We’ve already discussed the Transformer Pad 300’s basic design differences compared to the Prime, but how does the new Transformer hold up in its own right? We received the ‘blue’ model, which sports a dark navy finish that looks great.
The concentric ring pattern Asus is applying to its recent premium products – including the Zenbook UX31 and its UX31A successor – helps to give it a premium look and, as it’s far more prominent than on the metal laptops or Prime tablet, it helps to prevent fingerprints and improve grip too. This is actually a significant advantage over the Prime, which could resemble a post-forensics crime scene in the wrong light and feel a tad slippery in greasy mitts.
The Pad 300/TF300 is just a tad thicker and heavier than the Prime, but you’re unlikely to notice unless you put them side by side, and it’s important to remember that without its dock this Asus tablet is still thinner (9.9mm) and lighter (635g) than many rivals – most notably the new iPad 3.
Build quality is very good. Obviously the plastic chassis on the tablet doesn’t feel as solid as the all-metal prime, but again it’s more than a match for the average Android tablet, and the front is still reinforced Gorilla glass. What's more the keyboard dock feels even better-built than the tablet itself.
Connectivity is the one area where even the cheapest Android tablet will thoroughly trounce the iPad. The Transformer Pad 300 tablet itself has about average connectivity for a thin slate, but adding the keyboard dock makes it one of the best-connected out there – identical to the Prime, in fact.
On the tablet’s left side (in landscape) you’ll find microHDMI and microSD card slots for outputting to monitors and/or televisions and expanding the memory respectively, along with the pinhole reset button and crisp volume rocker. The right side houses a 3.5mm combo headphone/microphone jack, while at the bottom you’ll find the usual proprietary 40-pin docking port used for charging. You can get full-size USB adapter cables for this, but of course its main use is to connect with the dock, providing data and power.
So without its keyboard base, it’s better-connected than the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1, but inferior to the likes of the Toshiba AT200 or the (admittedly rather heavy and bulky) Lenovo ThinkPad Tablet.
The Transformer Pad 300’s dock, meanwhile, duplicates the 40-pin port on its left, and offers a full-size USB 2.0 port and SDXC card slot on its right side. This lets you plug in cards from your camera and USB memory sticks directly, a great combination that very few other tablets allow.
On the wireless front, there’s Wi-Fi N, GPS and Bluetooth 3.0, though still no 3G option. If this is something you require, you’ll want to wait for the Krait S4 version of the Transformer Pad Infinity. Thanks to Nvidia’s Tegra 3 SoC in the 300, you can also wirelessly connect Playstation 3, Wii or even PC controllers, and wired Xbox 360 pads will also work.