Aside from HD video playback, the other area where Tegra 3 really makes its presence felt right now is in gaming. Asus pre-installed some nifty game demos to give a taste of just what Nvidia’s latest and greatest mobile chipset is capable of, and suffice to say we’re impressed. The enhanced version of Riptide GP, for example, shows jaw-dropping water effects: waves now have dynamic whitecaps and highlights, while water splashes convincingly onto the screen. There’s also advanced motion blur when racing at high speeds.
Frankly, running the Tegra 3-optimised version of this game alongside the A5-optimised version for the iPad 2 shows just how much extra power is at play here – though that doesn’t necessarily mean the graphics of Nvidia’s latest will be superior to that of Apple’s in every scenario. In fact, for raw pixel-pushing power the A5 still wins out, and a lot will depend on efficiency of development. Compared to Tegra 2 things are less ambiguous, with the previous-gen chip thoroughly shamed by its successor across the board.
Even more than Riptide, the game that blew us out of the water was Gunslinger, a Wild West take on Infinity Blade. Considering we’re dealing with a developer preview, the graphics are superb (though the same couldn’t be said about the gameplay and overall, Infinity Blade 2 on the iPad 2 still looks better), with realistic dust, smoke and flame effects. Glowball, meanwhile, showed of the stunning lighting Nvidia’s 12-core GPU can bring to the table. Nvidia even attests there should be enough power left over to play in stereoscopic 3D.
Another of Tegra 3’s outstanding features is that it supports the majority of popular joypads and controllers at a hardware level. PlayStation 3 controllers, for example, will work without requiring an app, and now Wiimotes are invited to the party too. Xbox 360 pads will work as long as they’re wired (through USB), and most wireless or wired PC gamepads should also play nice. Combined with its easy TV output/mirroring and decreased lag, the Prime has bucketloads of gaming potential.
Unfortunately, Android 4.0 - also known as Ice Cream Sandwhich (or ICS for short) - didn’t make it in time for the Prime’s launch. So we’re still stuck with the good old Honeycomb/Android 3.2 we’ve all come to know and love. However, we’ve never seen it running quite this smoothly or quickly before. Though there’s still the occasional judder, it’s now so minor you might not even notice.
Even so, it’s not really fair to judge the latest Transformer on an OS that wasn’t even remotely designed to handle its power, so we’ll give you our final take on the matter once ICS has arrived. Thankfully Asus has promised ICS very soon, and with the Transformer Prime being a development tablet for the latest Android OS, there’s little reason to expect otherwise. In the meantime, we’re glad to report that not just the OS and apps, but also mundane activities like browsing the web, feel just that little bit faster and more responsive.
Finally a quick word about included apps. Asus has preinstalled SuperNote, which lets you type with its own virtual keyboard, and draw or write with your finger. The paint tool is actually reasonably sophisticated, certainly a step above the likes of Windows Paint. You can also insert pictures or media files in SuperNote documents, and it lets you record video or voice too.
Many Android users will already be familiar with Polaris Office, which is one of the biggest Office productivity apps for the platform. It accepts most Microsoft Office files and allows for the creation of text documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Though we prefer Documents to Go, Polaris is certainly one of the top two contenders. App Locker provides password protection for individual apps, while App Backup… backs them up to external storage. Asus’ MyCloud, meanwhile, gives access to 8GB of online storage that’s set aside for every Prime owner.