The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime was one of our favourite tablets of last year. Asus has followed it up with the Android 4 based Transformer Pad TF300T, a near doppelganger for the previous model, though with a price cut of almost £100.
What’s changed between the two models, and is the new one a worthy addition to the Transformer range?
The differences between the two devices are subtle. This is still a two-piece affair with a tablet that attaches to a really good quality keyboarded dock.
The dock contains a second battery to push total battery life to 15 hours while pad only life is at 10 hours. We got a couple of days of heavy use between charges.
The processor is still a quad core Cortext A9 NVIDIA Tegra 3, with its low power usage fifth core kicking in if you opt for Balanced or Power Saving modes rather than the all out Performance mode – you move between the modes readily via the popup status indicator at the bottom left of the screen.
The processor is slightly slower at 1.2GHz as opposed to 1.3GHz in the Prime, but it worked smoothly and efficiently for us.
There are still plenty of memory options with 32GB of on board storage and a microSD card slot on the tablet section, USB and SD slots on the keyboard base. In addition Asus gives you 8GB of web storage for life so you can cloud store some stuff and be certain you can get it wherever you are as long as Wi-Fi is around.
The 10.1 inch screen still delivers 1280 x 800 pixels, and there’s a mini HDMI slot on the tablet section. While the screen is reasonably sharp and pleasant to the eye it is a little less bright than the Prime’s screen and suffers a bit outdoors.
It does pale in comparison to the Retina display in the latest iPad, something that will be matched in another forthcoming Transformer, the Infinity, with a full HD display.
The main camera is still an 8 megapixel affair, but it lacks a flash while the Prime’s has one. It’s unlikely to be a deal breaker though, given the general unwieldiness of using a tablet for photography. There is a useful 1.2 megapixel front camera as well.
The docking mechanism between keyboard and tablet is sturdy, and the keyboard itself is a pleasure to use. There’s the same design fault that we encountered in the Prime in the tendency for the Transformer Pad to tip backwards when you tap the screen with a finger, though.
We found we resorted to using the trackpad and its associated cursor more in ‘laptop mode’ which felt like we were losing one of the benefits of Android in the process, given that it’s UI is optimised for touch screens.
Probably the most immediately noticeable of differences between the flagship Transformer Prime and the new Transformer Pad TF300T is a downgrade in the quality of materials used in the build. The keyboard section is made from metal in both instances, but the backplate of the tablet section is now plastic.
The slight amount of give in the backplate is not particularly an issue, but it does cost the TF300T its premium feel.
This new model is a bit heavier than its predecessor too, and while we are being picky we still don’t like the use of a proprietary charge connector. In these days of USB ubiquity, the need to carry a proprietary cable for any device feels decidedly irritating.
The keyboard is really comfortable to use, its isolated keys are well spaced and require a light touch. There are dedicated keys for Android’s Home and Menu functions, cursor keys, and a good row above the numberpad with all manner of ease of use keys such as toggles for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, brightness controls, a screenshot tool, link in to the Settings area, media playback buttons and volume control. Oh, and a web browser launcher too.
Polaris Office lets you create Word, Excel and PowerPoint compatible documents, and you can save these to external media for accessing elsewhere. However, when we tried this the saves we made opened in Word 2010 in Protected View rather than in full editable mode.
That Polaris Office glitch will doubtless be fixed by a software update, and overall we have to say that it’s really just the aesthetics of the plastic backplate to the tablet and proprietary charge cable that irritate us the most about the Transformer Pad TF300T.
The innards impress, and with the keyboard dock now included as a standard part of the package rather than an optional extra this tablet becomes a very appealing prospect.
Review written by Sandra Vogel