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Good gaming, slick design buoying Prime, but cores are far from being fully utilized

The reviews are in on ASUSTEK Computer, Inc.'s (TPE:2357) "Transformer Prime" a second generation laptop/tablet hybrid, which inherits the legacy of the original EeePad Transformer.  While Android tablets are still a work in progress, the Transformer Prime is among a handful of elite models that are receiving much buzz; models which could shift the market.

The VergeEngadget, and AnandTech all did in-depth reviews of the device.  We compare and contrast these below, cutting out the filler to deliver only the juiciest and most important excerpts:

Looks

Transformer Prime, looks


The reviewers agree that the The Transformer Prime is attractive in both looks and form factor.  Instead of mainly being constructed of plastic like its predecessor, the Tranformer Prime now gets an "industrial" aluminum body to go with its 10.1" glass screen. It's lighter than Apple, Inc.'s (AAPL) iPad 2 by a good couple ounces and it is thinner in some parts of the frame than the iPad 2, as well.

CPU, GPU

NVIDIA Tegra 3Tegra 3


The CPU is the fastest on the market, faster than the iPad, while the graphics fall just short of the iPad 2, but beat its Android brethren.  On the other hand, there are some cons -- notably that the Tegra 3-powered Prime unsuprisingly failed to deliver the 5x speed-up that NVIDIA Corp. (NVDA) promised over the Tegra 2, found in the original Transformer.  

In the real world, the speedup was impressive, but closer to 2x on the CPU side and 2-3x on the graphics side, based on benchmarks from Anandtech and The Verge (Engadget did benchmarks too, but failed to provide points of comparison).  The high performance also comes at the cost of having to fiddle with clock settings to get optimal performance, not everyone's cup of tea.

Display+Sound

Transformer Prime, display

The display appears to be amazing according to the reviewers, and is very viewable outdoors.  AnandTech, however, adds an interesting twist, revealing that it has information that Apple is buying up "small 1080p and 2048x1536 panels" for an iPad 2+/3 "Retina Display".  So while Asus's sweet screen is queen for a day (or a couple quarters), Apple may seize the lead in Q2, thanks to its ever-strong supplier relationships.

The sound, however, is meager and only sufficient due to poor speaker placement, though some (AnandTech) seemed to have less of a problem with it than others (The Verge).  All of the reviews were pretty unanimous on these points.  

Dock

Transformer Prime, docking

To quote gameshow host/journalists Anne Robinson:
"You are the weakest link, good-bye."

Nobody seems to like the dock that makes the Transformer a small notebook very much.  While they say it passes for typing emails and the secondary battery and extra ports are nice, there's various complaints about the keyboard and touchpad.  Some of this may be due to legal issues (e.g. ASUSTEK/Google Inc. (GOOG) legally cannot implement pinch-to-zoom or kinetic scrolling on the peripheral or they will get sued by Apple who patented these things years after their invention in university research labs).

The really curious thing?  It seems like every reviewer found their own unique gripe about the dock.  Humorously, some complemented the same feature their peers insulted.

I/O -- Camera, connectors, etc.

The I/O is pretty typical fare, but the addition of smooth HDMI video/audio out and game controller support makes it a fair pseudo movie box/gaming console.  The camera seems to be quite good, but all the reviewers seemed to agree that cameras in a tablet have been and should always be an afterthought.

Software

Transformer Prime, games

Apparently four cores doth not a silky smooth operating system make.  Of the reviewers AnandTech was the most glowing, but even they had complaints.  Again some of the various complaints appear to be centered around how Honeycomb accepts input, something that may be an affect of Apple's intellectual property enforcement efforts (i.e. lawsuits).  Still, other criticism point to lack of proper threading in core system apps, which leaves them unable to exploit the extra horsepower.

Battery Life

"In the real world" you can probably get around 8-10 hours of juice when browsing the internet, un-docked.  The Verge seems to have demonstrated a more extreme scenario as they ran their unit in the "normal" higher performance mode, typically reserved for games and saw battery life drop to 5 hours.  The take home message is that the battery can be almost as good as the iPad 2's, but you need to be careful about your settings management.

The dock adds on a good 5 to 6 extra hours of juice.  Combined, the package has both the iPad 2 and its Android competitors beat, although having a hidden second battery is kind of like cheating almost.

The Verdict

The Verge:

Asus may have produced a brilliant piece of engineering at a price that's competitive with the iPad, but Android hasn't yet matched iOS when it comes to unlocking all that potential. Android 4.0 (or even Windows 8, which we expect to run on this very sort of hardware) might just rectify some of these issues, but one thing is for sure: the laptop of the post-PC world needs the software to match it.

