB host? Can you plug in a USB hard drive? And, again, what's the file structure for that?

        • Jeremy Vidal

          I read a review that said it does not support an external hard disk drive and it only supports flashdrives.

          Most probably, the review that I read only referred to the 2.5mm external hdd that gets its power from the tablet/laptop so there's still a chance that hdd that gets its power from an outlet will work.. like the 3.5mm external hdd ones. :)

  • Jared

    You stated that you had the amethyst gray color and it was stunning, but the screen shots are the champagne color. is that also just as nice? (I pre-ordered the champagne color because i was worried the gray would be too purple)

  • Jose

    Does it have the same sound issues like the 2nd batch of Transformers that the right speaker is louder than the left speaker??

    • Aaron Gingrich

      There's only one speaker.

  • Ross

    Are the charging cables for the TF101 and TF201 the same?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Could have sworn they told us they weren't, but I'm currently using my TF101 charging cable without a problem.

      Semi-relevant: you can charge the tablet over USB, but not the dock.

      • Judas

        1. I thought there was a sub-woofer on the base. Is it not there or just not working?
        2. When you attach the tablet to the base and charge the base, does the tablet charge as well?

        *grr....meant this to be it's own question, not a reply. Sry.

        • Ross

          I can answer 2. for you. From what I've read the tablet/keyboard combo does charge together when plugged in but it has to be through an the AC adapter and not USB

  • Simon

    One review I read (http://www.engadget.com/2011/12/01/asus-eee-pad-transformer-prime-review/ - under the section 'The dock' later on in the review) said that the keyboard was a bit annoying to use because the touchpad just below the keyboard responded to the slightest brush, thus making typing hard. What is your view on this? Is this indeed an annoyance?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Yup, definitely an annoyance. The TF101 has the same annoying issue, and the only "solution" is to turn off the touchpad using the hotkey. As I have a TF, I'm used to having the touchpad off (I don't use it much anyway), so after a few minutes of having it on, I turned it off on the TP as well.

      • Ross

        Would it be possible to hook up a mouse USB through the keyboard to eliminate the need for the touchpad?

        • Aaron Gingrich

          Yes, but then you add the need for a third party mouse ;). Personally, I just leave the touchpad disabled for the majority of the time, since touching the screen directly is just more intuitive. I only enable the touchpad as needed.

  • Dragonithe

    IF you got the dock.
    Is it possible to play games like shadowgun whit the wasd key's on the keyboard and a mouse?

    • Aaron Gingrich

      You can use keyboard keys, but it's a weird setup. I believe its IJKL and the arrow keys, with WASD switching weapons. Makes no sense whatsoever. I prefer using the touch controls or controller.

  • GigiAUT

    Have you taken any pics of the game controller? I'm curious to see what that looks like.

    I'd love to buy one, it looks like an amazing piece of tech. I just don't know if I could find a use for it. I was trying to decide between one of these bad boys and a laptop and I think I'm going with the laptop because I need to be able to take my DAW with me. If there was an Android version of FL Studio, I'd buy one of these straight away.

  • UpIrons

    First off, great review, thank you! Secondly, the main reason I preodered this over any other tablet is because I believe that I will be able to copy pics directly from my microSD card and upload them via FTP or to cloud storage without having to copy them to the device first. Any way you can confirm this? The iPad cannot do this, it will only work if you first copy all files over to the device first but even with camera connection kit you cannot directly upload from the microSD card. So if you can verify this in some way, let me know. Thanks!

  • om

    There is going to be no 4g/3g version as told by asus Germany.

    http://notebookitalia.it/non-ci-sara-un-asus-eee-pad-transformer-prime-3g-13352

    i travel where there is no wifi . so would love to have 4g compatible tegra tablet

  • Drewskeetz

    TP is coming home. =) Excellent review Aaron, this was very much appreciated as Ive been deep diving looking for details on this robotic beast and you brought it to my front porch. Im pre ordering in grey and soon as it arrives i'll scream and cream .=p .. This will be my first tab so im a little excited (if you didn't notice). Thanks AP keep on rockin!!

  • Ben Chi

    AWESOME Review!

    One question though. I heard the original transformer had some lag issues when typing on the keyboard: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Bb4S5zTiHTc

    Does the new TP tablet+keyboard also have a bit of lag when typing? Or is it instantanous like a regular laptop?

    Thanks!!!! :)

  • Lawliet

    It sounds so amazing that I feel a little gutted for having bought the original Transformer.

  • nitish

    Can you connect an external hard disk say my current 1tb one?

    • Jeremy Vidal

      I think you can if your external hdd gets its power from an outlet. I read a review saying that hdds does not power on if plugged to the usb host of the keyboard dock.. I have a gut feeling that the review that I read only referred to the 2.5mm external hdds that gets its power from the tablet/computer. :)

  • Roy

    How is the microphone quality on the prime? Im worried because this is going to be my first tablet. Im also worried about watching it on the videos. I keep seeing that people need to tap on the apps a second time for them to open (makes me think that it lags :O). Please tell me that those were all just coincidences.

  • Roy

    How is the microphone quality on the prime? Im worried because this is going to be my first tablet. Im also worried about watching it on the videos. I keep seeing that people need to tap on the apps a second time for them to open (makes me think that it lags :O). Please tell me that those were all just coincidences. thank you for your time!!

  • Jeremy Vidal

    Hi! Can you test if there is a delay while using a game pad via usb? Is the delay significant?
    Can you use a bluetooth game pad (like ps3 controller)? If yes, is there a delay on this one?
    Thanks!

    • Aaron Gingrich

      No delay via USB and BT. It's no different than using a normal console.

      • Jeremy Vidal

        Ayt! Thanks!! :D

  • Jeremy Vidal

    I read a review that said that the prime can use SDXC and microSDXC cards but most of the other reviews said it can only go up to 128GB that means to say it can only support SDHC and microSDHC given this:
    64GB Asus Transformer Prime + 32GB SDHC + 32GB microSDHC = 128GB

    Can you test whether or not it can accommodate SDXC and microSDXC? :D

    • Aaron Gingrich

      Sorry Jeremy, I don't h ave any SDXC or mSDXC cards to test with. If you send some my way, though... ;)

      • Jeremy Vidal

        Another option is that you'll send the prime over my place :P i'l test it myself.. hahaha!

  • steve

    my wife wants to know whether the prime will play farmville

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