ASUS Transformer Prime

We've seen many a Honeycomb tablet in the past 11 months or so since Android 3.0 first hit the streets. But it was the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer that first dared to do something different, marrying an excellent (if a tad small) keyboard to what for all intents and purposes was just another Honeycomb tablet.

ASUS Transformer PrimeAnd so it was little surprise to learn that ASUS would be first out the gate with the quad-core Tegra 3 system on a chip. And from the first early glimpses -- official and unofficial alike --  it was pretty clear ASUS was doing something special with the Transformer Prime as well.

While we're still waiting to get our hands on the all new Transformer Prime, ASUS walked us through the new hardware in press briefing. And, like us, you're going to be chomping at the bit for this guy. Sleeker. Sexier keyboard dock. More powerful. Better battery life. More storage. And it's coming in a matter of weeks.

We'll walk you through it after the break.

Transformer Prime Forums | Transformer Prime Specs | More on NVIDIA's Tegra 3

The hardware

The Transformer Prime -- read our full review -- is a mix of familiar and new. It's still a 10.1-inch Android tablet. And like its predecessor, it'll function as a mild-mannered tablet, or in concert with a detachable keyboard dock that adds battery life as well as the obvious functionality.

Metal

ASUS Transformer Prime

One of our (few) complaints about the original Transformer was that it was a bit plastic. That shouldn't be a concern with the Transformer Prime, which has switched to a metallic-spun finish. It'll be available in either "Amethyst Gray" (sort of a grayish-purple), or "Champagne Gold."

Thinner and lighter

ASUS Transformer Prime

The Transformer Prime is just 8.3 mm thin -- that's thinner than the 8.6 mm Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and far more svelte makes the original Transformer look like a relative fatty at 12.98 mm. It's also shed some tonnage, weighing in at 586 grams, versus the 680 grams of the original Transformer but not quite as light as the Galaxy Tab 10.1's 565 grams.

Super IPS+ display

The display is what's being called Super IPS+, which ASUS says will be excellent outdoors and is 1.5 times as bright as its competitors at 600 nits. It's covered in the scratch-resistant Gorilla Glass as well as a "hydro-oleophobic" coating (which first gained notoriety on the iPhone 4) to help fight fingerprints. The display has the same 178-degree viewing angle of its predecessor.

Battery

Battery life should be pretty impressive, rated at 25 watt-hours for the tablet only for 18 hours of 720p video playback 60 nits of brightness, or 18 hours with the optional keyboard dock attached. That'll vary some, of course, but Android Honeycomb tablets have, for the most part, had decent battery performance.

Tegra 3 and the fifth companion core


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And battery savings will be further aided by the new Tegra 3 chipset. We've been calling it "quad-core" since we first saw it debut as "Kal-El" back in February 2011, but that's not quite right. It's actually got a fifth core available. Known as a companion core, it's a low-power core that runs many of the basic functions and apps while leaving the quad-core processor dormant.

Clock speed wasn't specifically mentioned, but the Tegra 3 tech specs point to 1.4GHz for the companion core, and 1.3GHz for the quad-core processor, if you're worried about that sort of thing.

The cameras

We've never really been wowed by tablet cameras -- either because they suck, or the device is too unwieldy -- but ASUS has bumped up the specs here as well. The rear camera is now an 8MP shooter. It's promising a fast shutter speed and dynamic autofocus. It's got an F2.4 aperture and has a backlighted CMOS sensor. The front-facing camera is still 1.2MP. Specs are just specs, of course; we'll see what they amount to.

Speakers

ASUS went back to work here as well, with a pair of 17x12 mm speakers, 6 percent larger than what's on the original Transformer. We absolutely no idea if that'll make a difference.

The ports

A big draw of the original Transformer was a bevy of full-size ports. And they haven't gone anywhere. In addition to the microSD card, microHDMI and 3.5 mm headphone jack on the tablet, you'll find a full-size SD card reader and USB 2.0 port on the keyboard dock.

Storage

The Transformer Prime will come in two variants, with the 32GB version as the low end. Need more storage? A 64GB version will be available as well. Plus there's the microSD card and cloud storage.

