Home / Opinions / Transformer Prime VS iPad 2: Battle of the Tablet Titans

Transformer Prime Takes the Lead

Ardjuna Seghers


Transformer Prime VS iPad 2: Battle of the Tablet Titans

Read our full Asus Transformer Prime review.

Some say that in the tablet world, there are two kinds of contender: Apple’s iPad 2 and everyone else. However, among Android tablets the Asus Eee Pad Transformer stood head and shoulders above the rest, thanks to an optional keyboard dock that also doubled the battery life while providing full-size USB ports and a regular SD card slot - essentially turning it into a productivity tool that had a better screen and lasted longer on the go than any netbook. Mind you, the tablet itself wasn’t bad either, and Asus has taken all the stops out for its sequel, the Transformer Prime (codenamed TF201).

This sequel to the original Transformer (TF101) is lighter, slimmer, more stylish, metal-clad, comes with an even better screen and, most significantly, a quad-core CPU and 12-core GPU combo courtesy of Nvidia’s Tegra 3, making it the most versatile and powerful Android tablet on the market. Even without its dock it’s a stunner, but how does it fare against Apple’s king of the hill contender?

Superior specs are highlighted in orange above

Build and Design

For starters the Prime is thinner and lighter, as you can see in our comparison table. Its metal chassis feels almost as sturdy as the iPad 2's and it looks just as good. Which you'll favour will depend on whether you prefer the sand-blasted silver aluminium of the iPad 2 or the smooth, concentric ring design of the Prime. Apple lets you pick either a white or black plastic bezel around the screen, while Asus gives you a choice between an Amethyst Gray or Champagne Gold back. There’s almost nothing to choose between them on build: they both offer metal chassis and glass fronts.


The Transformer Prime, for being both thinner and lighter despite stuffing in more of everything.


Even without its dock, the Prime offers better connectivity than an iPad 2. Its microSD card slot lets you expand the internal memory of 32GB or 64GB by up to an additional 64GB (Sandisk’s 64GB microSDXC card will supposedly work, though not without possible issues). There’s also a microHDMI video port for display mirroring and playing back content on your TV or monitor, which you may want to do often as the new Transformer Prime is a multimedia powerhouse unmatched by other tablets. Oh, and there’s hardware support for any Bluetooth or USB games controller you might care to use, from a PS3 dualshock to a WiiMote.


The Transformer Prime, for not needing an expensive adapter to connect to anything else. Oh, and for its cool console controller compatibility.


With its fantastic screen, the Transformer Prime ups the stakes once more. Though both tablets share IPS-panel displays for superb viewing angles and reasonably accurate colours, Asus’s tab gives you a higher 1,280 x 800 resolution (compared to 1,024 x 768 on Apple’s effort), a bit more real estate (10.1in compared to 9.7in) and better contrast. It also literally outshines all competitors, with a 600nits rating making it the brightest screen we have ever seen on a tablet. As a result, the display is visible even in bright sunlight despite the reflections caused by its tough Gorilla glass protection.


The Transformer Prime, for searing your retinas after ensuring the last thing you’ll see are its vibrant, accurate colours, deep blacks and pure whites.


The Prime's specs best the iPad 2 yet again. It’s the first quad-core tablet in the world, and is more powerful than nearly any rival – barring premium Windows tabs like the £1,000 Samsung Series 7 Slate. In addition to its four primary cores there’s a low-power companion core to take care of low-level tasks, and a whopping 12 graphical cores ensure games are almost console quality.

It also backs this with double the iPad 2’s RAM. Frankly, there’s more untapped potential here than most developers will know what to do with, especially on the graphics side of things – oh, and HD video of all varieties will finally play back smoothly, a feat hitherto unmatched in tablet land, regardless of brand, CPU or OS. By the by, did we mention the Tegra 3 chipset can potentially handle 2D-3D conversion on the fly?


The Transformer Prime, for packing more cores than an apple pie bakery's refuse sack, and finally realising our dream of carrying a HTPC in our backpack.


