In 2010, Apple re-wrote the rules of gadgetry once again with the release of the iPad, its wildly successful touch-screen tablet computer. The company released the sleeker, more powerful iPad 2 a year later, but into a much more crowded field. After all, other computer makers weren't going to stand on the sidelines while Apple singlehandedly dominated the new tablet market.
One of those competitors is ASUS (pronounced ā -SOOS), a Taiwan-based tech company that made its name in motherboards before jumping into the notebook and netbook sector. Its first foray into tablet computing is the Eee Pad Transformer, a direct shot across the bow of the iPad 2. The Transformer is similar in size and functionality to the iPad 2, but at a price point that starts $100 lower than the market leader.
The results have been impressive, by non-Apple standards. The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer officially became the second-best selling tablet in June 2011, selling 400,000 units in the first six months of the year [source: Poeter]. The Transformer outpaced other tablet offerings like the Motorola Xoom and the RIM PlayBook, but still fell far (far) short of Apple, which sold a ridiculous 7.5 million iPad devices in the second quarter of 2011 alone.
ASUS has already piggybacked on the early success of the Eee Pad Transformer, which runs the Android 3.0 operating system, with a higher-end tablet called the Eee Slate, a Windows 7 machine with an Intel processor that retails for $1,200 -- three times as much as the more budget-minded Transformer.
On the next page, we'll explore the specs of the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer.
ASUS Tablet Specs
The ASUS tablet comes loaded with plenty of power and performance to compete with the iPad and the growing crowd of tablet challengers. The first thing you notice is the size of the screen. The tablet itself is 10.67 inches by 6.97 inches (27.1 to 17.7 centimeters), and the viewable screen is 10.1 inches (25.7 centimeters) from corner to corner. That compares favorably with the 9.7-inch (24.6-millimeter) screen on the iPad 2. A larger screen makes for a better HD screen resolution, too. The Transformer boasts 1280x800 pixels compared to the slightly smaller 1024x768 on the iPad 2. All of that size comes at the cost of weight, though. The Transformer weighs in at 1.5 pounds (680 grams) compared to the trimmer and slimmer 1.33-pound (603-kilogram) iPad 2.
There are two cameras on the Transformer: one that faces the front for video chat and one that faces the rear for snapping photos. The front-facing camera is a 1.2 megapixel model and the rear-facing is 5 megapixels, which are the same resolutions as most tablets on the market.
There are a couple of ports along the side of the Transformer to interface with other gadgets. There's a mini-SD card slot in which you can insert mini-SD memory cards from digital cameras or other devices. There's also a mini-HDMI slot for connecting the Transformer to an HDTV using a mini-HDMI to HDMI cable. This would allow you to stream movies from your Transformer onto a much bigger screen. There are no USB ports on the Transformer, but the tablet does have a neat trick up its sleeve… or technically, along its bottom. It's a 40-pin docking port which can attach to a full laptop keyboard (for an additional $150). We'll talk more about the keyboard on the accessories page.
Now, let's take a look at the internal specs of the Transformer tablet. The tablet's lithium battery is listed at running a maximum of 9.5 hours per charge, but reviewers have clocked it at a more reasonable 7.3 hours [source: Bell]. For processing power, the Transformer has an NVIDIA Tegra 2 chip under the hood with 1GB of DDR2 SDRAM. For memory, the entry-level Transformer comes with a 16GB internal flash drive and a 32GB model is available for roughly $100 more. The Transformer is built with a number of sensors, including GPS, gravity sensors and a virtual compass for automatic orientation between landscape and portrait view.
The Transformer connects to the Internet via Wi-Fi (802.11bgn). There isn't an option to connect using 3G cellular data networks. The transformer is loaded with Bluetooth for connecting wirelessly to other devices like wireless headsets, speakers or car stereos.
The Transformer runs Google's Android operating system, version 3.0. This version of Android, also known as Honeycomb, was designed specifically for larger handheld devices with more screen room. The touch-screen includes a full virtual QWERTY keyboard with numbers.
Now let's look at some of the accessories you can buy for your ASUS Eee Pad Transformer tablet.
ASUS Tablet Accessories
The keyboard is the only accessory made by ASUS specifically for the transformer. But there are several other products designed by other companies to complement the Transformer experience. For instance, there are a number of carrying cases and sleeves that are designed to fit the Transformer. These stylish cases close with the help of a hidden magnetic strip. Most of the cases also contain a built-in support that flips out to stand the Transformer up on a table.
One accessory that's particularly useful for movie lovers and gamers is an HDMI to mini-HDMI cable. The Transformer broadcasts in beautiful, high-resolution HD, but even the sharpest picture can lose some impact on a 10-inch (25.4-centimeter) screen. With the HDMI cable, you can upgrade your image to a bigger HDTV. The same goes for sound. The Transformer has its own built-in speakers, but you'll get a much fuller audio experience from headphones or speakers that you can plug into the audio-out jack.
Another popular accessory is a screen protector to prevent scratches on the sensitive touch-screen. There are both hard screen covers and thin matte covers that apply like a vinyl sticker without leaving any sticky residue.
For lots more information on handheld gadgets and net-book computers, click on the links on the next page.
- Bell, Donald. "Tablet Prize Fight: Acer vs. Asus." CNET. May 19, 2011 (Accessed August 18, 2011) http://reviews.cnet.com/8301-19736_7-20064353-251.html#ixzz1V7a1WCWF
- Poeter, Damon. "Shocker: Asus Now the Leading Non-iPad Tablet Maker." PCMag. June 24, 2011 (Accessed August 18, 2011) http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2387556,00.asp
- Sorrel, Charlie. "ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Has 16-Hour Battery." Gadget Lab. Wired. March 25, 2011. (Accessed August 22, 2011) http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2011/03/asus-eee-pad-transformer-tablet-has-16-hour-battery/