Computers & Laptops

Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Review: Change is good

Updated on: Sep 07, 2011
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Once upon a time, not too long ago, there was a tablet that wasn't really a tablet. That's how the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF101 would be described in tales of yore. Here, however, I'll share with you a week of living with a tab that... well, really isn't one!

The daily grind

Carrying a laptop everyday to work can be a pain especially when a lot of portables don't stay true to their name. The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer however, fit quite snugly in my sling bag and didn't give me a strained shoulder at the end of the day. It weighs in at about 680 grams without the additional weight of the optional keyboard dock, which also I always carried along.

Eager to check out the responses to an FB event that I posted the previous night, I switch on the tablet. The almost 30-sec boot-up time seems to be the average that one can get on most Honeycomb-powered tablets these days. The iPad 2, I remember, was quicker.

At my desk, I try snapping the tablet on to place in the keyboard dock but there's nothing to indicate that I can now use the keyboard – no triangular Pointer on the screen. Turns out I have to push the tablet down harder till the ‘Unlock' slider on the dock snaps back automatically to indicate that the device has been properly docked – and this takes a little more effort than I'd like to subject a brand new tablet to. One consolation, however, is the fact the Transformer's build is anything but delicate. In its brushed brown aluminium bezel enveloped by a patterned matte back panel, the tablet looks and feels quite premium.

Testing the waters

The home screen is cluttered with a bunch of apps that seem unwanted, so I quickly ‘long-press' on and drag them to the right corner of the screen to get rid of them. After adding some apps and widgets to the home screen, I'm ready to configure my mails. Once through with that, the nice, bold mail widget, next to the blue clock on the Honeycomb home screen shows my unread mails while two neat rows of games, music and the internet apps are stacked at the bottom of the screen.

I decide to try out some of the inbuilt apps, for which there's a direct launcher on the screen. Browsing through a matrix of apps and flicking through the screens, I spot an eye-catching UI design touch – if I am on the second page browsing through apps, I can see an outline of the last column of apps from the previous page on my left.

Double games

One good thing about the interface is that you don't have to switch one off to use the other. In the dock mode, I can still touch the screen to launch apps or scroll using the virtual scrollbar and not the touchpad. And scrolling reminds me that Honeycomb and OS X Lion are similar in wanting you to move your fingers up along the touchpad to scroll down a webpage.

Another similarity is that the screen launches with a long press on the home screen – it shows you a mini-version of the five home screens on the top half of the page and all available widgets, app shortcuts, wallpapers and more on the bottom half. This mode is reminiscent of Mission Control in Apple's aforementioned OS but it differs in functionality as this one helps you quickly choose an app/widget and move it to the desired home screen.

Down to work

After some loitering around in the virtual world, I get down to business. The only pre-loaded productivity app is Polaris Office. Skipping the registration process, I go to the main screen of the app and am asked to choose between a document, spreadsheet or presentation when I want to create a new file. I choose a document and get to work.

The chiclet keypad initially makes me feel like I have a giant's fingers. It is neatly spaced out but the small-ish keys take some getting used to. The fact that the keyboard is efficient and feels comfortable is a big help. Also, the virtual keyboard isn't much of a disappointment because it has the super-efficient SWYPE installed in it. As long as I don't have to lift a finger to use the wide, virtual keypad, I am not complaining. However, it's much more comfortable to just use the physical keyboard while working on long documents.

Popcorn time

The next day happened to be a movie night at my pad where we watched ‘Nights in Rodanthe' starring Richard Gere and Diane Lane. The colours on the 10.1-inch screen were nice and bright. The decent viewing angle saved the bunch of my friends from crowding around the netbook or fighting for space to get the right angle and we enjoyed the movie despite the super-glossy screen that reflected our faces along with the movie (at least for as long as the lights were on). The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer comes with ‘3D stereo' with SRS premium sound. But while the volume on the tablet could be pumped up to fill a room, we've heard better when it comes to the sound quality. At times, especially at a slightly higher volume, the music or dialogues sound tinny and unnaturally metallic.

Who can say no to a session of snapping when there's a bunch of girls around? So, we get ready to pose before the 5-meg camera on the Transformer TF101. And in vain! The main 5-megger turned out to be quite a dampener. Most of the pictures we took, despite making sure that the scene was well-lit after an initial couple of grainy snaps, also failed to impress.

Wins for Android

Facebook, gaming and Sudoku addicts, among many others, will love the awesome multi-tasking capabilities of the Transformer TF101. If you feel like catching up on Twitter or Facebook or getting a quick game of Angry Birds all you have to do is click one of the three buttons on the left bottom of the screen to open cascading thumbnails of all the apps you have running. One click and you switch from productivity to procrastination!

While working on documents on Polaris Office, I noticed that the Honeycomb has a really easy text Copy method where you just double click on a word and you get a slider that you can move to highlight whatever amount of text you want.

Powered by the NVIDIA Tegra 2 dual-core processor, the Transformer handled multimedia and graphics easily, freezing on us only once when the battery was really low. The tablet gave us almost 12-13 hours of battery life with an uninterrupted connection to the Wi-Fi network, a movie playback, occasional gaming and without having gone into sleep mode even once. However, the tablet only charges through a plug point and not over the USB connection when plugged in to a computer.

Deal-breakers

The officially optional keyboard dock that I tested the Transformer TF101 with becomes more or less a necessity if you plan to buy the tablet. You can forget about transferring data from a USB drive to tablet if it's without the dock as both the USB ports are placed on the keyboard. The same goes for the memory card from your camera and other multimedia devices. The HDMI port though is lodged on one side of the tablet so you can source video on to a high-definition television. I couldn't find a way to create folders on the home screen on the device. The closest I could come to doing this was creating a folder in the internal storage and then dragging and dropping it on to the home screen.

Also, after a couple of days we faced issues while trying to power up the tablet. A long press to reset the system by taking all power off including battery and holding down the power switch for 30 seconds is what Asus recommends to fix the issue.

A final word

As the first of its kind to enter the market, ASUS Eee Pad Transformer TF101 is a device that stands out. With its compact size, running on Honeycomb 3.0 and providing long hours of usage, the tablet might be worth a try for those going in for their firsts despite its slight drawbacks.

Love: Performs tablet-netbook roles efficiently, long battery life, user-friendly UI

Hate: Distractingly glossy screen, standalone tablet doesn't have enough ports, poor sound quality

Rs 32,999

Published on September 07, 2011

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