I’ve got to play with the Asus Transformer Pad TF300 these last days and it’s good to see how far did the mainstream Asus Android tablets go in less than a year. I’ve played with the first Transformer about a year ago, I then owned one for many months, but with the Prime, TF300 and probably the Infinity to come, the Asus tablets have really stepped up their game.
And while not necessarily a big fan of Android slates, there are plenty of things i liked about the 2012 Transformer Pad, the tablet that’s probably going to see a lot of success this year.
The written review will be added below, I’m still playing with the slate and finalizing tests. In the meantime, I can tell you a couple of things: this machine is fast and reliable, at least as reliable as an Android tablet can be. Apps still freeze and the whole system still gets sluggish and will require a restart after a while, but if you’ll learn to live with these issues, you’ll be fine.
Android 4.0 is a tremendous improvement over Honeycomb in terms of performances and overall experience, at least when paired with an Nvidia Tegra 3 platform, so as a result, the TF300 is snappy and can deal with all the things you’ll throw at it, from reading books to watching Full HD content or playing modern games (meant for tablets).
Of course, the Android Transformer TF300 is not a top-of the line unit in its class, that place is reserved for the soon to come Transformer Infinity, but has a good price tag on its side, as it goes for around 400 bucks. It’s not cheap, but not expensive either and it combines the accessible price point with, finally, a proper experience, and that’s why I’m sure many of you guys will love it. I actually enjoyed it too, not enough to give away my iPad for it, but still a lot more than most of the other Android slates that have crossed my way in the past.
See the review below for more details.
But first, let’s have a quick look at the specs.
|Asus Transformer Pad TF300|
|Screen||10.1 inch, 1280 x 800 px, IPS, without Gorilla Glass|
|Hardware||Nvidia Tegra 3 1.2 GHz quad-core CPU, 12-Core GPU|
|Memory||1 GB RAM|
|Connectivity||Wireless N, Bluetooth, GPS, 3G/4G-LTE (some versions)|
|Sensors||accelerometer, compass, gyroscop, light sensor|
|Ports||micro-HDMI, proprietary docking port, microSD card reader (up to 32 GB cards)|
|Cameras||8 MPx back camera, no Flash, 1.2 MPx front camera|
|OS||Android 4.0 IceCream Sandwich|
|Size||263 x 181 x 9.9 mm (10.3 x 7.1 x 0.4 inches)|
|Weight||638 g (1.4 pounds)|
|Others||Asus SonicMaster speaker; available in white, red, blue; optional docking station with keyboard, USB, SD card|
So this is exactly the Transformer Pad TF300 you’ll find in stores all around the world starting today, for $379.
However, my review unit is a pre-release sample and I came across some issues that hopefully will get fixed on the final units. You’ll find out more about them in the rows below.
Asus Transformer Pad TF300 video review
Ok, and here’s the written review. I decided to be a little more brief this time, but if you have any other questions, please go head and leave a comment at the bottom of this post.
There are in fact plenty of things i liked about the Asus Pad TF300. The important ones are bellow.
- The Speed: With their new pad, Asus finally managed to put the affordable Android slate back on my map. I owned the first gen Transformer and was often frustrated by its sluggishness and occasional lack of response. With the Tegra 3 hardware platform and Android 4.0 HoneyComb, those are mostly gone, although my test unit did encounter freezes from time to time. But since I got to play with a pre-release unit, I can only hope most problems will get solved by the time the TF300 gets in stores.
- The interface: while the UI might get laggy sometimes, Android for tablets has gone a long way in just one year. Widgets, multitasking, notifications, these are just some of the useful things properly done on IceCream Sandwich that I’d wish I’d have on my iPad as well. And like I said, while things might not always be peachy, at least Google is going further to make the user experience better, while Apple is pretty much stuck with the same array of icons for years now.
- The battery life: 10+ hours for watching 720p videos and about 7-8 hours of average daily use is actually not bad at all, especially when the device runs cool and is overall comfortable to use for a longer period of time. And with that docking you get about 3-5 extra hours.
- The body: the TF300 Pad is covered in plastic, but it’s quality plastic, with a nice texture, thus overall the entire thing feels alright. Plus, you get to choose between multiple color options and I for one know at least half a dozen people that asked me where and when will they find the red new Transformer Pad.
- The docking station: You can’t be a Transformer without the matching docking, that provides a keyboad, trackpad, battery and extra ports. Together, the tablet and the docking should make for a lighter and slimmer mini-laptop replacement. At least on a first look basis, cause with Android, you still don’t get the productivity you’d need in order to leave your Windows machine at home. At least I don’t and I’m not asking for much: proper text editing, blogging, photo and video editing software, and proper multitasking. They are not here yet, but a future Windows 8 Transformer might have them on the menu.
There are some aspects that fall somewhere in the middle, they are not bad, but they stand to be improved, and these are included in this section.
