25
Apr
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Last Updated: April 30th, 2012

Meet the TF300T, the newest addition to Asus's ever-expanding line of Android tablets. While the model number may suggest that it's the successor to the TF201 - the Transformer Prime - that's not exactly the case. Pick one up and it's immediately clear that this is really the successor to the TF101 (the original Transformer, or TF); it's wrapped in plastic like the 101 (the 201 is aluminum), and the dimensions are a bit more portly, as with the 101.

Perhaps more importantly, the price marks this as a successor to the 101 - and shows that the 300 slots below the 201. At just $400 for the larger 32GB model, the TF300 makes it clear that ASUS is trying to hit every corner of the market (and they're doing a damn fine job, at that). For the same price as the 16GB TF101, you get twice the storage and twice the cores.

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Top to bottom: TF300T, TF201 (Transformer Prime), TF101 (Transformer)

That's not to say the 300 is the perfect budget tablet, though. While it does offer a lot of the same hardware and excellent user experience as the Prime in a cheaper package, it makes some concessions to get there. Read on to hear what the 300 does right, what it gets wrong, and where its more expensive brother is better.

In A Nutshell

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The Specs:

  • Expected to ship the week of April 30, 2012.
  • MSRP: $379 for the 16GB model, $399 for the 32GB model, and $149 for the dock.
  • Nvidia Tegra 3 (quad-core) CPU
  • Android 4.0.3
  • Available in Royal Blue, Torch Red, and Iceberg White.
  • 10.1", 1280x800 display, up to 350nits of brightness
  • 8MP rear camera
  • 1GB of DDR3 RAM
  • 7.11"x10.35"x0.38" (HxWxD), 1.39 lbs
  • ASUS UI customizations, preloaded apps
  • 8GB free cloud storage for the lifetime of unit

The Good:

  • Like previous Asus tablets, it feels solid, and build quality seems as good as ever.
  • The price is phenomenal. $379 entry point for a 16GB quad-core 10.1" tablet? Yes please.
  • Smooth and snappy performance all around.
  • Thinner and lighter than the (fairly fat and heavy) TF101 (.38" vs .51", 1.39 lbs. vs 1.49.)
  • Great WiFi performance, and GPS works as it should.
  • ASUS's customizations are fairly minimal and for the most part genuinely complement stock ICS well.
  • Solid battery life.
  • Respectable 8MP camera.

The Bad:

  • It's plastic, and not premium-quality plastic, either. That said, it doesn't feel bad, but it's not the most confidence-inspiring package.
  • Occasional unexplained force closes.
  • Earlier docks (TF101 and TF201) are not "completely" compatible with the TF300. The TF101 USB/charging cable won't work with the TF300, either.
  • As with the Prime, the speaker is on the back.  Which means that everyone who isn't you will be able to attest to the sound quality.
  • Like the TF101 and 201, there's some backlight bleeding.
  • For the third Transformer in a row, it's damn near impossible to type on the dock without bumping the touchpad, thereby causing the cursor to move and click elsewhere. It's almost like being pranked by a 14 year old.

I suppose I'd be remiss in not pointing out a few other issues. The 300 will be offered in 3 colors - blue, red, and white - but the red and white won't be available until June. Also, supplies may be fairly constricted at launch, which is certainly an issue for some people. While these are noteworthy concerns, I don't think it's fair to consider them in a review of the hardware - after all, not being able to buy the tablet in white doesn't mean the user experience is any different.

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In a sentence: truth be told, the TF300 just might be the best choice for somebody looking to buy an Android tablet on a budget right now. The Prime offers an equally excellent experience, but the slimmer package may not be worth the price premium for many people.

You should buy it if: you're in the market for an Android tablet, but don't want to fork over premium dollars.

