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Asus Eee Pad Transformer - Apps, Video, Camera and Verdict

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams

Reviewed:

Summary

Our Score:

9

Hardware-wise we have almost no complaints about the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, but what about its software? The most serious shortcoming of the tablet in use isn't one that Asus has any control over - it's Android 3.0 Honeycomb apps.

While many Android essentials, like Angry Birds, Twitter and Facebook, all work just fine on the Asus Eee Pad Transformer, very few are optimised for the tablet's large, high-resolution screen at present. This is a symptom of the platform's young age more than anything else, but it's disappointing to see so few of the app scene's biggest players step up a gear for the launch of the first Android 3.0 tablets. Some apps refuse to work properly too. Asus Eee Pad Transformer

We couldn't get the BBC iPlayer's app to work properly, for one, while plenty of others just don't look right - yet. Oddly enough, we found the app situation to be worse than an Android 2.2 tablet in some respects. Give it a month or two and this situation should improve significantly, fingers crossed.

Asus and Google both give the Eee Pad Transformer a nudge in the right direction, with some built-in Honeycomb-optimised apps. The YouTube app's perhaps a bit snazzy for its own good, but the multi-pane email app and much-improved browser make excellent use of the tablet's increased screen real estate. Like the structure of the Android Honeycomb OS itself, the browser demonstrates Android's convergence with a larger-scale "full OS" experience. It introduces full tabbed browsing, which, along with full Flash support and multi-touch, provides a web experience on par with a proper computer and that far outdoes Apple's iPad.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer

There's one hugely disappointing omission in the Asus Eee Pad Transformer's built-in apps line-up though - a decent video player. Asus offers a reasonably friendly DLNA interface through MyNet and there's a basic media player too, but the codec support available here is below-par. Where awful no-name Android tablets often offer MKV, DivX and Xvid support, the Transformer seemingly offers only the Android basics of H.264, H.263 and MP4. When the screen and battery life of this tablet are so impressive, Asus's decision not too boost its video skills seems a misstep.

There are solutions, naturally. Apps such as Rockplayer and yxplayer can provide non-native support for these other codecs, but performance and playback quality is below what we'd hope for. Some of our simple 720p video samples stuttered when played-back with these third-party apps - not what we'd expect from a dual-core Tegra 2 processor. Hopefully the VLC app will clean up this problem once it arrives in Honeycomb form on the Android Market.

The built-in apps also do not make full use of the Asus Eee Pad Transformer's dual cameras, but this is something we're glad it has left to third-party app developers. With 1.3 megapixels and five megapixels a piece, they have unusually powerful sensors (for a tablet) too. By comparison, the iPad 2's cameras are both less than a megapixel each, and the more expensive Motorola Xoom offers a 5-megapixel and 2-megapixel pair. To see the rear camera in action, check out our page of camera test images.Asus Eee Pad Transformer

When we first saw the Asus Eee Pad Transformer pop onto the scene, we were sceptical. It seemed to promise everything, for less cash than the competition, and our spider senses are all too attuned to the pitfalls of setting hopes high. Yet it has pulled-off this feat, producing what is the best value Android Honeycomb tablet out there. Just like it did during the birth of netbooks, Asus has jumped in with both feet and the risk has paid off.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer

It's cheaper than the premium tablet competition, such as the Motorola Xoom, while offering similar specs, and it far outclasses the cast of budget Android tablets we've seen so far. Not only that but the keyboard really sets the Asus Eee Pad Transformer apart - not only is this tablet capable, well built and stylish, it's also practical. Android still has a few bugs that need ironing out and it's probably a bit geeky for some but overall we think Asus has produced one of the best tablets on the market.

Verdict

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer is what we've been waiting for - a tablet that can truly replace a netbook or ultra-portable laptop. With the keyboard disengaged, it's a slim, fairly light tablet with a great screen and touchscreen. With the dock in-tow, it's a typing demon whose battery will outlast almost any laptop or tablet you can find. Android 3.0 Honeycomb apps need to catch up for it to compete with the iPad but we fully expect this to happen soon, and Android has its own trump cards like Flash video in the interim. What really completes the picture for the Transformer, though, is its ultra competitive pricing - this is an absolute bargain compared to its rivals.

ChrisB

March 31, 2011, 6:59 pm

Looks really rather exciting, my problem with all of these android tablets is accessories. If its not an iPad then you cant easily get 3rd party accessories and you're stuck in 2 years when the manufacturer discontinues the line. I have a sony mp3 player that uses a proprietary connector and i look on in envy at my colleagues at work who can just slip their iPods/Phones into nearly every household appliance. Still wouldn't buy Apple but it does make you think

Andrew_TR

March 31, 2011, 7:35 pm

You're right ChrisB. It's mind-boggling how many accessories there are for Apple's iPhones and iPods. I guess that at least the Transformer will be able to use some netbook/other tablet cases. Just have to hope the batteries in the keyboard dock and tablet itself have good long lifespans.