Engadget:

The Galaxy Tab 10.1 has had a long run as the top-tier Android tablet in the 10-inch size, but that position has now properly been usurped... he Transformer Prime is thinner and lighter than the rest and, with 32GB of storage available for a dollar under $500, it's a better deal than most of the top-tier contenders.

The dock, however, is a bit of a tougher sell... For the moment the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime is the best Android tablet on the market. All hail the new king.

AnandTech:

Assuming the WiFi and minor dock issue I encountered aren't widespread (ASUS insists they aren't), I am comfortable calling the Eee Pad Transformer Prime the absolute best Android tablet on the market today. The hardware looks and feels great. ASUS picked the best display possible and married it to some really good industrial design.

The inevitable iPad comparison is, well, inevitable. I still firmly believe there's not a whole lot of iOS/Android cross shopping. If you want an iPad, that's what you should buy. Android isn't an iOS substitute, just as iOS isn't an Android substitute. You can do similar things on both, but personal preference will really determine what suits you the best.

If you want an Android and are willing to pay $500, this is probably the tablet for you, but think carefully before you buy the dock.  If you're one of those rare renegades who's unsure whether you want an iPad 2 or Android tablet, carefully consider you both.  But if $500 is too much for you, consider the $200 budget Kindle Fire instead.

Sources: The Verge, Engadget, Anandtech



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RE: Windows 8
By retrospooty on 12/1/2011 2:29:54 PM , Rating: 5
You had it at the OS.

It will take over, because it will run Windows apps. Not only all the apps we've been using for years, but the enterprise apps that are used at work. It will make the tablet a useful device in the office

Mac fans like TS are all excited about Mac's "meteoric" rise in sales that took them from like 3 to 5% global marketshare. They fail to see that that 2% gain means almost zero to the 90% that use Windows. Now, back in the 90's Mac was better than PC and it STILL lost the war becasue of high prices and few options. Today (and as of Win7's release, both platforms are appx equal, if anything Win7 is better than Mac OS.


RE: Windows 8
By The0ne on 12/1/2011 2:54:19 PM , Rating: 3
That's why I'm waiting for a Win tablet so I can use it both at home and work, easily and without the need for new everything apps. I can't be anxious enough :)


RE: Windows 8
By sprockkets on 12/1/2011 2:57:46 PM , Rating: 3
quote:
It will take over, because it will run Windows apps. Not only all the apps we've been using for years, but the enterprise apps that are used at work. It will make the tablet a useful device in the office


ARM tablets running Win8 ARM will NOT, repeat NOT run any apps from the x86 world. Microsoft is developing office for arm, but don't think for a moment Win8 ARM = Win8 for x86-64.


RE: Windows 8
By Reclaimer77 on 12/1/2011 3:35:51 PM , Rating: 2
It doesn't matter because Intel's TRI-GATE will allow X86 to be an awesome mobile CPU. We will not have to rely on ARM to enjoy our Windows Apps on a tablet.


RE: Windows 8
By nafhan on 12/1/2011 3:55:39 PM , Rating: 2
Metro apps built as specified by MS will run on both. Legacy apps are going to require x86, though. To me, this sounds like a lot of devs are going to have to choose between supporting Windows 8 x86 + legacy OS's (Windows 7/Vista/XP apps) OR Windows 8 x86 + Windows 8 ARM (Metro apps). Eventually, the majority of Windows users will be on something akin to Metro, and it won't be an issue. That's a long ways off, though.


RE: Windows 8
By invidious on 12/1/2011 3:57:15 PM , Rating: 3
It is a valid point that windows desktop applications may not be ready to go out of the gate for ARM windows. But ARM support for windows 8 doesn't mean ARM exclusive. There is nothing to stop manufacturers from making an x86/x64 windows 8 tablet. There are already windows 7 tablets which are obviously x86/x64. They just have terrible battery life and are bulky. I don't really care about bulk personally and the battery life issue should be improved by windows 8 even witout ARM.

If someone makes an x86 tablet with windows 8 that can use all the same apps as a windows PC people will buy it. I will buy it. If this doesn't pan out there always convertable touchscreen netbooks/laptops which are essentially the same thing but even bulkier.


RE: Windows 8
By JasonMick (blog) on 12/1/2011 5:00:44 PM , Rating: 4
quote:
ARM tablets running Win8 ARM will NOT, repeat NOT run any apps from the x86 world. Microsoft is developing office for arm, but don't think for a moment Win8 ARM = Win8 for x86-64.

Your comment is misleading and perpetuates misinformation.

Most x86 apps will absolutely run on ARM Windows 8 laptops/tablets. The only catch is they will just need to be recompiled. As long as you have the source code, you will be fine.