- The screen: It’s not a bad screen, it is bright, sharp and the colors are nice on it as well. But, it is just the standard 1280 x 800 px display and after getting used to reading texts and websites on the iPad 3, going back to the standard 1024 x 768 px of the previous iPads or even the 1280 x 800 px of most Android slates ain’t that pleasant. And i agree, I might be totally biased here (not towards the iPad, but towards the high resolution screens). However, there’s one issue that cannot be contested: the screen lacks that Gorilla Glass cover and in time, this might have unwanted consequences. And there’s one more issue I’m going to talk about in the next line.
- The feel: It’s a budget tablet, hence we don’t have a metallic body. I get that and I won’t argue with it. However, when properly hold with both hands and squeezed in those intense moments when trying to outmaneuver a fellow driver or score against Real Madrid, you’ll find that the Transformer 300 is just not solid enough. The plastic back bends, the screen starts to bleed and overall the TF300 feels like it might not last long with such harsh treatment. And that’s not what I felt about my first gen Transformer or how i feel about the iPad. Cause in the end, you’re not always going to be nice and gentle with your tablet, that’s a fact, whether you like it or not. Thus it has to be sturdy and the TF300 is not quite there.
- The Camera: There are some samples below. The 8 MPx camera on the back of the Pad takes decent pictures, but are you really going to use the tablet for taking pictures or shooting clips (this one can shoot 1080p clips as well). I do hope you’re not, people taking pics with their bi 10 inch tablets look… so foolish in my eyes. The front camera will be more useful though, for chatting on Skype or Google talk.
- The price: Yep, I’ve listed this as a so-so. This tablet is a huge improvement in terms of everyday experience over the previous Android HoneyComb/Tegra 2 family of slates and it’s on par with those devices in terms of prices. However, if the first generation Transformer was great-priced at $399 a year ago, that game has changed in the meantime. Today we have decent tablets going for under $250, we have an iPad 2 starting at $399 and people are expecting tablets to get cheaper. Right now, as I’m writing this post, the Transformer Pad TF300 is a solid pick for the money, as it’s the first of its kin to hit the stores. But with competitors around the corner, I’m quite sure Asus will have to adjust the price tag as the months go by in order to remain competitive. Only time will tell if I was wrong.
As always, things can’t be all peachy, and the TF300 Pad has its issues as well, although you’ll see there aren’t as many as you’d expect.
- The occasional hiccups: Yes, they might be caused by the fact that I tested a pre-production model, so take this section with a grain of salt, but the Asus Transformer 300 sometimes suffered from severe sluggishness, out of the blue. That’s beside the classic Android issues: apps crashing or freezing. All these are frustrating, especially when you’re used to an interface that responds in a blink of an eye to your commands. Of course, a restart will solve the problems… for a while. But are you OK with having to restart your slate 3-4 times a day? I’m not, given that I probably haven’t restarted the iPad more than 10 times in a year.
- The Android tablet ecosystem: if you’re fine with the Google apps and basically the preinstalled stuff you get on an Android slate (Asus bundles this Pad with some useful software, like Polaris Office for instance), then this might not be an issue. As soon as you venture into the Wild Wild West called Google Play, things are getting shaky. I don’t use crazy apps or have high demands, but a proper app to handle my feeds or a proper Twitter/Facebook client able to use the large screen, are these too much to ask? And the story can go on and on.
- The speaker: Yes, it’s only one, like on the iPads or the Transformer Prime, and while loud, it doesn’t shine in terms of audio quality. Plus, the speaker’s grill is placed on the bottom right part, just where you’re going to place your right hand to hold the tablet, thus muffling the speaker. You’ll get used to it in time, but if you’re like me, you’ll never stop asking whether someone actually tests these devices before releasing them for the crowds.
The wrap up
This pretty much sums it up. The Asus Transformer Pad TF300 is finally the decent-priced Android tablet people can actually use, despite those hiccups that are still here to scratch the experience. When compared to the first gen Transformer though, it’s a big leap forward, and that’s all that matters.
Of course, the plastic body might not make it as appealing as some of the higher class slates, and also not as sturdy either, but the line has to be drawn at some point if you want to keep the price point low.
Speaking of that, the new pad starts at $379 for the 16 GB version in the US, while the 32 GB model goes for $399, just 20 bucks extra. Both can be found slightly discounted online.
A good price for the bundle, today, but like I said in the lines above, It’s up to debate whether people are going to spend four hundred bucks on a mainstream Android slate right now, when the market has changed a lot since a year ago. Consumers want decent performances from affordable devices, and at $399, I feel that the Pad is not necessarily going to last in this sweet spot. We’ll see.
All in all, this is a tablet to consider when documenting on your next buy. The iPad 2 is probably going to be a tough competitor, as it goes for $399 as well today and devices like the Lenovo Ideapad K2 or the Acer Iconia Tab A510 will have something to say in this fight as well.
The real battle is going to start in the Fall though, with the first Windows 8 ARM tablets hitting the stores, as those will have something neither Android or iOS slates have today: the ability to replace laptops for more than watching movies, browsing websites and reading books.