On the iPad 2, cameras are more of a checkbox afterthought than a usable addition. On the Prime they’re very good – better, in fact, than the vast majority of rival tablets. Asus’ rear-mounted effort is particularly impressive, being an 8MP, F2.4, dynamic auto-focus model with its own LED flash. It takes pictures that put other tablets to shame, and manages 1080p video to boot.


The Transformer Prime, for not making you look like a grainy, plague-ridden zombie when video chatting, and for producing pictures you can actually show off without embarrassment.


December 8, 2011, 3:34 am

Yes, it looks like the Transformer Prime could be the first Android Tablet that surpasses the iPad, especially once ICS becomes available. So far, the reviews on the US tech sites have all been very favourable, although Anandtech noted that the Tegra 3 GPU still slightly lags behind the one in the iPad 2. Will be looking forward to the TR review. The only thing the comparison doesn't take into account is the users attachment to their OS' ecosystem. I used to have an iPad and have quite a few apps for it, so I feel slightly locked into the iPad ecosystem. I'm sure the reverse is true if you have an Android tablet. It looks like I'll have to repurchase a few apps if I move to Android. The upcoming ICS upgrade could sway me, especially if the good initial reviews the phone version has been getting translate to the tablet one.

Arctic Fox

December 8, 2011, 6:40 am

I have to be honest and say that this apps lock-in issue gives me a nose-bleed. Unless we are talking about some mission critical app that is not available on the "other" operating system then apps are in general dirt bloody cheap. If one does have to re-buy the same apps for the new os, so flaming what! If money is that tight then the punters concerned cannot afford a tablet in the first place.


December 8, 2011, 6:50 am

I'm still laughing at this "review". First, weren't there a series of articles, right here on this website, a few months back saying specs didn't matter anymore? Well, yes - in articles such as "History Repeating: The Misguided Smartphone Spec War". But hey look, apparently specs are important again! Then we have puns like "for packing more cores than an apple pie bakery's refuse sack". I mean, seriously, is this how you show your professionalism? Plus, as Pbryanw correctly states, if you look at benchmarks - and it seems you like them again - the GPU on the Transformer Prime still lags behind the iPad 2. Oops, where are those cores now?.. Maybe the Transformer is a bit rusty and needs oil? Just kidding :) Finally let's not forget the iPad 2 has been on the market for 8 months - and by the looks of it it's still doing great. The Transformer Prime? Not even a release date yet - it was delayed and is only expected in January/February according to the latest reports. But, what's coming next March? I'll let you guess, it ends in 3.

simon jackson

December 8, 2011, 2:37 pm

Dude, you easily take the crown for biggest apple fan boy on TR. Why do you sound so personally offended/angry? It's just an article about a couple of tablets! You're right about the GPU, but the rest of it is just snarky and sarcastic. I will never understand the personal investment people seem to have in particular brands or products. Guess it vindicates all the money these massive, faceless companies spend on marketing!

simon jackson

December 8, 2011, 2:41 pm

As others have already pointed out, the SGX 543 MP2 in the A5 out-performs the geforce GPU in tegra 3. It's probably not hugely significant when one takes into account the fact that these tablets exist in different software ecosystems and each run the games available to them equally well, but technically the a5 is still quite a bit quicker. Obviously this doesn't apply to the CPU. In this area tegra 3 has a significant edge. As an aside, the SGX 543 cores are being used in the upcoming Playstation Vita. I think they're clocked higher and they'll be twice as many as in the a5.

Trevor Totten

December 8, 2011, 2:43 pm

Wow... troll much? Regarding your comments re "History Repeating: The Misguided Smartphone Spec War", the clue is in the title... "Smartphone" Did you actually read it? That article concerned the obsession with more power in phones, which is totally unnecessary as it will never fully be utilised by the vast majority of users, and will just kill your battery quicker. This is not a smartphone. This a a device that people may use to potentially replace their laptop, not just something to impress your friends with. So yes - hardware is VERY important here. And yes, the iPad 2 is older, and the iPad 3 is coming out soon. But will you get an iPad 3 and matching keyboard dock - making it a viable laptop replacement - for &#163499? I'll let you guess... it starts with "No..." and ends in "...chance"


December 8, 2011, 3:02 pm

Are you guys working on commission? We get it, you like the Transformer. Unless they mount a really agressive marketing campaign though everyone will still buy the iPad.