Deep Dive

Design and Build

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The original Transformer (which I'm singling out because it was also plastic) felt of quality, but that was partially thanks to the fact that its dimensions and weight made it feel like a brick. The TF300 feels good if a little budgety, with little panel gap and just a bit of give. Still, that bit of give (particularly in the back panel) and an overall plasticky feeling make me question the dropability of the 300, though it feels like it could certainly still take its fair share of bumps and bangs while riding in a road warrior's bag. All told, it's not especially noteworthy in either direction. And despite being plastic, I don't mind the feel (perhaps because I'm accustomed to it by now), so much that I even prefer the feel of the 300 to the (always cold) aluminum-clad Prime.

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As with the 201 (and as mentioned above), the speaker is once again placed in the most illogical place imaginable: the back. While it does put out respectable sound, you have to cup your hand behind it to really hear it well, something that's not comfortable for more than a few minutes at a time - and something you shouldn't have to do in the first place. That said, it puts out good quality and a ton of volume.

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Hardware, Performance, and Battery Life

The TF300 is virtually identical to the TF201, with the exception of the upgraded RAM (DDR3 in the 300, DDR2 in the 201) and slightly slower clock speeds in Performance mode. Accordingly, you'd expect pretty similar performance, and you'd be right. The TF300T drove exactly like the more expensive Prime, and since all-around performance is the most substantial metric when reviewing a device, that earns it high marks.

One thing that gives the 300 a leg up over the Prime: battery life. While I find the Prime's battery life to be more than adequate (I only charge it once every 4 or 5 days), the TF300T seems to go just a little longer - to the tune of roughly 9 hours of moderate use. But perhaps more importantly, leaving the 300 docked doesn't seem to drain battery life more than normal, unlike the Prime (my Prime, when docked, will go from 100% charge to totally dead in less than two days, without use).

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As with the Prime, the TF300 features three different performance modes. In Power Saving mode, if 1-2 cores are active, they'll clock as high as 1 GHz, 3 cores will hit 720MHz, or all 4 will top out at 600MHz. For Balanced mode, all four cores will max out at 1.2GHz, and for Performance mode, 1 core will go up to 1.3GHz while using 2+ cores will bring things back down to 1.2GHz. Personally, I left things in Performance, though I'd imagine the difference between Performance and Balanced is probably virtually nil.

Finally, it's worth noting that I experienced 4-5 force closes during my 5 days with the TF300T. While that's not a lot by any stretch, it's more than I'm accustomed to with other Android devices, so it's worth including in the spirit of full disclosure. Surprisingly, Maps accounted for 3 of those force closes, though after the initial 3 I haven't had an issue.

Display

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The display on the TF300 is more or less exactly what you'd expect on a $380 10" Android tablet.That is to say, it's not enough to stand out in either direction. While it's not as bright as the Prime's display (350 versus 600 nits), it's bright enough for most viewing situations. The viewing angles aren't noteworthy either - they're good, but nothing special. Colors and black levels once more place the display firmly in the middle of the pack.

Then again, being average isn't necessarily a bad thing. Screens have remained fairly standard in recent Android tablet history, and that's because they're generally tried-and-true. In a nutshell: it's a pretty standard display for a 10" tablet at the ~$400 price point.

Dock

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Unfortunately, the dock's build quality doesn't quite measure up. The keys feel good and clicky (but still quiet), and at first blush the build quality is good. Apparently that's a false impression, though - after just a few hours of use, the 'T' key went flat. It still works (in fact, I typed about half of this review using the TF300 while docked), but it's noticeable enough that it can throw off your vibe while typing. Much more importantly, it's enough to cause concern about the dock's long-term durability.

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Around the outside, the dock offers an SD card slot and USB port, as well as the charging port. As mentioned above, the trackpad is more or less useless, because it's virtually impossible to use the keyboard without bumping the trackpad. The result is that you'll be typing an email, bump the trackpad without realizing, and suddenly you're typing 5 lines up - or in a different email. While that alone isn't enough to make the trackpad useless (in fact, I'd say that makes it hyperactively useful), the sole solution is to disable it while typing... which quickly evolves into just leaving it off all the time, since constantly toggling is annoying as all hell.

