Review Price £399.99
Asus Transformer Pad 300 – Screen, Speakers and Performance
Thankfully, we’re seeing high-quality IPS screens becoming the norm across all but the most budget 10in tablets, and the 1,280 x 800 panel used in the Transformer Pad 300 is pretty good. While it lacks the Transformer Prime’s incredible 600nits brightness and Super IPS Plus branding, at 350nits it’s still plenty vivid. The only practical disadvantage is that it’s no longer easily visible in direct sunlight.
Colours were bright without significant oversaturation, viewing angles as good as ever, and no sign of nasty artefacts. Backlighting is also even, with only minor bleed at the left side and bottom right corner. This will vary from tablet to tablet, and again is a common annoyance. We also found contrast to be slightly poorer, with deep blacks but fewer dark details distinguishable. However, it’s still in line with most tablets and good enough for the majority of users.
Audio from the Pad 300’s SonicMaster stereo speakers is decent enough as tablets go, with good volume and clarity, plus just an extra hint of bass compared to the Prime. You’ll still want to use a decent pair of headphones if you can though.
Performance is almost identical to that of the Transformer Prime running Android 4.0.3 (yummily codenamed Ice Cream Sandwich, or ICS for short), so have a read of that review to get all the nitty gritty. Otherwise, suffice to say it’s very good indeed. There’s the rare hiccup to remind you that you’re running an OS that’s been made to work with a huge variety of hardware configurations where Apple’s slightly more polished iOS runs on just a few iterations of a single platform, but overall everything ran quick and smooth on Nvidia’s Tegra 3 quad-core power.
Tegra 3 is a fully power-gated architecture with cores only active when they’re needed. In fact, all four primary cores can be switched off, as there’s a fifth, low-power ‘companion core’ integrated into the chipset for handling low-level tasks and idle updating. The primary cores also feature dynamic clocking to save energy when they are in use, and can clock anywhere from a few MHz to their full 1200MHz speed on this tablet. Incidentally, we wouldn’t be at all surprised if there was a hack released soon to take advantage of the 1.6GHz-plus speeds Tegra 3 is comfortable running at on other devices.
Backed by 1GB of RAM, you rarely run out of memory even with fairly intensive multi-tasking, something Android does properly (unlike iOS, even demanding apps can continue running in the background rather than being paused). For storage the 32GB you get standard in the UK Transformer Pad 300, plus 8GB online for life via Asus WebStorage, should be more than sufficient for most - and if not it can be expanded by up to 128GB using the SD memory card slots; new iPad eat your heart out.
Graphics and Video
Finally, on the graphics front Tegra 3 isn’t as strong as its processor component. Its 12 GPU cores do provide some of the best performance in an Android tablet, but for sheer horsepower it can’t beat even the iPad 2’s A5 SoC, let alone the A5X in Apple’s third tablet. However, thanks to Nvidia’s close game developer relationships and sponsorship, you will find titles with added details, physics and effects, essentially giving you the best-looking mobile version of a multi-platform game. It’s also worth noting that Tegra 3 is the only platform so far with hardware support for PS3, Wii and wired PC/Xbox 360 controllers.
Smooth-as-butter playback of the most intensive 1080p HD video you can throw at it is the final feather in Tegra 3’s cap, as long as you use a media player that supports its hardware acceleration.