December 8, 2011, 4:27 pm

Oh great, I make a comment criticising a biased - an in many ways factually incorrect - article, get labelled an Apple fanboy. Why exactly? I'm a fanboy of fair criticism and analysis, the Apple brand has nothing to do with it. I use and enjoy a variety of systems every day, unfortunately TR doesn't do many Linux/Unix, storage, networking, HPC, cloud computing and other high tech reviews - so you'll see me mostly commenting on Apple stories here. I actually like the Transfomer, and would love a proper review of it, not this biased two page p***** contest. It makes no sense to me that this style of reporting shows up in a site called "Trusted Reviews". @Trevor There are already many keyboard docks around that pair the iPad 2, a neat case and a bluetooth keyboard for less than &#163499. I would recommend the ZaggFolio.


December 8, 2011, 4:33 pm

As you may have heard Apple is a licensee of the PowerVR 6 GPU core, the first mobile full OpenGL GPU (not just the ES subset), which offers higher 3D performance than even a PS3 - actually it was rumoured to be the graphics chips of a future PS4. If we're talking about upcoming systems, it may be worth mentioning this is expected to appear in Apple's A6 chip.

simon jackson

December 8, 2011, 5:07 pm

You're not biased because you criticised the article, but because of comments like "the GPU on the Transformer Prime still lags behind the iPad 2. Oops, where are those cores now?" and "Maybe the Transformer is a bit rusty and needs oil? Just kidding :)", which are even more laden with obvious bias and apparent hostility towards one product over the other than the effusive praise the transformer prime has attracted on TR thus far. In point of fact, that the article judges the transformer prime to be a superior device to the ipad2 doesn't make it a biased article. It's a simple statement of opinion one way or the other. As far as specs are concerned, the prime IS a better device than the ipad2 in many more ways than not. Why even mention the fact that an ipad3 is on the way? Or that the transformer prime hasn't been released yet? Does that impinge on the veracity of the article? Does it make it any less true? No, of course not. It is an obvious statement of fact that one day, another ipad will be released with better specs than the prime. Just as it is an obvious statement of fact to say that one day, another android tab will be released with better specs than the ipad 3. Do those facts undermine the value of comparing two products which are currently available?

simon jackson

December 8, 2011, 5:12 pm

The Adreno roadmap also promises PS3/360 beating 3D performance in 2012, so it's certainly an exciting time in mobile development. I remain skeptical about the necessity for such high end 3d performance in smartphones, though i can see greater utility in tablets where battery life is less of an issue. The PS4 was also rumored to be pegged for 2012 release. A friend of mine who did a work placement at a games developer was even told this, though i suspect it might have been a "bucket of steam" gag.


December 8, 2011, 5:28 pm

@Simon Have you read the article? It has more shots than the the one I made: "Apple pie baker's refuse sack", "grainy, plague-ridden zombie when video chatting", "Winner: The iPad 2 &#8211 nope, only kidding." I even clearly added a smilie at the end of mine, don't think it was more hostile at all. Sorry to see you got so angry over it. "Why even mention the fact that an ipad3 is on the way?" Well, because the Transformer Prime isn't here yet either, and it looks like they won't be too far apart. If the Prime comes out February as it's being said, surely you'd be interested in what comes in March?


December 8, 2011, 5:46 pm

You must be thinking of the Adreno 305, expected to come out Q3 2012. Difference is the PowerVR 6 is already out and being licensed to companies like Apple since late April this year. As for the PS4 there are many rumours around it, including ones saying it won't come out in 2012.