Software

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Anyone who's been following Android in even the most peripheral sense probably has a pretty good idea of what to expect with Ice Cream Sandwich, and anyone who read my Prime review should know exactly what to expect with ASUS's custom UI. And the bloatware remains the same, too: Polaris Office, SuperNote, App Backup, App Locker, Asus Sync, Asus Webstorage, MyCloud, MyLibrary, MyNet and Netflix. And, once again, they're all refreshingly useful in their own right.

All told, ASUS's customizations complement the excellent user experience offered by ICS well.

Conclusion

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With a starting point of $380 and packing a quad-core Tegra 3 CPU, the TF300T offers a compelling package. It's a lot like a Corvette ZR1: blazing-fast, but swathed in plastic and made with a few compromises to keep it (relatively) cheap. Then again, that's probably an acceptable trade-off for most people - myself included.

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.

  • Jonathan A.

    "A brick"? Really? My daughters have the TF101, and I would hardly describe them as "bricks". 

    Otherwise, good review. I'd love a 300!

    • Kojiro Kamex

      I think that's more meant in comparison.
      While the TF101 is pretty light weight an thin in relation to a normal 10.1" Netbook, in relation to a TF201 or TF300 it's again quite big and heavy.

      When I had a HTC Wildfire S in my handy, my Desire Z feels like a brick, when I had a SGT P1000 it feels verry light.

    • Sorian

      He was comparing the build quality
      of the original, to me sounded like Solid as a brick (The original Transformer (which I'm singling out because it
      was also plastic) felt of quality, but that was partially thanks to the fact
      that its dimensions and weight made it feel like a brick.)  Vs the T300  (The TF300 feels good if a little budgety, with little panel
      gap and just a bit of give.)

  • edaddy

    for the extra $100 I'll buy the better built with better screen 201.  If I'm already spending $400, I might as well go for the better product, it's not that much difference in price.

    • spydie

      You'll be sorry.  I have the prime.  My buddy bought the 101 and I wish I had.  I had to send mine back for repair because, like most owners, the GPS didn't work.  Some say the wifi is weak, but I have a small house and don't have a problem with the signal.  It's all about the metal case, which scratches and dents easily.  Now with this new one at a price that's the same as the 101 (watch the price drop on that one, making it the very best one to buy if you don't mind a little bulk), I can't imagine how Asus could even sell the prime except to people with no concept of money.  I like my Prime, but I don't love it.  (by the way, instead of fixing the GPS, they are now sending out a dongle to fix it.  It won't fit in the dock with the dongle attached, so you won't setting it on your truck console and running GPS).  It does have a lot of "lag" issues that nobody is really reporting, but then maybe they all do.  The reviews never report the lag on tablets or phones (I have a Galaxy note with very noticeable lag, which is very annoying, but I've never seen any reviews report that problem).  Battery life really sucks when it's in the dock.  Why?  Why does the dock use power when the machine is off?  The dock battery can go dead over night.  Then it starts draining the tablet.  Dead by the next day.  I'd say the prime is not their premium tablet.  It was a first attempt at a premium tablet, but their first attempt at a tablet (101) turned out better.

  • Ryan Officer

    I think this is a great addition to their product line. A whole lot better than Samsung, 

    Confuuuuuusing to the average consumer. 

  • Niffy Shibby

    Tempted to buy, but looking at people past Asus experience I'm not so sure.
    People have had problems with the Prime and Asus seem to release things without having any stock available.  Then there is the issue of support for the tablet afterwards.

    I would splash out on the Infinity, but I'll see what people experiences are with the 300T first.  

    Overall I'm not impressed with the Android tablet market at the moment, they seem to be struggling to release any sort of quad core tablet or at least taking ages to do it.

  • Dinoshark

    If this costs less than £250 in the UK I'll be delighted. 

