If you have £500 burning a hole in your pocket - and who doesn't in a recession - two of the most worthy candidates for a splurge are the Apple iPad 2 and Asus's convertible Eee Pad Transformer. But which is a better choice? And for whom? We decided to pick them apart, bit-by-bit, to help you in your buying decision. Strap yourselves in, because we'll be donning our pedant hat and giving free rein to our tech OCD on this one, readers.
When buying any 10in tablet, one of the first mental hurdles you need to scale is the portability problem. No 10in tablet is particularly portable. The iPad 2 and Eee Pad Transformer won't fit into your pocket, and one-handed operation for elongated periods isn't comfortable. At the iPad 2's release, many shouted about its light weight and how it opened the doors to one-handed bliss - it doesn’t really. The Kindle is a happy one-hander. It weighs under 250g, less than half the weight of an iPad 2.
We'll hand it to the iPad though (with both hands), it's darn slim. At 8.8mm thick, it's slimmer than virtually every smartphone and makes the 12.9mm Eee Pad Transformer look tubby. The smoothed edges of the iPad 2 are comfier in-hand too. With a design more reminiscent of the first iPad, the Transformer has a flat edge that then curves out to form the back of the device.
The back of the Transformer is plastic too, ensuring it doesn't have the ultra-premium feel of Apple's tab. It's textured to try and pump some style into its bod, but it's no match for the supreme simplicity that Jonathan Ive has given the iPad 2 in the form of its Macbook-apeing anodised aluminium back.
In sheer practicality terms though, the Asus Eee Pad Transformer has a secret weapon - its keyboard dock. This adds weight to the tablet, sure, but also lets you rest the tablet on your knees, which is perfect for watching a movie on the train. Extend the screen back and it'll topple unlike a perfectly-weighted laptop, but it's still preferable to having to hold up your iPad 2 with your own hands.
Keyboard cases for the iPad 2 are available of course, but none offer an integration as elegant as that seen in the Transformer. Married-up, the Eee Pad Transformer becomes just like a laptop or netbook. It hinge moves smoothly, and stays attached when closed unlike the slightly disappointing Acer Iconia W500.
However, if knees aren't an option - if you want to use a tablet on a busy commute where getting a seat would be a luxury beyond your wildest dreams - the iPad 2 is a much better bet. It's thinner, lighter and feels altogether smaller thanks to its non-widescreen aspect ratio. The iPad 2 measures 241 x 185 x 8.8mm. The Asus Eee Pad Transformer measures 270 x 176 x 12.9mm.