The Dock Experience

The dock experience is better than I had originally written, but I still have issues with the setup. Typing on the dock is a non-issue, in fact I'd call it a pleasure, as long as you're fine with the short travel of chicklet style keyboards. Other than some slight differences in keypress sound, the dock's physical keyboard is very similar to the MacBook Air keyboard. Given how closely ASUS learns from Apple, this is a decision I'm not surprised by.

Many of you have asked about the experience with the dock connected and whether or not the Prime is capable of replacing a netbook or notebook. Depending on your usage model your satisfaction level will vary. As a glorified typewriter the Prime + dock gets the job done. ASUS preloads the tablet with Polaris Office just like it did back with the original Transformer. This time around however Honeycomb is far more stable, and as a result I don't get the crashes in the middle of writing like I used to. Honeycomb still does crash from time to time but now it behaves a lot more like a reliable OS than it did when it was first introduced.

What Polaris Office really needs is an auto save feature. I mentioned this in our original Transformer review, especially as the app would frequently crash back then. Now it doesn't crash so frequently but there's another issue—if you switch to another app while you're typing in Polaris Office, and Android's process manager unloads Polaris Office from memory, you'll lose any unsaved changes to your document. This doesn't happen all of the time. For example, I spent a lot of time in Polaris writing the Momentus XT review and switching between it and the Honeycomb browser without ever losing any data. However, doing the same experiment while installing Pandora and Twitter apps from the Android Market resulted in Polaris being evicted from main memory and me losing any unsaved changes to my document. While I understand this is outside of ASUS' control (short of outfitting the Prime with more memory), it's something that I do believe impacts the overall experience.

Multitasking in Honeycomb with the dock isn't too bad. A while ago ASUS added alt+tab support to the Transformer platform and the Prime gets it as well. The biggest usage hurdle here is the fact that the alt key is only on the right side of the keyboard. Once you get used to that however all you need to do is hold down the alt key and hit tab to cycle through recent apps. This addition alone is a huge boon to using the Transformer Prime + dock as a netbook replacement.

As a machine that's used for web browsing, checking email and taking notes, the Prime + dock is easily a netbook alternative that's significantly better thanks to its tablet flexibility. I still personally prefer a MacBook Air as my choice of ultraportable but that's mostly because I tend to have a heavier workload while on the road. Despite the Prime's quad-core CPU, performance isn't quite good enough for a heavy multitasker. Not to mention that Honeycomb's responsiveness is just as much of a limit there as well.

The trackpad is still a disappointment to me on the dock. Not only is the track area pretty small but the surface of the trackpad isn't the sort of glass smoothness we've come to expect. Two finger scrolling on the trackpad suffers as a result, which forced me to scroll via the touchscreen instead. Thankfully the Prime, while docked, is still close enough to the keyboard to touch without having to reach out too far.

The security of the dock connection doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence. With the tablet locked in place, there's still a few millimeters of travel if you rock the tablet back and forth. When closed in its clamshell however you'd be hard pressed to tell the Prime + dock apart from a traditional netbook/notebook. That's the beauty of building the two parts of the system out of aluminum; it all feels very solid when closed.

If you plan on doing a lot of typing on your Transformer, the dock is an obvious must have. Still, it's important to keep in mind that just because you have a keyboard doesn't mean the system will turn into an Ultrabook/MacBook Air alternative, particularly in the multitasking/performance department, but it is a nice addition if you're fine with the limits of a tablet.

 

Changes to the Browser & Performance Analysis Final Words
POST A COMMENT

58 Comments

View All Comments

  • metafor - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    Yes. Since Tegra 3 is actually capable of clock-gating individual cores as opposed to all-or-nothing like Tegra 2, power utilization should be better.

    That in combination with display local dimming and lower voltage -- since the CPU's are made on 40G -- definitely help brings per-core power down.

    The question is whether or not the performance is there to compete with SoC's on Android early next year with Samsung's new Exynos and Krait based devices.
    Reply
  • TareX - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    Quite off topic, but I expected Anand's Galaxy Nexus review to be out by US launch day... Reply
  • Death666Angel - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    Is it now the norm to compare products based on their size rather than ability and, most importantly, price? A Netbook probably retails for $250-$400. This thing retails for $650 (with dock)? I don't see how this in any way compares to a netbook. Sorry. Reply
  • quiksilvr - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    It isn't fair comparing the two because the ASUS has a 10.1" screen at 1280x800, not a 9.7" screen at 1024x768. Thats a 0.78MP screen vs a 1.0MP screen. It has to render 20% more pixels and on top of that the screen is larger. Reply
  • quiksilvr - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    I'm referring to battery life. Reply
  • Confusador - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    Thanks for doing the follow up on this, demonstrating once again why you're the best in the business.

    Hopefully Asus will learn from this; if you weren't as thorough as you are they would have ended up with their only review here being unnecessarily negative. Maybe they'll give folks more lead time in the future!
    Reply
  • fteoath64 - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    So there is just some improvement and not a great deal of improvement. Wonder if it would be better if Nvidia put two 1.8Ghz cores rather than 4 1.4Ghz core, then the end result in performance would be way better with slight penalty on battery life ?.

    I guess I have to wait for the A15 cores then!.
    Reply
  • Mugur - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    Asus should've done the impossible and have it ready by Christmas with ICS on it and aggresively priced. It would've been an instant hit. Reply
  • vcarvega - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    I do think it is commendable of you to update your original review with these updated tidbits. However, I do wonder when it comes to your gripes, particularly with multitasking.

    I agree with the limitations of Honeycomb's multitasking, but what are we comparing it too? Your review was specifically comparing it to a netbook, so your criticism is fair if we're comparing it to Win XP... but compared to other mobile OS', it's the best on offer (admittedly, I have not tried the Playbook's implementation of multitasking which looks like it may be more comparable to a desktop experience).

    Currently, I think heavy users run into serious limitation regardless of which tablet platform they are using. I think I was hoping for quad core to change this as well tho... so that's disappointing. Maybe ICS?

    Your comments on higher clocked, dual-core 28nm chips possibly being comparable in performance to Tegra 3 gave me reason to pause as well! Simply b/c I fear that Android 4.0 is still being optimized for dual core devices, not quad core... Because unless things change at CES, most new mobile devices being announced for 2012 still have dual cores!
    Reply
  • vision33r - Friday, December 16, 2011 - link

    Really bad timing. There are so many phones out right now that makes the Razr look outdated.

    For starters, this phone doesn't even beat the SSGS2 which came out more than 6 months ago.

    Now we have GalaxyNexus Prime, HTC Rezound. Upcoming phones will all have LTE, 720p displays, and better performance.
    Reply

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now