Asus claim up to 18 hours of HD video playback with the Prime’s dock, or 12 hours without. If these numbers seem unlikely for a quad-core tablet, it’s important to remember that, unlike Tegra 2, its successor is a fully scalable architecture. Not only can Tegra 3 dynamically balance load across all four of its main cores (which can clock in at up to 1.4GHz for a single core or 1.3GHz across all), but it can completely turn them off too. Yes, all four of them. You see, there’s actually a fifth ‘companion core’ integrated into the chipset, which can handle idle modes or low-level tasks such as word processing. This unit uses less power than a single ‘regular’ core, allowing Nvidia to accurately claim its latest quad-core chip will consume less power than Tegra 2’s dual-core arrangement (and indeed those of most rival chips) in many scenarios. In other words, anyone who thinks tablets don’t need quad-core, here you get better performance married to better battery life, so there’s no reason for complaint.
Indeed, the Transformer easily matches the best of the competition where battery life is concerned. We measured over nine hours of SD video playback (sans dock), and in a test simulating average use (screen brightness at 50 percent, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi on, some standby periods) the tablet alone managed a whopping 14 hours! Throw in the dock and this extends even further, though battery life won’t double as it did for the original Transformer since the dock’s battery size (and thus capacity) had to be reduced to maintain its slimness. It’s worth pointing out that the dock actually charges the tablet while the two are connected - as long as it has charge to give, obviously, otherwise it drains the device.
So how does Asus’ new Transformer Prime compare to the rest of the market, and perhaps more importantly, to its predecessor (which will continue to be available at a reduced price of around £380 with dock as a budget option)? Well, aside from kicking the stuffing out of Decepticons, the Prime also pretty much beats every other Android tablet out there without exception. The only tablet that offers more versatility than the Prime is Lenovo’s ThinkPad tablet, which includes a pressure-sensitive stylus in addition to a keyboard folio case that’s great to type on. But it’s nowhere near as slim, light, stylish or powerful, nor is its IPS screen as good.
As a tablet, meanwhile, Asus’ second Transformer is thinner and nearly as light in the hand as the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, while offering a brighter screen and far more connectivity, storage and power. And as mentioned in our Transformer Prime VS iPad 2: Battle of the Tablet Titans piece, it beats the mighty iPad 2 in many regards too, especially if you’re more interested in productivity and video playback than app choice and gaming.
The craziest part is that, if the UK MSRP of £499 holds up, it will cost only £20 more than a 32GB iPad 2, and that’s with the keyboard dock included, making it an absolute bargain.
So is the Prime the perfect tablet? Not quite. Until the aforementioned update to ICS arrives, Apple’s iOS still offers a smoother and more attractive tablet OS. Android’s app selection and security is also several levels below what you currently get with the iPad, though this situation is improving. On the hardware front, meanwhile, there’s still no sign of a 3G option in either original or new Transformer. We also feel that despite its better build quality and more attractive design, the dock has taken a few steps back compared to its predecessor: the keyboard is shallower and we really do miss that second full-size USB 2.0 port. If you don’t need the benefits Tegra 3 brings to the table, you might be better off with the £380 original.
However, at just under £500 the Prime's really a bit of a bargain. It can even be used as a netbook or laptop replacement if you’re happy with its limitations, and dare we say should run Windows 8 beautifully when that OS comes out, expanding its flexibility further.
Asus’ Tranformer Prime is a thing of beauty. Despite being easily as thin and light as most rivals, this aluminium-clad tablet is far more powerful thanks to its quad-core Tegra 3 internals. This also means that smooth 1080p video playback on a tablet and console-quality gaming on Android are finally realities, and the Prime shows them off on the best tablet screen we’ve yet seen.
The keyboard dock is the icing on a very tasty cake, and though there are a few concessions compared to the original Transformer’s dock, it’s still an amazing add-on that not only makes the Prime one of the most versatile devices on the market, but also one of the longest-lasting. Quite simply, the Transformer Prime is the best Android tablet available and arguably the best tablet per se.