The keyboard dock

ASUS Transformer Prime

This was really the differentiator for the original Transformer, and it's back for the Transformer Prime. You get a nearly full-size keyboard with multitouch trackpad, bonus battery live and the added ports. And if it's anywhere near as good as the original keyboard dock (and we won't be surprised if this version's better, too), you'll easily be able to go from Android tablet to Android laptop.

The software

Not to start on a down note, but the Transformer Prime is going to launch with Honeycomb. That's a little disappointing -- especially since we haven't seen Ice Cream Sandwich even demoed on tablets yet -- but ASUS is already (and unsurprisingly) promising an update at Android 4.0 just as soon as possible.

ASUS will have some homescreen and launcher customizations, along with its WebStorage, MyLibrary, @Vibe Music, MyNet and MyCloud apps. There also will be a host of preloaded applications, of course, including SuperNote for basic paint and note-taking function. Polaris Office is on board as well NVIDIA's Tegra Zone portal app.

The pricing

This will tend to vary somewhat depending on where you're buying and what country you're in, but the base price is $499 for the 32GB version, and $599 for the 64GB version. The keyboard dock will run another $149. All will ship sometime in December.

Additionally, the original Transformer is dropping to $399 for the 16GB version and $499 for the 32GB version. The keyboard dock is $149.

What's still up in the air

ASUS Transformer Prime

Our conclusion of the original Transformer likely will still apply to the Transformer Prime. You can throw all the hardware in the world at the problem, but you're still going to have justify spending $500 -- or $650, with the keyboard dock -- on the Transformer Prime. And that's as much as a decent entry-level laptop.

But it's much more fun to just ignore that sort of making-sense and instead look at the Transformer Prime at what, at least on paper, it appears to be -- top-shelf hardware with the promise of an upgrade to the newest version of Android -- Ice Cream Sandwich. And that should be one hell of ride.

 

Reader comments

Preview: ASUS Transformer Prime ushers in the Tegra 3 era starting at $499 in December

60 Comments

dont get me wrong these specs are mind blowing... Why they only kept 1gb in ram? Quad core with 1gb kind of hold back all that power i would think. I just got a tab 10.1 on July, so i will be all set for at least after the world ends... Maybe I should get anyways if the world really ends i will have miss the opportunity, nah... I'm good!

Yeah this is the one!
Better build, thinner, lighter, better screen, top notch specs, this thing compares to the fruit companies beautifulness to their product design.

It'll be interesting to see what the other mfgs do, motorolla better get the xoom 3 out quickly.

Looks sexy for sure, but like they said at the end of the article, how can you justify $650 for this? I think it really fits a specific use-case still.

I don't plan to buy the keyboard so it's just $500 and while that's the same price as an iPad 2, this tablet has a quad core CPU, a way better camera and 32GB of storage. It's well worth the price.

Also who is considering this or a laptop. They both provide a very different experience. The tablet is much better for reading magazines, comics, the web and playing games. Laptops are good for work and I have a desktop for that.

The way I see it is it provides the functionality of both for most people not doing heavy work on the go. My Transformer replaced my netbook. It's not a stand alone computer yet, and I still often use my desktop. However, the Transformer for the average joe will provide great web browsing, better gaming than a $600 laptop, more portability, and better battery than a laptop. Pluses and minuses. It can't run photoshop or autocad, but so few need that.

A version of photoshop will be out soon, if I remember correctly and there is a somewhat basic version of autocad available too.

I'm really surprised there's not a version of sketchup available, yet.

The battery life is 12 hours of 720p video playback and 18 hours with the dock.

I'm starting a new job next Monday and will be getting a free top of the line Samsung smartphone for work and home use (hoping for a Galaxy S II, thinking it might just be an Infuse 4G). Either way I will be selling my Nexus S and ASUS Transformer to buy this.

Now THIS is how a tablet should be made. The champagne gold color looks stunning, as does the rest of the tablet. And this tablet isn't just about looks, it's also extremely powerful! Plus, the fact that it has 32 and 64GB options AND a microSD card slot really makes me excited about this. The only thing I dislike about this tablet is its bezel, which looks rather large. Otherwise, it's my ideal tablet. I really do think tablets with keyboard docks will eventually replace netbooks and laptops, especially once Windows 8 comes out, this tablet is another step toward that being the case.

The original transformer had a large bezel on either side in landscape to accommodate a larger keyboard dock. They probably did the same thing on the prime, but made it even all the way around. No complaints, it will make it easier to hold one handed.

