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Asus Transformer Prime review

Asus follows up the big selling Eee Pad Transformer with the Prime, a tablet that is faster, sleeker and better in almost every way.

The original Eee Pad Transformer was a great tablet, with a unique approach to the form and it really wowed both us and the public at large who made it one of the most successful Android tablets to date. Now the Eee Pad Transformer Prime takes things a stage further, and it really is difficult to find fault.

The Prime marries a keyboard and a 10-inch tablet, and the two lock together using a very secure hinging mechanism. When they’re joined they look like a cute little ultrabook, and you’d hardly think the tablet can function separately. But it can.

The keyboard section provides USB and SD card ports – and both can read and write to external memory. So you can watch movies, listen to music and keep important documents readily to hand. The keyboard section also has a touchpad which can control the movement of a cursor on screen.

Used in conjunction with a row of Android specific shortcut buttons that can manage media playback, control wireless functions and more, you hardly ever need to tap the screen when the keyboard is attached, exactly like a traditional laptop.

That’s a good thing, actually, because one of our few criticisms of the Eee Pad Transformer Prime is that it topples backwards when the screen is tapped in keyboarded mode. That’s because of the weighting of the combo – the keyboard just isn’t heavy enough to anchor to a desk well, and the tablet section is pretty heavy itself as it has plenty of hardware inside. If you find you’d rather not use the touchpad, or that you accidentally brush it when using the keyboard, it is easily disabled with a dedicated button.

The keys themselves are comfy to use, and a bundled copy of Polaris Office means you can create and edit Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint compatible documents.

The keyboard section has a built in battery that kicks in if the tablet’s battery becomes depleted. While it’s draining it also recharges the tablet so you can take that away and use it solo if you need to. Very smart. In combination Asus reckons you’ll get up to 18 hours of life, though on test we got about eight hours of music playback from the tablet section, another five and a half when we attached a fully charged keyboard.

The Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime runs Android 4 (Ice Cream Sandwich), and you can’t say that for many devices at the moment. It’s very familiar in look to version 3, so there’s almost no learning curve, but it offers additional features.

Just as exciting is that the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime has a quad core NVIDIA Tegra processor – which actually has five cores. The fifth one kicks in when low level tasks are being done, to help conserve battery power. But when you need them, such as when you are gaming or watching video, the quad cores kick in. Nvidia includes its own app store, incidentally, so you can find games that really take advantage of the quad core processor.

Build quality is excellent. The metal chassis for both keyboard and tablet sections is tough, and the purple sheen to our review sample was attractive – though not everyone is likely to agree on this. Asus adds a range of apps to Android 4 to help you make the most of the Transformer Prime. We’ve mentioned Polaris Office already.

There’s also the Kindle app, a good file manager, Movie Studio for working with what you capture from the 8 megapixel main camera or 1.2 megapixel front camera, a DLNA app for sharing music, photos and video with another Wi-Fi device, Super Note for taking text and drawn notes, Zinio reader, and a few games.

There’s 32GB of built in storage and access to 8GB of Asus web storage. If we’re looking for a gripe about all this, then it has to be that there’s no 3G version. But if you are even remotely interested in writing text on an Android tablet, then the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime has to be the best option we’ve seen so far.

Written by Sandra Vogel