The Asus Transformer – A Netbook Replacement?

Mari Silbey —  April 21, 2011

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.

3 responses to The Asus Transformer – A Netbook Replacement?

  1. Well, this is what the U1 should have been, but Lenovo overthought the damn thing. Two different OS’s? Who thought that was a good idea?

    Seems well designed at first glance. They’ve actually used an IPS panel just like Apple so its a quality display, unlike lots of other tablets which go for the cheap. And obviously the keyboard is going to be small and cramped, but that’s dictated by the size of the thing and it looks like they did a relatively good job other than that stupid right shift key. Battery life looks decent, and the weight is actually pretty impressive, only a little more than the iPad 2 fo the Slate part. Encouraging. Still iPad 1 thickness but whatever.

    I found it odd the review (and your coverage) talked about the whole trackpad/mouse thing as if it was obvious how it would work. On an iPad anyway there’s no mouse cursor, which was how I had assumed an undocked Honeycomb device would work. I assume one appears suddenly when you dock? And when you move the mouse pointer and click on something its the equivalent of pressing your finger on something? Unclear how well that would work all the time, but for basic typing etc I assume it works fine.

    The finicky trackpad seems like it could be a problem, as does the touchscreen that apparently doesn’t work well when docked for some reason. Odd.

    I’d also wonder about the durability of the slate/keyboard dock and how secure it is. They didn’t comment on the stiffness of the hinge either, given how heavy the slate must be in comparison to a normal laptop display. Odd they didn’t mention that. I honestly assume there’s a battery in the keyboard part just to keep the thing from falling over and the extra runtime when docked is just a bonus.

    Very encouraging. Still too early to buy a Honeycomb device, given the state of the app market etc, and still seems like you’ll want Amazon media access on the thing before you’ll be completely satisfied, but a very good step for Android. For now I’ll stick with my iPad 2 though thanks. Good to see competition though. Especially lower priced competition (finally!).

  2. I already know I’m going to pick up an Android tablet – and this is currently the front runner. I liked the Xoom, but had decided to wait and give Honeycomb time to shake out as a new release. And also for the HW to prove itself a bit – I wasn’t going to get a Xoom until the 4G capability shipped in the tablet instead of the silly ‘send it back so we can spend 2 seconds sticking the card in’ thing.

    In the meantime the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 got announced, and I liked the look of that even better than the Xoom. Similar HW specs but lighter and thinner, and just all-around sleeker. The Tab 10.1 is still a close second.

    Then I saw the Transformer, and it is the closest to what I’ve been looking for for years. I still want to see a phone-based device – the Atrix is an OK first effort but the whole ‘separate environment when docked’ aspect is a non-starter. I’d like to see a ‘tablet’ I can dock my phone into the back of, then dock the tablet into a keyboard like this. But for now being able to dock the tablet into the keyboard is a good start, and it looks well executed.

    I’ll have to give it a little more thought, but I think this may be my first tablet.

  3. I understand the asus tablet transformer dock keyboard has full functionality – does this include being able to delete the recipient the original email came from and also deleting any recipients shown on that email prior to forwarding to new recipients? I have done this with some success but if an attachment or picture is displayed on that outgoing email, the action of the deletion of recipients, also does away with the attachment or any display in the forwarding emails. A response please from someone. Thanks!