The Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 is launching in the US and Canada on April 26th as one of the first Android tablets with docking keyboard to grace our fair shores. (Brad Linder notes the Acer Iconia W500 Windows 7 tablet with keyboard is also on its way.) You may remember our excitement at CES 2010 over the Lenovo U1 hybrid tablet/laptop. Alas, that device still hasn’t made it to store shelves here, and it’s not clear that it ever well. The Transformer, on the other hand, promises much of what the U1 did, along with some 2011 upgrades.
If you’re looking for an Android tablet, the Transformer is beating out a lot of its more well-known competitors in review circles. According to Laptop Magazine, the Asus tablet compares favorably to the Xoom and G-Slate for battery life (about 8.5 hours detached, or more than 10 hours with the dock), and edges out both (just slightly in the G-Slate’s case) in a CPU benchmark test. Basic specs include the Android Honeycomb OS, a 10.1-inch display, Wi-Fi connectivity, a 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2 dual-core processor, 1GB on-board RAM with expansion room to 2GB, and on-board memory of 16GB (for $399) or 32GB (for $499) with support for microSD cards.
What most excites me, however, is the Transformer’s potential as a netbook replacement. For $149 you can add a keyboard dock to the Asus tablet that takes it to a total weight of 2.8 pounds, and a thickness measurement of one inch. One of the apps included with the Asus machine is Polaris Office, a productivity suite compatible with Microsoft Office, if not nearly as robust. According to a Computer Shopper review, Polaris can easily be used to edit Word, Excel, and PowerPoint docs.
One negative listed for the Transformer is its quirky, over-sensitive trackpad. But since you can connect an external mouse via USB, this hardly seems a deal-breaker.
I’ve been waiting for a workable Android tablet for some time, and since I could also do with another netbook upgrade, I’m anxious to test out the Transformer to see if it can fill both roles. With a total price tag of only $548, this could be the (An)droid I’ve been looking for.