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My iPad Replacement

The name is a mouthful: Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime. Don't confuse that with the Asus Eee Pad Transformer. Yes, the Prime is the newer generation device. Maybe they should have just called it "Prime." Either way, it's the new tablet in my life and, for the most part, I love it. If you're interested in buying one all I can say is "good luck." They're extremely hard to find. I got mine at my local Fry's. It was the last one in stock and it had already been opened. They gave me the same warranty as an unopened one though, so I was delighted to get it there.

After a few weeks of use here are the pros and cons I've found to owning an Asus Transformer Prime:

Pros

Android -- Jumping from iOS to Android is a liberating experience. You definitely have the sense that you're getting more access to the device's capabilities and that you're more in control. Also, I've downloaded and installed a few dozen apps on the Prime and my Android phone (Samsung Galaxy S II) and I've never spent a penny on a single one. There's a downside to that too, of course (see below).

Unique device combo -- The Prime comes as a tablet in a box, just like the iPad. But Asus takes you a step further by offering a keyboard accessory that fits the Prime like a glove. It's a $150 option, which means that buying it makes the Prime a higher-priced option than an iPad, but it's worth it. Those who say a tablet should exist without a keyboard are wrong. I find the combination of keyboard and touch screen outstanding and, of course, you can always disconnect the keyboard if you want a standalone tablet.

Battery life -- The battery in the Prime lasts longer than the one in my first-gen iPad. But if you get the keyboard accessory you suddenly have access to much more power. That's right. The keyboard has a battery inside as well. Asus claims the two together will give you 18 hours of power but I'm finding it to be more like 12-14 hours, max; and that's while using wifi and actively using the device, not letting it drop into sleep mode. So if you're looking for a powerful tablet that won't run out of juice on a long overseas flight it's hard to find anything better than this one. (Bonus: I can recharge my Android phone from the keyboard battery, so it's like having my own tiny power plant on a plane. I wonder if I could start selling charges to other desperate passengers...)

Expandability -- Where's the SD slot on the iPad? That's a trick question, of course, as Apple doesn't want you to add memory to it. I had to make plenty of compromises on my iPad because of this limitation. The amount of video I could keep on it was limited and I never bothered putting my music on because it would have taken up more than half the iPad's memory. That's no problem with the Prime. In fact, Asus goes a bit overboard here. You'll find a microSD slot on the tablet and a full SD slot on the keyboard. The memory upgrade options on the Prime are endless.

Speed -- Can you say "quad core processor"? That's what you get with the Prime and that means it's a screamer. You'll notice the impressive speed while you're downloading apps or running a whole bunch of them at the same time. 

Cons

Android -- OK, Android has it's plusses and minues. As I mentioned above, I haven't paid for a single app. There are plenty of paid ones out there but none that I need. And even some of the paid apps in the iOS ecosystem are free (or have free equivalents) in Android. So if developers aren't making much money on Android what's the incentive for them to continue building on that platform? That's an important problem that needs to be fixed. At this point though, I'm starting to feel like I should never have to pay for an app; that's not a good model for Android's long-term viability, at least if the goal is to have a rich app ecosystem.

Missing key apps -- Speaking of apps, I really miss both Zite and Flipboard. Zite is definitely an app I'd gladly pay for on Android. I feel like Google is asleep at the wheel on this aspect of the platform. They seem to want to let the app world develop on its own but I think it desperately needs an injection from that mountain of cash Google is sitting on to push it over the top. Would it really cost Google that much to pay developers to port some of the key apps from iOS to Android? No, but it would make a world of difference in the platform's app experience. And while they're at it, why not invest in a couple of totally new apps that don't exist on iOS. Isn't it worth Google's time/money to create a killer Android app or two? I think so.

App glitches -- This is probably where Apple shines the brightest. Every so often I'll open an app that thinks I'm in portrait mode when I'm really holding the tablet in landscape mode. Sure, some apps require one mode or the other and that's fine. What I'm talking about is a situation where certain app operations flip the orientation for no good reason. It might be when I'm tweaking the settings or doing something else and I have to awkwardly hold the Prime (with keyboard attached) at a 90 degree angle to read it. Silly. I guess there's a good reason why Apple has a review process for their apps while pretty much anything can get into the Android app Market.

Do I miss my iPad? A bit. But I still have visitation privileges on evenings and weekend when I'm home so I still get my Zite fix from time to time. Do I regret spending more for this Prime+keyboard than a comparable iPad? No way. I'm thoroughly enjoying the experience and trying to figure out how I can move all my docs to the cloud and start leaving my MacBook Pro at home.

 

Comments

Mike Manz

Welcome to the Transformer club, you're going to love it here. :)

I have the first gen (TF101)tablet, and couldn't be happier with it. I do most of my writing (all of my blog posts and short fiction, and occasionally the novel)on it, although I edit on the desktop.

The app orientation glitches are likely due to using an app that was designed for a phone rather than a tablet. I've had the same issue with some apps, but never anything that was specifically labelled as being compatible with the Transformer.

Mogens Nielsen

Funny how I was actually thinking this morning how happy I was for my TF201 Prime!
As you may remember I got mine a few days before you got yours and I agree with 98% of your statement above.
The landscape vs portrait happens on some Apps and like Mike I think it happens because they were made for phones not Tablets. Case in point is TweetDeck, it almost always start out in portrait even though I am holding the Tablet in landscape. It is obvious that this App was made for phones as it doesn't let me display multiple columns like its desktop counterpart.
The missing "Killer App" is maybe a minor issue but as most newer Apps exists on both platforms it will disappear over time
I agree with your concerns on too many free Apps and not enough paid. I have noticed how a couple Apps I would like to see are there in a free version but not paid. The free version doesn't have all the features I am looking for, and it is unlikely anyone will ever make a paid version with the features included as the market will be too small. I am afraid that this behavior will lead to acceptance of mediocrity when it comes to Apps.

In any case I love my Prime and wouldn't trade it for any other device.

Scott Walker

I just got my Prime-- and the decision was largely based on this post -- but, shoot, I am about to go buy a Macbook Air. Is it just my keyboard -- granted, the layout will take some getting used to -- and trackpad, but is this Prime just plain aggravating to work with? Scrolling is a nightmare -- it often takes a dozen attempts before the trackpad scroll "takes"; placing the cursor in a particular spot is plain hard; and navigating out of spell check is disheartening. Is it just my trackpad? Or do I need to be more patient with the learning curve?

Joe Wikert

Scott...my apologies. I'm sorry you're not as happy with your Prime as I am with mine. I'm not having the trackpad issues that you are because I disabled mine almost immediately. I find it's easier to just reach out and touch the screen since it's so close. That said, I do find the scrolling sometimes lags my hand movement. I seem to have pinpointed that to a number of things that were running in the background. I have the same problem with my Android phone, so I downloaded a free app called Memory Booster that does a great job killing everything I don't want running. I also discovered I had set too many apps to automatically download on update; that was causing all sorts of background activity I didn't want. Once I addressed both of those issues my scroll delays largely disappeared.

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