Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 Price Drop


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Here in Australia, Samsung have officially moved price on their entire Galaxy Tab 10.1 range this weekend, with the 16GB Wi-Fi model now only $479 RRP. Here’s the new Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price repositions at RRP levels across the range:

  • 16GB Wi-Fi only: $479
  • 64GB Wi-Fi only: $699
  • 16GB Wi-Fi/3G: $629
  • 64GB Wi-Fi/3G: $829

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price is now pegged $100 below the comparative iPad models in both capacity and Wi-Fi/3G respects. This looks to be a move to continue the momentum gained through the media-supported hype around the Tab 10.1 and the legal stoushes with Apple here and overseas.

Once the Tab 10.1 was allowed to be released in Australia, Samsung embarked on a massive publicity campaign, complete with cheeky advertising callouts, including the phrase “The Tablet Apple Tried to Stop”, capitalising on the court’s decision to lift the ban on selling the Galaxy Tab 10.1 until the final verdict was decided.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price has just come down in Australia.

Samsung's advertising directly referenced their legal battles with Apple. Even without their own campaign, the amount of exposure the Tab 10.1 received was massive.

The Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price drop can also be seen in context of other hardware offers in the Android tablet territory, and actually makes sense when comparing like-for-like systems.

Take, for example, the Asus Transformer Prime, the only tablet in the market with the Tegra 3 processor today. The RRP for the 64GB version of the Prime is $899. From the RRP of $699 for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price, one could add $100 for the addition of the keyboard dock, and a further $100 for the Tegra 3 processor upgrade.

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Of course, there are other market forces and activities hanging in the air that may begin to coalesce in the next few weeks. Rumours are building around a possible iPad 3 announcement, and Samsung themselves appear to have a new 10.1” model, the Galaxy Note 10.1 which looks to combine the functionality of the current Galaxy Note with the screen size and dimensions of the Tab 10.1. Given the number of units sold of the Note, and the development of S-pen based Apps, a 10.1 version of the Note could be very interesting and open the “creative mobile” market even further.

For now, we have the price drops which should stimulate sales of the 10.1 Galaxy Tab, and we’ll keep our eyes peeled for more information on new models as they are announced.

Have you been holding off for a drop of the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 price, and does this announcement get you over the line to become a Galaxy Tab owner? Let us know your thoughts below.

Google Lab Adds Gesture Control in Android Web Browser

We have been spending a fair bit of time discussing the Android Web Browser experience on the Android 4 tablet platform, courtesy of the Transformer Prime. We even had a chance to check out the Chrome for Android Beta browser.

The fundamental issue here is that even though the stock Android web browser and the Chrome browser are great examples of browser environments and functionality, they don’t address the issue of how touch screen interfaces differ incredibly from standard desktop environments.

The stock Android web browser on Ice Cream Sandwich tablets gives a little insight into what they are developing over at the Google labs. It’s a great example of innovative gesture design.

(note:  one of our readers @Diesel, has kindly pointed out that this Labs feature is actually also available on Honeycomb Tablets, which is terrific news for owners of Android 3.2 tablets.)

If you own a tablet that happens to have been upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich, then simply select the stock browser, press the menu button on the upper right hand corner, and go to settings. The last option you’ll then see on the left hand side is the Labs button. Select Labs then tick the Quick Controls box.

When you return to the browser, you’ll be able to see the entire page with no top or bottom area compromise. Sliding your thumb in from either the left of or the right presents a semi circle with icons denoting certain functions. These provide instant access to common commands, such as bookmarks, deleting current tab, adding  a new tab, back, forward, and refresh.

Menu options on Android Web Browser

Using the left hand thumb, hovering over each icon will display the relevant options.

The tab select button is an interesting space to flick through currently open tabs vertically, easily navigating to your open page of choice. Even though this is a hidden little gem in the software, it also gives an indication of what functions may appear on progressive releases, and perhaps eventually on Chrome for Android web browser.

Tab Control on Android Web Browser

The right hand thumb has the same options in mirror image. Here the Tabs are selected vertically.

After using this “Easter Egg” feature on the ICS Android web browser, it becomes pretty clear that there has been a fair bit of thought into making it useful for both left and right-handed people. The browser has also been made more efficient by placing commands in the natural areas where hands would be holding the tablet.

For Chrome to really take the lead in mobile browsing, adding an option to control the online navigation could position Chrome for Android into the ultimate mobile internet browser.

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Here’s the Ritchie’s Room video showing some of the cool features of the experimental Lab Android web browser.

 

 

Would you shift your mobile browser to Chrome if it included gesture functionality similar to what we’ve shown, or is it still too clunky to be a real feature? We’d love to hear your thoughts.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

Whether it’s on a smartphone or a tablet, the quality of the online browsing experience is critical to the success of any mobile device. Chrome for Android aims to become the optimum browser for Android devices. However, as we pointed out in our previous article, Chrome for Android comes without Flash support in its Beta state, and none is planned.

This development (or lack thereof in this case) was also commented on by  Adobe. They mentioned continued development of the PC-based Flash product, and their contribution to HTML5. That in effect is a surrender to the market shift away from their long-standing plug-in.

