Power boosts aside, the keyboard also provides an SD card slot and two USB ports for attaching a mouse (soon to be supported) or mass storage devices. Testing raised some slight concerns over the keyboard's overall usefulness, however. The extra battery is certainly beneficial, but, as a touch typist, I experienced slight, but appreciable lag when using the keyboard to browse, and quickly reverted to the on-screen keyboard.
First and foremost an Android tablet, but the Eee Station integration is well thought out
With Android presently optimised for touchscreen controls, the keyboard's most obvious advantage came during prolonged text entry in the included Polaris Office suite applications. Due imminently, Honeycomb 3.1 will introduce full mouse support and increased editing capabilities. All being well – assuming Asus updates the keyboard drivers to improve responsiveness – the Transformer should be ideally placed to exploit Android's ever-broadening scope.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer is the Wayne Rooney of tablets. It might be aesthetically challenged, and its video playback and keyboard performance inconsistent at present, but there's no denying its versatility or skill. Likely to prove just as divisive as football's most famous orc, this hybrid tablet-cum-netbook will surely be dismissed by some as a novel chimera and likewise appreciated by others for its raw power and standout screen. ®
More Tablet Reviews
Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101
Asus Transformer owner's review
My wife has had the TF for 2 weeks now. Her verdict: outstanding. Here are the reasons:
1) Contrary to what is said in this El Reg review, the tablet isn't heavy. The reviewer would have been best advised to at least check Apple's weight specs for iPad 1 or iPad 2 before penning his comment.
2) In the US, the TF has been sold as a tablet with (I think) an additional $150 charge for the keyboard dock. Here in the UK, the tablet+keyboard are bundled together for an extra £50. Seeing as how the keyboard incorporates a second battery, this deal is as good as it gets -- laptop batteries ain't cheap. For which reason then, talk on here of third-party suppliers coming out with keyboards kinda misses the point: it's the BATTERY which is the component cost here. Not the bloody keyboard.
3) In clamshell guise, the Asus kills off the very genre Asus launched: goodbye netbook. Suddenly it's possible to have an ultra-portable which can be rotated from portrait to landscape view. Try finger-pinch zooming on a netbook. . .
4) iPad killer. We compared Apple's offering with this Asus and ultimately gave up bothering. Apart from all the restrictions Emperor Jobs imposes, the iPad simply doesn't match up. This in our opinion explains why Apple seems to have reacted so ferociously to a US ad last month which showed two images side by side, the left one of an iPad with a keyboard stuck to it with black duct tape, the right image showing the Asus TF. Above the left image were the words: LIKE THIS. Above the right image: ONLY BETTER.
The reviwer's comment about Apple looking over its shoulder and sniggering doesn't, therefore, accord to the facts: Apple's reported reaction to a single, simple Asus Transformer ad would seem to indicate that, contrary to the El Reg review, Emperor Jobs and his minions are taking the Asus TF very, very seriously.
5) Keyboard. The Asus TF comes with Polaris free of charge, a point the reviewer might have made clear in his report. Polaris allows my wife to work on her Microsoft Office stuff without a hitch. Although the on-screen keyboard is fine -- and if you don't like it, it's possible to get others -- the Asus docking keyboard is excellent. It makes all the difference when it comes to editing docs or typing emails. And no; we haven't noticed 'lag' on our TF.
6) Case. Asus's official case was sold (briefly) in the UK by Amazon UK. If you look at the reviews, they condemn it on price alone, so I've no idea how good it is. But if it truly was costing £48 GBP, then Asus wants its head looking at, as does anyone daft enough to fork out that kind of money. My wife has purchased 2 cases for her TF, because she wanted a tailored case for the tablet alone, and a secure case for the TF when in its clamshell form. The tailored case in red pseudo-leather came post free from a Chinese company which is putting them out via a Hong Kong eBay seller. Contrary to cliched wisdom about Chinese scammers and eBay etc, the seller is excellent and the tailored case a perfect fit for the TF tablet. It cost my wife £15 GBP. As for a case for the TF in clamshell guise, Wenger's robust, beautifully padded 10.2 case fits like a glove. Amazon UK has it for £14 post free. There may be other variants out there, but for anyone to say that they can't find a case, or cases, for the TF is plain wrong: try looking, huh? My wife has paid a total of £29 GBP including post & packing for two quality cases: we think it's great value for money.