Gk.pm

March 31, 2011, 7:51 pm

I'm not sure why the reviewer was excited by a £50 proprietary wired keyboard. It's certainly not cheap.

Apple's wireless bluetooth one is only £57, or you can buy any bluetooth one from any brand (and some say Apple is closed..). Dealextreme sells perfectly usable keyboards for ~ £15! Wired keyboards are even cheaper than that.

Andrew_TR

March 31, 2011, 8:03 pm

@gk.pm mostly because it boosts the battery by 6.5 hours. And because of the form factor benefits over a non-tailored solution. But granted, the keyboard I'm using right now is probably worth about £1.50!

Stelph

March 31, 2011, 8:06 pm

As nice as this tablet is (and a step in the right direction) there are two things wrong with it IMO.

1) Asus really have moved away from the "cheap and cheerful" ideal that they set up with the first Eee PC netbook, £379-£429 is just too expensive for this and I think they should be more aggressivly pricing at around £250-£300, maybe ZTE will resolve this

2) Im starting to get a little "meh" about Tegra 2, it was very much hyped but from what ive read it struggles with some 720p and all 1080p videos and the grpahics chip loses out to the iPad 2. I want a tablet that I can put any video/file into it and it will "just work", so I am hoping the Tegra 3 will step up to this mark (although at this rate itll take until the Tegra 4 is out to push the pricing down to acceptable levels)...

Kempez

March 31, 2011, 8:23 pm

Looks promising, although the price could do with lowering a little. Asus have the capacity to make this even cheaper so I can't see it not being offered at less money down the line.

Leonardo

March 31, 2011, 8:40 pm

@Gk.pm

It's not just a keyboard though is it? It's also a second battery, and happens to double up as a screen protector and a stand.

Plugging any old keyboard into a tablet doesn't even come close to replicating this.

joose

March 31, 2011, 9:40 pm

Gk.pm - In addition to what AndrewTR said there is also two USB ports and card reader built in. Both of which I would of liked to be included with the ipad2.. Still, depending on reviews I think this could replace my netbook.

Its strange that you can currently only get the keypad with the 16gb and not 32gb. Why is this? I would prefer the extra storage of the 32gb. How much will the keypad be sold on it's own or is that not a option? Bit daft really.

anandjm

March 31, 2011, 10:53 pm

Looking at this short review, I think Google should have partnered with Asus instead of Motorola for there first Android tablet based on Honeycomb. Asus is a company with much better manufacturing resources than Motorola.

mrg9999

April 1, 2011, 3:49 am

proprietary connectors? Hello, the apple one is just this. Most other devs now use micro usb. I think this scores because
Keyboard + battery + expansion = 50 quid is cheap
Android device is open, unlike ipad which you have to jailbreak, and continual apple break the JB.
I have one of the $40 DX android pads and it makes a fine wall clock/twitter term.

I'll probably buy this, unless something even better comes out.

weirdwilli

April 1, 2011, 12:49 pm

@RipoffBritain, of course we are being ripped off, we always have been with consumer electronics. Although when looking at phone contracts in the US, it by far cancels out

Denis iii

April 1, 2011, 1:49 pm

I like but will wait to see what win8 and win8 tablets bring hopefully next year as I am happy with my Asus G73JH-A1 (which I got for under 950quid all in imported from the states)

Matt McGuire

April 1, 2011, 1:55 pm

@mrg9999 I get the impression the original poster knew the Apple one is proprietary.
It is however one of the few ubiquitous proprietaries, supported in a wide range of cars, stereos, tv, etc.

Any other device which doesn't use a standard usb connector is taking a risk, which more often than not leads to the frustration the OP has with his ageing Sony MP3 player.

Will 4

April 3, 2011, 12:40 am

Bluetooth keyboards don't work well with Android. Yes they work, but there aren't keys for search, home etc. and symbols often don't work.

So this keyboard and trackpad is a no-brainer if you want to use key input, as it will no doubt be optimised for the OS.