My OG Transformer replaced my Linux Mint running netbook, and far surpassed it in speed and utility. I'll wait for the price to drop or for a 16GB and I'm upgrading.

Really glad they kept the Champagne color. Really liked it on the original. Gave it a little unique flair.

The only complaint I had and still have is no USB port on the tablet itself. I haven't run into a time when I needed one, but it's bound to come up eventually. Still, such a minor complaint. Otherwise, they solved the rest of my list it would seem.

1. Fingerprint magnet worse than any other touch device I've used
2. Slightly dimmer screen than I'd like
3. Plastic
4. Round back

All of my other problems ^ have been fixed in this iteration I think.

"Additionally, the original Transformer is dropping to $399 for the 16GB version and $499 for the 32GB version"

It's always been that price...

Not in my area. In fact that would be a price raise on the 32GB. And it doesn't make any sense that the original 32GB would be selling for the same price as the Quad core 8MP super thin brother. I think that was a typing error. (At least I hope it was.)

From what I can tell, the 16GB has always been $399. Now I did notice over the last week or so that the 32GB dropped to $469. They probably did that because of the Prime coming out. So I think you are right about the typing error because they've been advertising $469 even at Best Buy.

If the 16GB hits $299, I'll go to Bust Buy & pick it up today.

Edit: I was going to fix the Bust Buy typo, but on further reflection, I think I'll leave it be... :D

Tomorrow the Transformer goes on sale here for $400 for a 16GB model with dock. I just paid $470 a few months ago for a 16GB Transformer with dock. I could see myself buying a few more for $100 off.

I'm no expert in marketing and believe me I know the added use of the 32 gig storage. but am I the only one that thinks that the biggest reason the OG transformer is so awesome is due to the price? I'm a little disappointed that they jacked up the price to meet all the other competition.
When I was picking out my tablet that was a huge contributer to my decision.

I agree. Heck, even making it $449 instead of $499 would be alright by me. I mean the 32GB IdeaPad is normally priced at $449 at Office Depot.

I mean I guess they believe the quad-core justifies the price jump, but they may just lose out on some sales because they wanted to be the first out of the gate with quad-core. I wouldn't be surprised if more quad-core tablets come out in January and February and end up being a little cheaper. Hopefully Acer comes out with one around that time.

they didnt, the 399 version was a 16gb while the 32GB version was 499, so same price as their 32gb version, now there is a higher version, and I might go all out and get the 64GB, my main concern is where the ports are, are they on the tablet or the keyboard Dock?

The tablet has a micro sd port, a micro HDMI port, the charging port and a headphone jack.

On the keyboard you have a charging port, a regular SD slot, and a full size USB port.

I'm looking forward to a hands on test with this Tab with ICS by Phil or Jerry so we can see if the reality delivers. The original Transformer, with its Keyboard Dock, was a more flexible tablet. With ICS it might become the solution I'm looking for.

Does anyone know if you can use Microsoft Word on this thing? I'm in school, and I'd like to be able to do work processing (type papers, etc.).

Android has a couple of document suites that support opening/saving in word format.

The original TF came with a doc suite pre-installed.

-Suntan

None of the word solutions you'll find on the tablet will be near as good as the real thing on a laptop. If you are looking to use this for a lot of word processing, writing papers and such, I would just get a laptop.

the suite that came with my transformer is called Polaris Office and the only thing I have had isue with and I think it is more of a touch-screen limitation is that I cannot select multiple cells in a spreadsheet to copy/paste.

Otherwise all basic formulas and everything have worked great. It runs doc, excel and pps files. If it had Visio support I could get rid of my laptop!

Hello Beautiful!
The battle I have been waging with myself over whether to go with an iPad our an Android tablet has just been decided for me.

Good looking tablet there ASUS. You're on a roll. That said, you could have really been the innovative rock stars if you would have broken from the herd and put the good camera on the *front* of the tablet.

Nobody takes pictures with a tablet, but a lot of people video-call with them. Maybe on the TF 3... ...releasing in June?...

