With the flagship Transformer Pad Infinity (TF700) release right around the corner and the release of the budget-oriented Transformer Pad (TF300) a few months ago, Asus has filled out it's line-up of 10" quad-core Android tablets. Obviously, most people would opt for the highest of the high-end (that'd be the TF700) if they were just looking to blow money. Unfortunately, most people aren't just looking for ways to spend as much money as possible, so instead, they spend enough to cover their needs.
First, I've provided a handy-dandy chart to let you compare the major (and some of the minor) talking points of each tablet. Next, I'll run through a list of the big pros and cons for each, then copy and paste in the conclusion from my review. I've also provided links to the full-length review of each tablet, in case you need more details or want to get a (hopefully) clearer impression.
So, without further ado, let's take a look at the differences between each of the three 10" tablets offered by Asus and hopefully figure out which one would be the best fit for you.
Transformer Pad 300 (TF300)
- Cheap. $380 for a current-gen tablet? Yes please.
- One of those rare cases where "budget" doesn't mean "underpowered." It may not be the performance king, but it's no slouch.
- The materials scream budget, but the actual fit and finish isn't bad.
- It's the thickest and heaviest of the bunch, yet it's still comfortable to hold, even for extended periods.
- Even if it is the best deal, it's still a budget tablet. Cheap materials are a dead giveaway.
- The screen is definitely budget. It's not bad, but the black levels and brightness aren't going to blow you away, especially if you're in a bright room or in the sunlight.
The colors on the TF700 (right) are more muted than on the TF201/300, but it's only noticeable when directly compared to another tablet.
You should buy if: you're on a budget and want a 10" Android tablet.
The TL;DR review: "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."
Transformer Prime (TF201)
- The thinnest and lightest of the 3.
- Aluminum build is more attractive and more durable.
- Mid-range price for the mid-range device.... and mid-range is usually the sweet spot.
- Better, brighter screen than the TF300.
- WiFi and GPS problems. You won't be using Navigation a lot.
- The price difference between the 201 and the 700 probably won't be a lot, and the 700 is a much better device.
- The aluminum marks and shows scratches absurdly easy. I don't care how much you baby it, you will end up with some scuffs.
Again, notice the difference in colors (TF201 left, TF700 right).
You should buy if: you can't afford the TF700, but want something a little slimmer and more durable than the TF300.
The TL;DR review: "There's a lot to take into consideration here. First, we're looking at a lot of all new technology and some impressive capabilities that heretofore haven't been seen. Not only does it pack more power and new features, but it manages to do so in an even smaller package than we're used to, and at a decent price point, to boot. On the one hand, a starting price of $500 seems like a weakness... until you consider that a 32GB Galaxy Tab 10.1 costs $600 despite no longer having the lead in sex appeal, and being blown out of the water on the hardware front. Then again, a lack of a $400 16GB model could put the Prime above what some people can afford, and that's unfortunate, because it's quite the tablet on its own - throw the $150 dock into the equation, and you've got a hell of a device on your hands."
Transformer Pad Infinity (TF700)
- Despite being just slightly thicker and heavier than the Prime, it actually feels better in-hand, and to hold for extended periods.
- Beautiful, crisp screen. Best black levels and viewing angles of the bunch.
- The best performance of the 3, and likely on the market today.
- Great GPS and WiFi performance.
- As with the Prime, the aluminum build inspires confidence.
- The connection to the dock seems finicky.
- As with the Prime, the aluminum is scratch-tastic.
- The most expensive, with an entry cost of a not-insubstantial $500.
TF201 left, TF700 right.
You should buy if: you want the best 10" tablet available.
The TL;DR review: "If you're considering purchasing an Android tablet today, it's a crowded - but finally mature - market. Even looking only at Asus, the company will be offering the TF700, TF201 (slotting below the 700 once it's up to speed), and TF300 (lowest rung), and that's without mentioning the LTE/S4 variant(s). If you're a consumer, it's a great market to be in. And if you can afford to spring for the Infinity, it's a great device that's got the power, screen, build, and dimensions to make sure it stays competitive for the near future."
For All Three
- ASUS has shown some serious dedication to getting both Android and maintenance updates out the door quickly. And although they make their flagship devices the priority, they don't neglect older ones.
- NVIDIA pushes their Tegra platform hard, and it shows in THD games. They always have included visual punch, and sometimes hit the market first or include additional content.
- All three choices are very close in terms of power and features, yet span a range of prices and features. At both ends of the spectrum you have great choices.
- MicroSD slots on all 3, and SD slots on all 3 docks.
- The speaker is on the back of all three. I'd much rather have it on the bottom. Or top. Or sides. Or front. Or include a little bluetooth speaker. Or literally anywhere but the opposite side of the device as my ears, pointing the wrong way.
- This only applies to those who would buy and use the dock, but the trackpad doesn't have palm recognition. Typing up an email and accidentally brush the touchpad? Best case scenario, you just moved the cursor and started typing somewhere else without realizing it. Worst case scenario, you just sent a partially-completed email (that ends mid-sentence and probably mid-word) without even proofreading the part you did send. I've had all four Transformers now, and I've had to leave the trackpad permanently off for all 4.
- Spotty light bleed around the edges. Granted, it's only noticeable when the image is dark, but it's been a problem with all four.
- Price. With the $200 Nexus 7 - an official Google device - right around the corner, these tablets have become a much harder sell basically overnight. They offer a more premium experience in terms of size (10" is much better for watching movies/TV/etc.) and a little more power, and offer a sleeker package, but is that worth a $200-400 premium?
I ran three benchmarks: Smartbench 2012, Quadrant, and GLBenchmark 2.1 (Egypt, offscreen). In Smartbench, you'll notice that the gaming scores are lower on the Infinity - obviously, due to the fact that it has more than twice as many pixels. Otherwise, the Infinity clearly dominated every single benchmark (including GLBenchmark, since running the offscreen test eliminates screen resolution as a factor).
Since a few people vented to me that digitizer performance was sorely underappreciated in tablets, I ran a simple "test" using Sketchbook Mobile and a capacitive stylus: draw an X from corner to corner, write the name of the tablet, and maybe doodle a little. The results more or less speak for themselves, but in a nutshell: Prime is crap, TF300 is good, and TF700 is fantastic.
It's a great time to be in the 10" Android tablet market. Even the cheapest tablet here - the TF300 - offers the bulk of the premium Android tablet experience. Scale up to the pricier TF700, and you have even more power and a much higher-resolution screen.
No matter what end of the spectrum you look at, the Android tablets are sittin' pretty.