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


View All Comments

  • kenyee - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    I'm not sure this would show up in the color gamut tests because the original Transformer had an 18-bit dithered screen... Reply
  • lordmetroid - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    Can I install whatever operating system I want? Reply
  • - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link


    First off, I am very happy for your thoroughness. You always try your best in your reviews. My trouble is with your CONSTANT comparison to mac book air. How expensive is your mac book air, and what processor and hd etc come with it? Even if you take the 64 GB model TF-Prime, you are still easily a couple hundred under MBA. Also, as you mentioned, one is a tablet + dock , while the other is designed, albeit very very well, as a laptop. Now the comparison to netbooks is one I can understand, but the constant comparison to MBA I feel degrades from true evaluation. One thing I found funny, is that even with the comparison to a system that is much more expensive, it still is able to keep up some.

    Anyway, thanks for a great review!

  • Graag - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    "Now the comparison to netbooks is one I can understand, but the constant comparison to MBA I feel degrades from true evaluation."

    I think that comparisons like this are actually very helpful, since there are a decent number of people who want to know whether they need a MBA/Ultrabook, or whether they can save $400-$500 and use a tablet. And, particularly because tablets are still pretty new (as mainstream devices, anyway), it's also useful to delineate the boundaries between laptops and tablets.

    "One thing I found funny, is that even with the comparison to a system that is much more expensive, it still is able to keep up some."

    This is a very important point for some users - and a point that wouldn't have been made but for comparing the tablet to a MBA.
  • DanNeely - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    There's not a major ultraportable laptop platform between netbooks and the mba. Some of the cheaper ultrabooks might drop into it but none are there in meaningful volumes yet. Reply
  • justaviking - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    I cannot get your video to load.

    "An error has occured, please try again later."
  • vision33r - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    1.4GHZ Tegra 3 is barely faster than the iPad 2 and we know that thing only runs at 1GHZ.

    By March, we know the A6 will be quad-core and most likely run at 1.2GHZ and Apple always make a huge performance leap just to keep the device potent enough for a whole year.

    Why would anyone want to buy the TF Prime that will be the fastest Android tab for about 3 month for $500

    Samsung will have their own quad-core Exynos out soon too.

    iPad 3 will also have a 200ppi display which will make every other tablet look like a pixel board.

    This is not an Apple fan post, just stating the what the competition will be and Tegra 3 is a very small upgrade.
  • eddman - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    No, It should read "transformer prime is barely faster than the iPad 2".

    There is no way tegra 3 is slower than A5, it's the software. While ios is fully optimized for A5, honeycomb can't even utilize dual-core chips properly. Let's see what ICS would do.

    Personally, I'm waiting for windows 8 tablets.
  • shady28 - Friday, December 23, 2011 - link

    A lot of semantics there. True that A5 is probably slower than Tegra 3, but also from the article there is no significant performance difference between an iPad 2 vs Transformer Prime. The OS and platform do count.

    I'm a bit disappointed too though. I really thought the quad core Tegra 3 would be at least 40% or so faster than similar clocked A9 based systems just because of the extra 2 processors, but apparently not. I'm thinking maybe Android isn't quite optimized for more than 2 cores yet.
  • IntelUser2000 - Thursday, December 15, 2011 - link

    "Whereas the move from one to two cores was instantly noticeable on Android phones, the move from two to four is understandably less appreciable."

    It looks like 4 core is for the forseeable future a practical limit for the "multi-core" era before we opt for another approach.

    The gains in battery life in web browsing and video playback is likely not due to having extra cores and being able to clock them down faster, but the more advanced power saving available in Tegra 3.

    They noted something similar to Intel's DPST(Display Power Saving Technology), along with better C states compared to Tegra 2.

Log in

Don't have an account? Sign up now