You probably these sorts of stories:
http://www.dailytech.com/X86+Apps+Will+Not+Run+on+...
http://www.theregister.co.uk/2011/09/15/sinofsky_w...

This all refers to the fact that Microsoft is allowing x86 apps to automatically run on ARM chips via some sort of emulation, etc.

Of course you will be able to recompile x86 apps to run on ARM. That's just common sense.

If Microsoft doesn't make a good ARM compiler to help Windows devs to port their titles, third parties should step up to the plate. A good development env./compiler could help handle most of any minor API changes, too. Remember, Windows Phone uses a build of Direct 3D (Direct3D Mobile), so the API calls are very similar, if not always the exact same.

Only legacy apps where you lost the source, or proprietary apps where the product maker isn't willing to recompile will be problem spots.

Everything else should be relatively portable, for high level apps, at least.


RE: Windows 8
By sprockkets on 12/1/2011 7:44:00 PM , Rating: 1
quote:
Of course you will be able to recompile x86 apps to run on ARM. That's just common sense.


That's if we ignore the fact that the api's and framework is totally different for how Win8 for ARM works vs. the desktop.

You think the code for Chrome was just "recompiled" and voila! it works for OSX or Linux?


RE: Windows 8
By Flunk on 12/2/2011 1:38:08 PM , Rating: 2
That is a false analogy. OS X and Linux are totally different OSes. It would be more like compiling Chrome for Linux i386 and Linux AMD64. Maybe a few things would need to be changed but it's not a big deal.

If Microsoft does force Metro only on ARM Windows 8 then it's going to be a bit harder but no where near porting between OS X and Linux that share basically no code at all.


RE: Windows 8
By retrospooty on 12/1/2011 7:27:26 PM , Rating: 2
"ARM tablets running Win8 ARM will NOT, repeat NOT run any apps from the x86 world. "

I think a few others already addressed your comment with regards to ARM tablets, but dont forget Atom. Current Atom's are a bit slow and power hungry for tablets, but they are on 45nm process. Next year there will be 2 full process shrinks for Atom and it will be on 22nm, with other improvements as well. From there on, Intel has announced that Atom will be on the forefron with process tech along with the Core CPU'. Dont count Intel out, they are huge, have all the best chip guru's and money to make it happen.

There, now both sides of your incorrectness are addressed. =)


RE: Windows 8
By jvillaro on 12/1/2011 7:34:58 PM , Rating: 2
So, you've have never heard of the .NET Framework?


RE: Windows 8
By sprockkets on 12/1/2011 10:59:10 PM , Rating: 2
There is .net over HTML or whatever it is, but Microsoft is ditching that for the metro UI. They want HTML5.

I know it isn't a blanket no with .net, but don't expect to just take your desktop app, .net or not, and run it on a win8 arm system.


RE: Windows 8
By jvillaro on 12/2/2011 11:54:08 AM , Rating: 2
Windows 8 will have support for .NET they already said it would.
And for ARM, all they have to do is make the runtime. Of coarse if your aplicacion uses a win32 dll or something like that then your in trouble. But if you keep to managed code you should be good to go.

With JAVA aplications it should be the same.

Of coarse this is all for the normal windows interface. Im not yet sure what will be posible in the Metro UI part.


RE: Windows 8
By Flunk on 12/2/2011 1:40:38 PM , Rating: 2
They've already provided development tools for .NET with XAML-based interface (similar to WPF), HTML5 and WinC++.

The future looks pretty rosy for us .NET developers.


RE: Windows 8
By Flunk on 12/2/2011 1:42:11 PM , Rating: 2
To clarify, I'm referring specifically to METRO apps. METRO supports .NET, HTML5 and WinC++ development languages.


RE: Windows 8
By nocturne_81 on 12/4/2011 11:10:30 AM , Rating: 2
Seriously..? x86 apps will not run on ARM.. it's just common sense. Though, I imagine MS may find a way to get .NET apps working between systems..

And Mac's were better in the 90s? I know I was pretty burnt out back then, but I think I would have remembered that.. True, the iMAC helped start all the design-centric philosophies that allowed apple to move towards the ranges of products they now have available, but their strength back then was purely their lack of popularity.. Working at a newspaper back in the 90s, one of the best things about being in a MAC workplace was simply the fact that the bumbling idiots working there couldn't figure out how to do anything other than run Quark and Photoshop. Though, it was never quite fun having to run from cubicle to cubicle with floppy disks due to Apple's lack of reliable networking.

Apple has done about the best they can do -- make it more about the identity than the experience.


"Folks that want porn can buy an Android phone." -- Steve Jobs














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