-Suntan

Is the screen 24-bit? The old Transformer used an 18-bit dithered screen which was obvious next to a Galaxy Tab :-P

Wish they added a micro-USB port to the tablet. Then there'd be no need for the dock. The Arduino peripherals SDK needs USB :-(

Oh wow! Theres really no denying that ASUS has become really innovated i mean they kept their 32gb price THE SAME and added incredibly impressive specs....theres simply NO crying about this price, it is fully justified and i plan %100 to buy this. I was even thinking of getting a non ASUS this time around but they pulled me back and claimed me their bitch with this price/spec range!!

This does look great... but one of the reasons I've held off on buying an Android tablet is that so few of them have 3G/4G (Galaxy Tab being the main exception). I'm afraid that I'll miss having cellular data. Am I overestimating its value?

IMHO, yes. But I could be biased because I've gotten along fine with the wifi-only OG Transformer.

Between work and home, I spend almost all of my time in a wifi-cloud. Cellular data comes in handy for me when I'm out and about, but that's mostly either in a car (a no no for using the a mobile device anyway) or in a store/restaurant or some other place where the tablet form factor isn't as convenient for me to carry around.

If I'm going somewhere where I know I'll want to use my tablet, e.g. at the airport, cafe, etc. then it's easy enough to tether to a rooted smartphone.

While I might just not know what I'm missing and other people's daily lives might be different (e.g. commute via train, etc.), I still get a lot out of having it the way it is.

I don't get it.. how is a device that is 2 or 3 times the size of a mobile phone and cost $150.00 less?

Yea I have always wondered why phones are so expensive when compared to tablets when they normally have better specs with bigger screens. Does a cell antenna really cost that much?

Because it is not tied to a carrier so they do not need to artificially inflate the price to help lock you into a 2 year contract.

I will be getting this ASAP! December cant come fast enough!!

Thought about getting the Original Transformer around black Friday, now I have totally changed my mind and will wait and buy nothing on black Friday!

Something about the "Hang Loose, try new things" attitude of ASUS is really attractive. I loved the flexibility the first Transformer gave tablets some new options. It was the first form factor that really made me question the long term dominance of the iPad form-factor. Then they revealed the Slider and surprised me again!

Providing the new Transformer delivers in the areas that matter to me, I will try to get one. Great work ASUS!

I don't get it. They are trying to gain market share right? You CANNOT price any tablet the same as the Ipad. You will lose. No matter how good the specs are. The only people who care about specs are us nerds in forums like this, which is just a tiny fraction of the market. The majority of the tablet-buying market will buy a tablet based on general user experience, or price. Apple has user experience won hands down due to it's superior "ecosystem", so you can only compete on price. I hope after a couple months they drop this to $450 or $400, cause it's the only way it will gain ground.

This may finally be my escape from the evil clutches of the fruit company. Thin? Check! Metal? Check! Fast? Check! Long battery life? Check! All the features dead Steve didn't want you to have? Check! The only niggle is that Asus couldn't resist putting their name on the back AND the front. Why is Apple the only company that understands simplicity and less-is-more?

My thing is this. The transformer will be AMAZING, but as frankg16 stated, Asus can not afford to price this thing at $499. the price is why the TF101-A1 sold more than the B1 (16GB vs 32GB). That being said, I myself will be getting the TF-Prime 32GB ,because I just sold my rooted TF101-A1 plus keyboard dock (managed to get $600 for it WOOT)and my GF is giving me 200 bucks for my B-Day in DEC, and I will be using that money on this (tab + Dock + HDMI cable). So I just came out with a basically FREE upgrade LOL!!! Cheers to all getting this!

As much as I get a bit giddy at all the latest and greatest hardware and being cutting edge I think I would still rather wait for the Tab 7.7 to come out. It's way more portable for living in London and traveling on the tube using it for reading and everything else. At this point in time it is over kill and will be for another 5 or 6 months till developers actually produce stuff for it. I've seen 3 games so far that will come out for this and there are still only a handful of things that take full advantage of dual-core so no I'll not be getting this. Tab 7.7 for me, running CF3D to play Tegra titles

I wish manufacturers would put NFC in tablets (especially this wonderful one) so that I could android-beam data from my future Galaxy Neuxs to it.

I want a tablet that does everything my smartphone does at 10.1", and more. SODIMM chips(2X4GB)would be nice. The dock a cool idea,but could have been more innovative, stereo speakers,SSD with utilities, maybe install one of the gazillion different laptop batteries just in case you had to drag the dock around?