Arctic Fox

April 3, 2011, 12:11 pm

@Denis iii

Yes, I've said much the same thing on a couple of threads here at TR, much (it has to be said) to the amusement of some of the other contributors - mainly along the lines of how long I will have to wait! My reasons are straight forward, I want good kit and I am willing to shell out some serious dosh for it. However, then it has to be good enough to replace my laptop - not merely be a content consumption supplement to our existing "computer park" at home. In essence I want something that will cope with serious content creation, replace my Kindle (which I like very much but will be a bit "aged" by then) and can be plugged into our receiver/telly set-up via HDMI to do a good job as our living room pc when we're at home. The kit that is on the horizon should most certainly cope with all of that and if Win 8 really will be properly optimised for touch-screens then I am most certainly willing to wait and am prepared to part with the necessary hard-earned when the right candidate turns up.

AF

djay

April 14, 2011, 9:47 pm

Picked one up at the weekend. Its quite a slick looking device and the screen really is superb. Viewing angles are some of the best ive seen on a portable device. Was expecting a radical change with Honeycomb but its just a really a new lick of paint with a few tweaks here and there. The only problem i have is with the apps. As yet, there are very few apps optimised for Android 3 and the 10.1 screen size. Apps often crash and its gets a little frustrating at times. Im sure this is indicative any OS upgrade and will settle down over time with app updates.

James Skimming

April 16, 2011, 2:13 am

@djay
Where did you pick it up, was it with the keyboard? Everywhere that's doing the keyboard bundle seems to be sold out.

99tollap

May 5, 2011, 1:01 am

All this time after the first ipad was announced and you know what? I still don't understand the point of tablets.

The Doctor

May 5, 2011, 1:19 am

As someone who was sceptical of the iPad when it was first launched, I finally got the point of it after playing with a friend's (and also understood why Apple was right that a ten inch screen was the right choice for usablity). However, having bought a Desire last year I wasn't about to jump into a whole new "ecosystem" (God I hate that phrase!) so decided to plump for the Transformer, if only because having the keyboard let me convince myself that it was more than just a toy...

After having used mine for about a week now, I'm really enjoying the experience. Yes, Honeycomb is a bit buggy in places but is nowhere near as bad as some tech journos have made out. Yes, the dearth of proper Honeycomb apps is a bit frustrating but unlike the iPad, regular Android apps generally scale up quite well to the screen eaning you're not left with the fuzzy double-size scaling of iPhone apps.

However, I think the review is correct that the biggest failing is the lack of easy video playback. Although you can optimise video for good playback (I've had Tron Legacy at 720p through the mini-HDMI port) the experience of getting it onto the tablet has been difficult enough that most people won't bother.

I think the bottom line is that if you want the most user-friendly experience you get an iPad but if you are happy to put up with a few niggles to get a more flexible experience, then a Transformer is your best choice at the moment.

Gk.pm

May 5, 2011, 4:27 am

Why is this back as a new article? Wasn't this reviewed in March 31?

Still it was interesting to see that still not that many Android tablet apps have showed up since then.

I still don't see the point of this device - if what you want is a notebook then get one with a real OS.

Chris

May 5, 2011, 3:15 pm

That was a hands-on article. We now have a full review, which has been appended to the original hands-on. A bit confusing perhaps.

Ed

May 5, 2011, 3:37 pm

Sorry guys, we're still getting our heads round our new content management system - don't ask. This should now be the full review.

Zero 1

May 5, 2011, 3:37 pm

I actually think Asus has made a very good tablet for android. In terms of hardware with keyboard it just looks so practical. The pricing is also spot on. I don't think I will get one just yet but counting out iPads, this is certainly one of the best tablet out there.

Keithe6e

May 5, 2011, 3:54 pm

>> proprietary connectors? Hello, the apple one is just this

That most speaker docks / car radios etc all support.

>> Most other devs now use micro usb.

The dock connector does more than just USB, so isn't a direct replacement for the dock connector.

Malcolm Smith 1

May 5, 2011, 4:08 pm

I got one of these yesterday, delivered from Comet who had 414 (without keyboard) in stock. Yes, apps for 3.0 are few at the moment, and some older aps crash. The Iplayer app does not work atm on 3.0.

But, early days and it is not the tablets fault! The tablet is very good imo, screen rotates fast, scrolls smoothly. I seem to have to tap a little harder than I do on my phone, but it could just be me! Often accurate tapping is required.

I'm not fussed over video applications myself, so any potential issues there are not important.

Having looked around at the Xoom and the Ipad (which I just refuse to buy into) I figured this was the best choice currently in terms of product/value. I'd agree with the 9/10 rating of the review and I think the price is very reasonable for the product.

I just hope that over the next few months apps and a chocie of dedicated cases etc appear - the Asus case looks horrible!

I've not had a chance to try the PC software (synching etc) yet....maybe tonight.

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