(7) Android apps. The reviewer is correct, and very helpful, in pointing out that many Froyo (2.0) smartphone apps upscale very well to the Asus's screen size. But Honeycomb apps are coming thick and fast, not every month, or every week, but damn near every day. No point in listing 'em here: 10 minutes on Google is enough to dispel the myth about how everything's still, er, 'nascent'. It isn't. And the maturity of some apps is staggering: Google Maps, for instance, with Navigator's latest ability to do off-line caching of routes, means the likes of TomTom et al have even more cause to worry about how long the stand-alone satnav can endure.
8) Asus. We went with Asus because we've had experience of it before and so have many millions of others (like, er, look at the motherboard in your computer?) It gives every appearance of knowing exactly what it's doing in terms of firmware updates and as for Google, the rapid upgrade of Honeycomb (3.0 to 3.1) makes Apple's software division look narcoleptic.
9) Availability. The Transformer took off so fast in the US that first shipments sold out. This wasn't on the back of an extensive advertising campaign but on word-of-mouth or Internet recommends from existing users. In the UK, the first shipment also sold out. Asus shipped again to the UK on June 5th/June 6th so stocks, though going down fairly fast, are still held by Comet, Laskys, eBuyer and others. Amazon UK, however, appears to have some customers ordering in late April to mid-May and reporting that they still haven't received anything. Amazon has now updated its position to say the TF is expected to become available between mid-July and the end of August (huh???)
It's not clear why Amazon UK seems to be so wrong-footed, but already, dark mutterings are arising re the news of Amazon's own reported intention to move into the tablet market itself, with a badge-engineered Samsung. However, it's also reported that Google and Amazon aren't getting on, so a question mark arises over the Android OS -- which means, a question mark over the whole project. (Note to Amazon Legal Department: I am not suggesting that the inexplicable unavailability of the Asus Transformer at Amazon UK is in any way connected with reports of Amazon's own intention to launch an Amazon Tablet in late summer. It's all pure coincidence, of course.)
10) User support. One of the fastest growing forums on the 'Net nowadays is that dedicated to the Asus Transformerr, over 2,000 users already in just a couple of months. So it's not as though anyone purchasing a Transformer is out on her / his own: help, news, and info for the Asus Transformer / Honeycomb is plentiful and increasing daily.
(11) Conclusion. We are not and never have been Apple Fan Boys. We don't have any Apple equipment at all. But that doesn't mean we're as vigorous in our agnosticism as the Apple faithful are in their religion. Our son had an iPad 1 and now, an iPad 2. He's delighted with his purchase. Fair enough. We bought the Asus Transformer because it has more features, is better value for money, and because it's ours to do with as we wish: none of that ludicrous iTunes-for-everything business.
The TF+keyboard/battery combo is, as noted, a no-brainer: my wife has had a total of 13 hours continuous run-time with the TF, using apps, playing music, watching movies, etc (the TF's 16GB internal storage is hardly a problem: she paid £17 for a Class 4 Kingston 16GB SDHC card, and popped that in. The Asus positively flies along regardless of the drive being used.)
It's still very early days for us, and I'm always hesitant about buying anything off the back of a magazine or online review, simply because the reviewers never have 'em long enough to really know what they're on about. Ditto with this post: we simply haven't had the TF long enough to fully explore everything it can do, nor can we make any judgment about its reliability. And it's true, Android apps still are miles behind Apple's, and Honeycomb still isn't -- as far as we can make out -- as good as Apple's OIS.
But, but, but. . . it's reminiscent of way-back-when, and the arrival of IBM/compatibles in a Mac-dominated world when, almost overnight, or so it seemed, the PC with its operating system and apps from third-party software developers gathered an unstoppable momentum. (And kudos to Google here: Android 3.0 was a dog's breakfast, but 3.1 is vastly better. And 3.2 isn't that far down the line.)
Our conclusion then, based on experience as actual owners / users, is that although Apple may have killed the US ads for the Asus Transformer, the simple truth of that ad remains intact:
The Asus Transformer is indeed like the Apple iPad.
Might behard to beat on price
Given it's £50 (when bundled) and includes battery, ports and keyboard. Laptop batteries usually cost around that on their own.
This is getting a bit daft now.
Some consistency between reviews is seriously needed.
Asus is better and cheaper than Xoom, but because you
don't like the design, you mark it down 5%.