At  this point, I'm sure you've heard that the Transformer Prime has GPS issues. Issues so bad that ASUS even removed GPS from the Prime's list of features. Under normal circumstances, we would all sit back and wait for a software update to roll out with a fix, but that's not going cut it this time.

This is serious.

ASUS has already acknowledged that the Prime's GPS issues are due to its all-aluminum construction. But what does it mean? It basically means that someone at ASUS didn't think things through completely. Or maybe they did and hoped no one would notice. Either way, it's a design flaw, and, unfortunately, no amount of updated firmware is going to fix it. To explain why, AnandTech looked into the guts of the Prime, outlining what ASUS could have (read: should have) done to correct this during the design process.

First off, let's take a look at the Prime's older brother, now commonly referred to as the "OG Transformer" (though we're just going to call it the TF from here on out). GPS works perfectly on the TF because of what its made of: plastic. GPS, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth - basically all radios can transmit through plastic without issue. The Prime isn't made of plastic, though - it's made of aluminum. All aluminum. You might be thinking wait! The iPad is made of aluminum! There are no issues with it! And, of course, you'd be right. The iPad is made of aluminum. There one big difference between the iPad and the Prime though: the Apple logo. You see, that little Apple is made of plastic, and the iPad 1's Wi-Fi antenna (it doesn't have GPS) is located directly behind that little logo, allowing it to easily retrieve signal. Brilliant design if I do say so myself.


Left: The iPad 1 displaying its Wi-Fi antenna; Right: The RF window on the 3G iPad

Ah, but aren't there also 3G versions of the iPad/2? And don't those versions have GPS? Yep. Have you ever looked at an iPad? Notice that thin plastic strip running across the top? It's called an RF window, and I bet you can guess what it's for -- so all the radios can easily transmit data. Again, good design. 

Screen Shot 2012-01-04 at 12.27.58 AM

...And there it is - the GPS antenna in the Prime, right in between the two Wi-Fi antennas.

You should now be starting to piece together where ASUS went wrong with the Prime. It's all aluminum and there is no RF window. Why this issue wasn't addressed during the design process, well, we're not really sure about.

Of course, we're not knocking the Prime in any way; it is, without a doubt, the best Android tablet on the market (for the time being, at least). If a weak (or sometimes non-existent) GPS signal is the worst thing that's wrong with this otherwise beastly unit, then we can live with that.


Cameron Summerson
Cameron is a self-made geek, Android enthusiast, horror movie fanatic, musician, and cyclist. When he's not pounding keys here at AP, you can find him spending time with his wife and kids, plucking away on the 6-string, spinning on the streets, or watching The Texas Chainsaw Massacre on repeat.

  • Drew

    Nothing you couldn't fix with a Dremel tool and a piece of smoked plastic.

    • Lorenzo in a Benzo

      Damn we posted that at like the exact same time lol! Great minds think alike...

      • nocturnhabeo

        I'll bet there is a hack put together with a tutorial with in the next couple of weeks

  • Lorenzo in a Benzo

    Sooo another words all you need to remedy this issue is a dremel tool and the location of the GPS antenna? Sounds simple enough to me :P I am still buying mine!

  • Mitchell

    Couldn't ASUS just design a new case backing with an RF window to solve that problem.

    • Cameron Summerson

      Yeah, that is an option, albeit not a very economical (or practical) one. I wouldn't count on them changing the design.

    • http://papped.webatu.com papped

      The ROI to fix it wouldn't be worthwhile. They should have just not screwed it up to begin with.

  • Bryan

    loving mine and preordered another one

  • Mat

    Is there no interferance with the WiFi?

    • Cameron Summerson

      There is, actually. The Prime has a shorter range that other (plastic) tablets. This has also been an issue from the beginning, but since it still connects to Wi-Fi without issue, the decreased range isn't much of a problem for most users.

  • george

    horrible design. what poor insight they had

  • Eric S.

    It would be interesting to see any case mods, or a service that someone creates in which they remove a small piece of the aluminum frame and replace it with plastic, or an IR window.

    • http://droidsamurai.blogspot.com PixelSlave

      You don't need "a service" to make a hole. You just need a drill.

    • Art

      I smell an Apple lawsuit! lol

  • Rance

    I'm glad I was able to send mine back to Amazon for a full refund.

  • todd

    Okay, I'll bite. Why does GPS matter on a tablet? Odds are if you have a tablet, you've got a phone with GPS anyway.

    • Denbo

      You are paying for that GPS so you SHOULD expect it to work correctly, right?

