Name: Asus Transformer Pad TF300
The Back Story: We’ve reached the mid-point of 2012 and any tablet not manufactured by Apple has yet to gain significant marketshare. Despite that, two companies are still trying to give the iPad a serious run for its money: Samsung and Asus. Through daring design and creative new features, both brands have developed a large international following. Now, however, Asus is looking to make some major noise in the American market with its next tablet, the Transformer Pad TF300.
Equipped with Google’s Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) OS, a monstrous CPU, incredible battery life, and an optional keyboard dock, the new Transformer looks ready to take out the competition. But does topping the Android tablet echelon make for a worthy iPad competitor?
• Powerful hardware: Asus gets crazy props for having the only two tablets on the market with the latest quad-core chips: the Prime and TF300. NVIDIA’s 1.2GHz Tegra 3 hosts cutting-edge features that conserve energy while delivering faster speeds; the most prominent being the 4-Plus-1 technology which uses a fifth of the CPU during low processing periods. Navigation was swift and reponse time was instant. Like the Prime, you’ll have the option of switching between three power modes (Power Saving, Balance, and Performance) to maximum performance and battery life.
• Best gaming tablet: NVIDIA’s hardware is considered the elite option for mobile gaming and the same accolades can be shared for its tablet counterpart. 3D games looked phenomenal and ran ridiculously smooth. Everything from Modern Combat 3 to Draw Something operated flawlessly with no frame rate issues. That’s not to say every other multimedia format doesn’t excel. Music and video files played stutter-free, too.
• Keyboard dock: The market for Android-powered accessories is slender (and faint). Asus looks to be stepping in the right direction with its new keyboard dock that helps those looking to be more productive with their table. With the dock you get a full QWERTY layout with tablet-specific keys and multi-touch commands. There's also a responsive multi-touch trackpad. The attachment offers several other treasures such as a built-in 16.5 Watt-hour battery, SD card slot, and USB 2.0 port. It's worth dropping the $150 for the extra power alone.
• Surprisingly good cameras: Everyone knows taking pictures on a tablet is as ideal as taking sending a text of a dumbphone. However, the TF300’s dual-cameras managed to capture credible visuals. The front-facing 1.2MP shooter produced quality photos, where as the rear 8MP camera generated rich colors and bright images. It’s pretty cool that Asus included a panoramic feature as well, though it’s a far cry from HTC’s camera technology.
• Long battery life: Inside the TF300 lies a 22-watt-hour energizer capable of pulling an all-day-er on moderate use. Even with excessive use and Wi-Fi connectivity enabled, the tablet chugged along for at least 8 hours. The aforementioned keyboard dock also generates an extra 5 hours.
• Dim display: The Prime’s Super IPS+ display was recognized as one of the best tablet panels thanks to its intensely bright output. So why did Asus settle for a more inferior screen this go around? Production costs, possibly. Either way, this 10-inch variant is noticeably dimmer and difficult to view outdoors.
• Lack of optimized apps: Android 4.0 is more polished and user-friendly than Honeycomb. But aside from the processor-friendly games, there aren't enough customized apps that take full advantage of the updated software. You’ll also find yourself running mobilized versions of particular Google Play apps that haven't been optimized for larger panels.
• Build quality: Asus downgrades the design of this Transformer model by opting for a ribbed plastic unibody instead of the Prime’s premium aluminum construction. Its build pales in comparison to its main rival, the Galaxy Tab 2.
Final Say: With industry leading hardware under the hood, the latest version of Android, and steady battery life, the Transformer Pad TF300 ranks as one of the best two Android tablets available now (the other being the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2). Does that give it enough clout to play up in the big leagues with the New iPad? It’s debatable. Sure, special accessories like the keyboard dock earn it extra cool points, plus the open-source world of Google’s OS make for a modder’s haven. Like every other Android tablet, Asus's new player shares the same shortcomings of its counterparts, which all go back to unpolished software. But if the little green robot is your OS preference, the Transformer Pad TF300 seems like the optimum choice. It also doesn't hurt that it's $100 cheaper than the competition.