ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Reviewby Anand Lal Shimpi on April 21, 2011 4:00 AM EST
ASUS delivered three things with the Eee Pad: a very competitive price point ($399), a surprisingly useful (albeit pricey) dock, and a good display. The price point alone is enough to make the Eee Pad the Honeycomb tablet to get assuming you don't need integrated 3G or LTE connectivity. The Eee Pad is comfortable to hold and use and despite the lower price point you don't feel like ASUS has sacrificed much at all to make it. The display has similar characteristics to what Apple ships in the iPad 2. Overall from a hardware standpoint, the Eee Pad is solid.
The Transformer dock is an extremely tempting addition to the Eee Pad, I only wish it were cheaper. When in use the dock extends battery life by 64%, pushing the Eee Pad past 15.5 hours in our general WiFi test. ASUS tells me that the Transformer dock will be compatible with all Transformer branded tablets in the future. I can imagine a thinner Kal-El based version must be in the works at this point.
Tight integration between the keyboard/trackpad and Honeycomb makes the Eee Pad Transformer one part tablet and one part Android netbook, and the whole thing works a lot better than I expected it to. When you need a netbook form factor, you have one, and when you just want to kick back and relax with a tablet you've got that as well. The experience isn't quite fast enough for me to replace my notebook, but I can see where things are headed.
I actually believe the dockable tablet is indicative of where the netbook (and perhaps ultra portable notebook) market is going. Give me some more (or faster) cores and an OS even better suited for notebook duty and the line between a tablet and a netbook becomes quite blurry. I finally understand why NVIDIA opted for four cores in Kal-El and why Microsoft keeps looking to Windows 8 to be its tablet strategy. Windows 8 tablets will be Windows 8 netbooks; they'll just be modular.
The biggest issues here are software related. Honeycomb has matured significantly just with the 3.0.1 update, but there are still dock and camera behavior issues that need to be worked out before ASUS takes the Eee Pad to market. I feel like Honeycomb got a worse rap than it deserves, but there are real issues that need addressing here. I lost a couple of pages of this review thanks to an unexpected hard lock and a reboot while typing this on the Eee Pad. For casual use it's not an issue but the platform isn't mature enough for real work yet.
So why do companies keep introducing tablets with known software issues? I always remember what AMD's Eric Demers once told me: the best way to lose a fight is to not show up.