      I've used my GPS on my trusty Transformer 101 and it is nice to have a larger screen for the GPS. Using a GPS on a phone is ok but a tablet is better when driving in my most humble of opinions.

      • http://sketaful.se Sketaful

        I think he meant that you could connect your Prime through the gps in the phone. :)

    • Jake

      Because Google can give more personalized search results if it knows your location. Because social media check-ins need to know your location. Because lots of other apps that help you find restaurants, gas prices, etc., need to know your location. It's about convenience. If I'm already on my tablet it would be nice to be able to do those things on the tablet, with a nice interface, instead of having to pull out the phone. It's not necessary; it's just a nice feature.

      I also know someone who built a custom tablet docking station in his car, so his original Transformer can serve as an all-in-one in-dash computer, navigation device, music player, movie player, etc. That's too much for me, but some people actually want to use their tablets for navigation (or geocaching).

      • nocturnhabeo

        I kinda like that it doesn't work for that exact reason I don't want everyone knowing where I am at all times -_-

        • Will

          Then just turn it off? It's that easy. Apps can't use GPS if it is turned off.

          Having it working and turning it off is a much better option to it not working well for everyone.

  • Drewskeetz

    GPS does not matter however it is a feature on the device. I think the Prime is an awesome piece of equipment with some really nice specs and I understand both fields of the situation. Your buying an expensive piece of equipment "fully loaded" however some feature dont work as well as other devices with "fully loaded features". Honestly IMO the prime makes up for the lack of GPS signal and its not a necessity to have,again IMO but theres others who do use and need it on their prime. Everyone has different needs upon closer inspection but everyone loves apple or android for what they are so if the prime doesnt fit your needs then theres plenty of other tabs out there both apple and droid that will.

  • mstanza

    So you are using a wifi only tablet with no navigation software in your car? Um, i will stick with my Droid for that. even if you tether it just doesn't seem like the best option to me.

    • Denbo

      Since Asus removed the GPS from its list of features will the price be reduced or will it still cost the same?

      I would imagine those who purchased one could ask for some form of rebate.

      • nocturnhabeo

        you can send it back i believe to amazon if that is what you want to do

    • cece

      I have the galaxy tab 10.1 wifi only, and used it for navigation in car (better than paper map or phone in the hands of my copilot wife... at least she can see where we are :-)).
      There are navigation apps, and google maps works ok once map is cached.
      And if I need connectivity I do tether my phone. (wouldn't do it to tether gps from my phone even if I had an app to do so, since it is a Galaxy S and its GPS is unusable in my car)

      • http://codytoombs.wordpress.com Cody

        I've done this a few times. The HTC Desire HD/Inspire I use has a design flaw related to how the GPS antenna is connected which leads to some people having seriously poor GPS reception. When I'm getting bad GPS on the phone I just turn on tethering and prop my SG Tab 10.1 somewhere that I can see it. Surely my case is on the rare side, but it's saved my butt more than a couple of times.

  • Yuriy

    That's what happens when you want to claim to be the first Tegra 3 tablet on the market! Things get overlooked.

  • Jon

    I was hoping this tablet would be as perfect as possible. Unfortunately, this is quite a major flaw =(

  • Robert Dunn

    The iPod touch is also designed in this way. I've always wondered where the Rf window is on the 4th generation iPod touch. The camera is now where the plastic patch use to be making it completely aluminum.

  • Justin

    Im in the same boat, I bought this and love it. I didnt even use the GPS till i knew it was broken, but it still pisses me off. "oops we messed up, sorry, have a nice day anyway" Come on, that is why i was leary about an ASUS tablet from the onset. But noooo my friends and all the reviews i read said great things....oh well. Its not worth the hassle taking it back, it performs amazingly. It just pisses me off at the "our bad" response.

  • Z

    Normally I tell people never to buy version 1.0 of anything, but that doesn't work here.
    Even Hollywood doesn't mess up sequels this bad!

    • nocturnhabeo

      I beg to differ have you seen the third Matrix

  • deltaechoe

    Not an issue for rooters, just let it take the location from the phone you are tethering from. Problem solved quick and dirty style

  • Kevin Phillips

    I think you have found one issue affecting some of the primes.  I firmly believe there is another completely separate issue with the software.

    I thoroughly tested my unit upon receipt for bad pixels, screen bleed, wireless and GPS issues as I had seen a tonof negative reports on all of these issues and mine worked very well as I had no issues including with the GPS.  My unit locked very quickly onto at least 8 satellites numerous times, indoors and out,  and with and without wifi.

