Software and Power
Perhaps the most important question of all that rears its head when looking to buy an iPad 2 or Transformer is "Android or iOS?" iOS offers simplicity, reliability, accessibility where Android boasts customisation and - from one perspective at least - power.
It's this difference of operating system that all-but nullifies the raw power comparison between the two devices. Both have dual-core processors and dedicated graphics units, but as they're at a similar level of performance how much impressive stuff they'll churn out is down to the app and games developers, not the hardware makers. More on that later.
Both Android and iOS offer multitasking, but it's still fundamentally limited. The systems only let you actively partake in one app at a time, so Apple's description of its multitasking as "fast app switching" is an accurate summation of all tablet OS multi-tasking.
What Android is better at than iOS though is cramming information into a single screen. Honeycomb is creeping towards a "full" operating system like Windows or MacOS in its home screen layout. There's a nav bar at the bottom of each home screen that tells you of any recent updates, and offers the basic navigational shortcuts for the home screen, apps menu and the back button. For more on this, read the interface section of our full Eee Pad Transformer review.
The iPad OS doesn't make as divergent changes from the smartphone version of iOS - with notifications popping on-screen as they appear or within a pull-down bar, as you'll find in the smartphone Android. This is about to be updated as part of iOS 5.0, but it's still a fairly conservative change. That's the Apple way - slow and steady.
This approach does come with serious benefits though. iOS is much less buggy than Android Honeycomb. Use Android and you'll soon get accustomed to the occasional buggy glitch.
With the keyboard dock in-tow, the Eee Pad Transformer is much more useful as a productivity device than the iPad 2. Many have convinced themselves pre-purchase that their iPad will replace their desktop computer or full laptop but have found themselves mostly idling through Facebook or obsessively flinging birds into bricks a few months down the line.
Why? Because a touchscreen isn't a great replacement for a real keyboard, partly because of the lack of feedback a flat piece of glass has to offer your digits. You may be able to type quickly, but - for this generation at least - touchscreen typing doesn't feel as natural, as "right", as using a physical keyboard.
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer's keyboard is on-par with Asus's laptops. It's not class-leading, beaten by the best from Lenovo, but it is very comfortable to type on compared with a touchscreen or most cheap Bluetooth keyboards.
The official Apple Bluetooth keyboard is excellent and available for £57, but won’t support the iPad 2's weight so is useless for impromptu typing sessions on-the-go. When using at home you’ll still have to find some way to prop up the iPad 2 too. The original iPad had a keyboard/dock combo, but that was scrapped for the second-gen model (presumably because it didn’t sell too well) and wasn’t remotely as good a portable solution as the Eee Pad Transformer offers anyway.