  • Guest

    Mine should be arriving tomorrow sans the dock. How long will I have to wait for a root method?

  • Emily McGrath

    That’s more like it. A transformer pad that’s actually affordable. Especially the 32GB version. You're not exactly gonna find a cheaper quad-core tablet with 32GB of storage anytime soon lol.

  • Jedimets

    Just one note for those thinking of buying the 300..... Gorilla Glass was also left off the spec sheet. Keep that in mind because as with all other tablets, the screen is a fingerprint magnet. With Gorilla glass in place, you can wipe away to your hearts content without worrying about scratching the screen, but without it, I feel sorry for the fool who wipes the screen clean with anything other than a microfiber cloth.

    But, for the price, this is a very worthy candidate for those hard earned dollars. I have a Prime and I still would have bought it even if they were side by side in the display. I am very happy with my Prime.

    • bassman418

      I don't know what kind of glass comes on my Galaxy Nexus but I've had it for 4 months now and don't have any scratches on it. (I do know its not gorilla glass) now both my HTC phones Incredible and Thunderbolt has slight scratches on them after about 2 months. And were very noticeable in the sunlight.
      I do know that just because it doesn't have Cornings branding doesn't mean its gonna scratch easily. I guess only time and people posting their experience with the device will tell.

  • http://twitter.com/ericcamil Eric Camil Jr

    At only $20 bucks more for 32gb of storage instead of 16gb, I'm not sure why anyone would really buy the 16gb model.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1304767408 Steven Lam

      and that's exactly the price difference it should be between a 16GB and a 32GB. IMO just let the expandable SD take care of more storage needs.

      perhaps a 16GB builtin vs a 64GB (or 128GB) builtin model. This allows a low entry point for those who will rely primarily on expandable SD, while a high capacity model for those who just want all the memory built in out of "convenience".This also gives it a reasonable price difference to even bother making 2 different models.

      charging 50$-100$ more for a 16GB upgrade would certainly not be a reasonable price diffeerence. that's an outrage.

  • Ageorgiev

    I'd buy one right away if they can guarantee that the next model will use the same dock.

    • http://meatcastle.com/ Youre My Boy Bloo

      Conversations at a Best Buy:
      So when I purchase a new tablet will this dock still work?
      -Yes.

      It will?
      -Yes.

      This dock will still work with the next tablet to come out?
      -No.

      Didn't you just say it would still work?
      -Yes, the dock will still work.

      But not with the new tablet?
      -I'm not sure, probably not.

      So why did you say it would work?
      -The dock will still work.

      What do you mean?
      -The keys will still be clicky.

      • Dannysmo

        Truth is here answered every one of your questions truthfully. Will the dock still work when you buy a new tablet? of course. Will the dock work with the next tablet to come out? Probably not.

  • Waydaddy Mahler

    Trackpad has a turn off button above the #3 button.

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

      Sure, there is a way to turn it off, but the point is we shouldn't have to. I keep mine off 100% of the time because it's annoying and unusable otherwise. Aaron pointed out you can turn it off too.

  • rogue_3

    What color is the Pad in the images? It doesn't look blue.

  • Niffy Shibby

    In fact, I'm rather fed up, I just remembered the UK will get this early May at PC World and Currys.  Yet it will be in store come late May.  Finger, Pull, Alternative name for Bottom springs to mind about Android tablet manufactures.  They best not screw this up like they've done with the Prime. 

  • http://www.geekchoice.com Dagmar Schneitz

    Thanks for covering the bad as wall as the good on the Transformer Pad 300. Actually, I wouldn't mind getting the 16gb model for a little bit less. I don't use that much storage.

  • Ryan

    I've got a TF300 16GB model purchased a day ago and I can echo the Force Closes. However, once I reset the unit to factory settings, no more closes. This tab is a great entry for the price point. I've played with a Samsung Galaxy 10.1, and it doesn't compare. I love this tab.

  • Wideopn11
  • Ally

    This is very helpful! Thank you.

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