    Then the update cames out on 1-2-12 which includes a GPS fix and I can no longer get any satellite, inside, outside, wifi on or off my GPS no longer works. I have since heard of a few others reporting the exact scenario as me. I have opened a case with ASUS and am waiting a reply.


    • Pete Polando

      Hi Kevin,

      Have you heard back fron asus on theGPS firmware issue? I'd love to know what they say since your gps was working before the update


  • Frank

    I bet they're plenty embarrassed. Should be if they're not. Pretty dumb mistake. BUT, won't stop me from buying one, well, actually, getting one on my birthday at the end of the month.

  • Dy4me

    The last image is incorrect. I have adviced AnandTech. The GPS antenna is on the right not the left, next to the main antenna

  • Teece

    ASUS screwed up, but if people can live with it all well and good, but please don't excuse such a fundamental flaw.

    They should drop the price and give everyone who purchased one a rebate or option to return for a full refund if they so choose, clearly stating the reason why.

    It is not ethical to advertise a feature than slyly remove that feature from your marketing literature when it doesn't work. It's still an awesome tablet but returned quickly due to this none working feature and poor WIFI range.

  • Farah

    It is more than GPS, Wifi seems to be affected by that aluminum back too. very disappointed with TP.

    • Justin

      I have not noticed any wifi issues at all. Let me rephrase that. All the times I have attempted to gain a wifi signal wether at home or using my hotspot, its worked.

  • John

    The GPS satellites are in the sky and the aluminum case is on the back (bottom). How does the case block the GPS signal?

  • Michael Sr

    Just like the HTC EVO 4g and it is still a great phone. The TP is all that and some GPS could care less, why do people have to find falt in everything. That just shows how they live always finding falt with everything. Life is to short live.

    • Justin

      Your missing the point. Its not about finding fault. If you buy a product it needs to work as originally intended.

  • http://www.unwiredmedic.com Christopher Matthews

    I think they could also remedy this with an external antenna adapter for future production. I've tapped into the external port on many of my phones, PDA's, and smartphones for better phone, WiFi, and GPS reception. Why wouldn't it be available here too? If it was hidden behind a rubber port cover, I opened it, or drilled through the battery cover if needed. Maybe one of those awesome phone antenna stickers (with a retail price of $19.95 each but included free with your eBay order) would help too? LOL!

  • MMN

    I just cancelled my order. I'll wait for v2.

    • http://tantrajnaan.com Robert Dunn

      The Prime is version 2

  • don patton

    ummm...... no, that's a deal breaker. I would have gotten a refund.

  • djembeman

    My initial reaction was, "who frigging cares?" and I really doubt that I would notice any problem at all based on how I would use my TF Prime. I still really want to get one. I wouldn't mind a $50.00 discount due to GPS not functioning. That would be enough for me.

  • Ahmad Nadeem

    There might be a possibility that 3rd party smartphone and tablet accessory companies could take advantage and release back covers(with an RF Window) for TP at a high price

  • http://forum.miniphysics.com TheMini

    Now I am quite glad that I got my tab 10.1. XD

  • Jon

    If I remember right, Apple really does have a patent for having a plastic logo for the purpose of putting the radios behind it. I remember reading about it. Thus, Asus would be in violation of that patent if they made a plastic window for the radios. I guess that's why they don't have one. :(

  • whodunit

    I haven't had any trouble with the gps on my Prime. I love it! Can't wait for the 12th to get ICS! Happy New Year!

  • JimV

    Any metal in the outside case will cause issues. At the very least, cause the antenna to become directional vs omnidirectional.

  • C. Tran

    I just bought an Eee Pad Transformer Prime. There is a Google navigation on that. It works very well, I had no problem to get a lock to a GPS system to get my current position, even offline (without Internet assistance). The only problem is that in order to get a direction calculation (from a start point to a destination point), I need to have a wifi connection.

    For other GPS devices, we don't need a wifi connection, because the maps is already in the device, it needs only to calculate the best trajet to go from point A to point B. In the Eee pad Transformer Prime, there is also a preloaded Google map inside. So why do we have to get a wifi connection to calculate the direction ? If ASUS (or Google Navigation software) can modify the software so that direction to go from point A to point B could be calculated without wifi connection, and put the update in Android 4.0 ICS, it will be fine.

  • Scott

    Couldn't this issue be fixed with a software program and a usb or 40 pin proprietary addon? Seems like you could just purchase an external antenna and boom, issue fixed. I would love to use this tablet for traveling since I drive so much. It's awesome regardless, but if I could use this instead of my phone.....points

  • Whatever

    At first I thought you were talking about a giant robot that transforms into a mac truck, and I was like WTF!? But then I realized you weren't and I was disappoint.