simon jackson

December 8, 2011, 5:48 pm

I'm not angry at all :) Indeed the whole motivation for commenting was that you seemed quite het-up, hence my incredulity at people getting so personally invested in technology brands/products. You seemed to feel the need to defend the ipad 2 and/or apple as a company and in doing so displayed a similar if not greater bias than the article. Either way, I quite agree with the sentiment that it's worth waiting on the tablet front for the time being. With windows 8 around the corner, a new iPad, and presumably a whole slew of quad core ICS tablets, the best deals are clearly yet to come. Personally, tablets aren't enough of a value-add to justify their expense as it stands. All they really do is offer a slightly more convenient/comfortable casual gaming/browsing experience when you're not sat at a computer. They don't do anything my smartphone and computer between them don't already do, and in these strapped times, 400 notes for something that doesn't have a USP is a luxury i can't justify.

simon jackson

December 8, 2011, 5:57 pm

I can't remember specific model numbers. I'm just recalling a few articles I read on Anand a few weeks ago. I remember PowerVR from the whole PowerVR vs 3DFX pc days. I think they also produced the dreamcast GPU didn't they?

Greg Shewan

December 8, 2011, 7:31 pm

Maybe it's cause you comment on every Apple article and sit on Apple's side of the fence quite frequently. To be completely honest you comment on Apple articles ad nauseum, and people may misinterpret that. I think the Prime takes it as the better product but the iPad 3 may be a different beast, besides the Prime and the iPad appeal to two completely different customers. For me it comes down to personal preference, I hate iTunes so I will not get an iPad... however the product itself is great. It's good that the iPad can be dislodged from it's perch, it creates a competitive environment. It's just a Tab people, it's not a cure for cancer, so lets chill :)


December 8, 2011, 8:30 pm

@Greg Like I said I sit on Apple's side of the fence when the article has a clear prejudice against it. I don't comment on every Apple article that's a wild exaggeration. Finally, since we're not reviewing me, none of that matters anyway - what matters is if my criticism is truthful or not. You don't need iTunes anymore since iOS 5. I rarely if ever connect my iPad to it these days.


December 8, 2011, 9:07 pm

I purchased the original Transformer following the glowing recommendation, however it was not a great experience. I found the web browser to be slow and unresponsive, Skype would not do video until I changed the setting but then crashed and never worked since then, apps I heard about like Zite do not exist, never got printing to work, dropped a few videos to watch but audio didn't work. Got bored with all the problems so just returned it this weekend, it wasn't for me. Maybe the reviews could be a bit more in-depth, showing what works and what doesn't. Meanwhile I'm set to get an iPad this weekend as an early Xmas pressie, played around with one and it does what I want.

Greg Shewan

December 9, 2011, 12:10 am

@Gk.pm - Hyperbole dude... sigh, but in all honesty you do comment on, what I would call a fair guess, 9/10 Apple articles. You seem to take it personally as Simon says.


December 9, 2011, 12:33 am

Can of 'ahem' whoopass. The lack of 3G is irrelevant as far as I'm concerned as I can just Wi-Fi share my phones connection. Thing is, it won't fit in a pocket, shame really. Maybe they'll make a 7" version.


December 9, 2011, 4:14 am

I think in my case, it's more the fact that I've got about 60 apps and I'd have to find similar ones on the Android Marketplace if I made the switch (and go about the process of searching for all of them, and maybe some wouldn't have equivalents). Also with some Apps like games and specialist ones like Numbers costing over a fiver, even if it all adds up to an extra &#16350-60, it's enough to make you think twice about moving from one ecosystem to another. Still, it's probably more my own fault for having so many apps. And, on the other hand, not having to use iTunes for management would be a strong factor in moving to Android. Along with the greater hardware choice.


December 9, 2011, 5:59 am

I'm going to have to stop reading anything you guys at TR write about apple. I've never seen such consistent negativity towards a brand! It seems like you will print anything to have a dig! Like a completely pointless comparison between a product that isn't even out yet and a product that is eight months old! I'm sure someone will say something about me being an "apple fan boy" but I can assure you that it's not the case! TR, have a word with yourselves! So so boring reading your anti-apple articles!

simon jackson

December 9, 2011, 2:51 pm

The fact that skype on android is so poor is a constant source of frustration. I'm sure there are lots of good reasons why video support is so patchy and why video performance when it works at all is so flakey, but from a consumer point of view it just isn't good enough. On the subject of video, none of the tablet platforms (iOS included) have a particular good reputation for video codec support.


December 9, 2011, 5:43 pm

@Pbryanw: Apps is certainly an area where the iPad is unmatched, though hopefully Android development will continue to improve as it gains market share. &#160 &#8220The only thing the comparison doesn't take into account is the users attachment to their OS' ecosystem&#8221 we can&#8217t really take this into account in a comparison, as we can&#8217t predict how many of our readers will already own a tablet and which OS it will run&#8230 &#160 @Gk.pm: Wow, where to start? &#160 &#8220I'm still laughing at this "review".&#8221 It&#8217s NOT a review. Where does it mention &#8216review&#8217? Where are the scores, tests, Pros and Cons, or Verdict? It&#8217s a feature comparing specifications, that&#8217s why it&#8217s found under Opinions/Features. We can&#8217t publish our full review until the UK NDA lifts, but we&#8217ll be sure to give it a fair score and mention the bad along with the good, as we always try to do. &#160 &#8220But hey look, apparently specs are important again!&#8221 Gordon&#8217s article was meant to convey that too much emphasis was being placed on specifications as the be-all and end-all, and that in many cases the specs were already &#8216good enough&#8217. However, when the new chipset allows not just pretties games but smooth Full HD video playback for the first time AND without negative impact on battery-life (Tegra 3 is actually more efficient than its predecessor thanks to its fifth &#8216companion core&#8217), that&#8217s pretty significant. Also, what Trevor Totten said. &#160 &#8220Then we have puns like "for packing more cores than an apple pie bakery's refuse sack". I mean, seriously, is this how you show your professionalism?&#8221 It&#8217s how I show a sense of humour (try acquiring one sometime), meant as harmless fun even if the pun is poor. &#160 &#8220Plus, as Pbryanw correctly states, if you look at benchmarks - and it seems you like them again [huh?] - the GPU on the Transformer Prime still lags behind the iPad 2&#8221 It does so in benchmarks that can&#8217t take advantage of or at best aren&#8217t optimised for Tegra 3&#8217s architecture. I&#8217m not saying Tegra 3 GPU will kick A5 GPU to the curb once devs start working with it, just that it&#8217s not being shown at its full potential atm &#8211 a bit like the PS3&#8217s Cell processor, which was initially deemed faster than the Xbox 360&#8217s CPU, until devs learned to program for it and it&#8217s now considered superior (and I&#8217m not talking about GPUs; I&#8217m well aware that the Xbox&#8217s ATI/AMD GPU is superior to Nvidia&#8217s effort for Sony&#8217s console). &#160 &#8220Finally let's not forget the iPad 2 has been on the market for 8 months - and by the looks of it it's still doing great.&#8221 I never claimed the iPad wasn&#8217t doing great or even that it doesn&#8217t deserve to; even if its hardware is inferior it still has the edge when it comes to apps. But it&#8217s irrelevan


December 9, 2011, 5:44 pm

@markc1728: &#8220Are you guys working on commission?&#8221 We wish J Seriously though, we just like innovation, excellent productivity potential, superb value plus rival-beating connectivity and battery life. &#160 @apollo: Sorry to hear you&#8217ve been having issues - a colleague bought himself an original Transformer and still loves it months later. Have you tried installing the latest firmware and using an alternative web-browser like Opera mobile? Either way, hope you enjoy your iPad 2! &#160 @chris jonesc9b: &#8220I've never seen such consistent negativity towards a brand!&#8221 I&#8217m sorry, are you talking about the same site that awarded TR Awards to most Apple products (including a Recommended award for the iPad 2), the site that has Apple products in the top three of its tablet, phone and laptop Awards 2011? &#160 &#8220So so boring reading your anti-apple articles!&#8221 This is not an anti-apple article, it&#8217s a fair comparison based on look, feel, weight, features, specs, screen quality, extras, OS experience and app availability. We can&#8217t help it that the hardware on the Prime is significantly better in most regards, and in case you failed to notice, the iPad 2 still wins in the categories where it is better (Wireless Connectivity and Apps).

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