Is it such a big deal that this browser is throwing the towel in so early? After all, even the stock browser supports Flash, and we made a tongue-in-cheek video pointing this out when comparing it to the iPad. Today we could very well re-shoot that video, only this time with two Android tablets: one running the stock browser and the other running Chrome for Android that doesn’t support Flash.

Chrome for Android Comes Without Flash Support

No, this is not an iPad screenshot, it's a Transformer Prime showing the world that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support.

When we step away from the issue and look at it a little more objectively, Flash is still very much reliant on localised drivers and plug-ins to provide an online experience. In this day and age that combination does seem to be a little old-fashioned. With all things moving to online storage, cloud services and less dependence on the specs of notebooks (take Ultrabooks) and tablets (which are stripped down compared to any PC of note), HTML5 seems to be the best solution.

Chrome for Android comes without Flash support, but will enable HTML5 authors and developers to create rich, interactive environments that will be transferable to any device, regardless of their plug in. After all, why should we need to download an app for Adobe Flash Player  just to see a website in its entirety on an Android device?

The very nature of the functionality of Chrome for Android is to connect seamlessly with your desktop experience. With no plug-ins and instant access to open tabs, the shift is very much in the favor of HTML5, the fact that Chrome for Android comes without Flash support seems to be a short term issue.

Apple did indeed bring this topic to a head. It’s encouraging to see the entire mobile platform converging on a single standard for the benefit of all mobile browser users, regardless of which ecosystem they have invested in.

Chrome on Android Using the Asus Transformer Prime

Earlier this week Google released the beta version of Chrome on Android, fulfilling a commitment to provide a seamless link between the desktop and mobile browsing experience.

Here’s our video showing you some great cross-device activities that, up until now, haven’t been possible, and it’s exciting to see them in action.

At this stage only 12 countries, including Australia, have been given access to the beta version of Chrome on Android, and it is limited to mobile and tablet devices with the Android 4 and above OS. In Australia, that really only gives the Samsung Galaxy Nexus and the Asus Transformer Prime the opportunity to show off this new browser. We are lucky enough to have a Prime tablet at our disposal, so we can show this off in tablet mode to you.

 

Chrome on Android menu system

The menu for the Chrome beta for Android browser, which includes "Other devices", a hint at the cross-device power of this internet browser.

The intention is for Google to move its stock browser over to Chrome on Android once beta testing has been completed, and if the initial experience is any indication, it’s a good move.

First up, the browser asks for your gmail account details to sign you in, as a large portion of the features involves utilising synching with your desktop browser. If you currently don’t use Chrome and do own a Nexus or Transformer Prime, I’d suggest you move over immediately to at least see what this has to offer.

Once you’ve signed in, make sure you’re also signed in over on your Chrome Desktop browser, because this is where the fun really begins.

Once you use the Chrome on Android beta browser a few times, one thing becomes very obvious – that Google is looking to provide a completely seamless browsing experience regardless of what device you are on. Whatever bookmarks you currently have on your desktop are immediately pushed to your tablet, and any changes you make are also moved across.

Chrome on Android Desktop and Local bookmarks

You can see the bookmarks above for both local and synched content within the Chrome beta browser.

But that’s not all. The synching also brings across your browsing history, so any websites you visit regularly will come up in priority to other search results. It’s uncanny, opening this browser for the first time and it knows what you are entering in the Omnibox.

What’s an Omnibox, I hear you ask? It’s the box in Chrome where you enter the URL, but can also be used for search terms. No more looking for a Google search box, just type right in the omnibox and you’ll get taken to the website of your choice or be presented with a list of options based on your search term. Those that use Chrome on desktop will be used to this feature, but it’s the sudden “awareness” of your new device using Chrome on Android that makes it a little spooky.

 

Chrome for Android Browsing Spooky Geen Android

Does it get any spookier than this Chrome eyed little Green Android?

Synching is one thing, but how about transferring all your open tabs on your desktop to your tablet? When you open a new tab, there are three rectangular buttons at the middle bottom: Most Visited, Bookmarks and Other Devices.

Most visited appears to be a more localised history. Bookmarks are split into Desktop, Other and Mobile bookmarks. Opening the Desktop bookmarks folder presents all the bookmarks from your desktop.

“Other devices” presents the currently open tabs from other Chrome browsers that you are currently signed into. However, instead of just duplicating all the tabs, it shows the pages in a list form so you can choose which ones you want to open. This is a great feature if you are on your desktop searching for movie times or restaurants and want to continue that exploration while you are at large.

Chrome on Android open tabs from desktop

Here you can see open tabs from the Toshiba PC, and a webpage that has been pushed to the tablet.

Another feature is the Chrome to Mobile feature, which ensures the page you were on is sent to your device even if you shut your current sessions down or have to power off your PC. Just install the free Chrome to Mobile app onto your desktop browser, and a small phone icon will now appear on the right hand side of the Omnibox. Press the icon, and a dialogue box will ask you to confirm which device to push to.

The next time you open your Chrome browser on your tablet, the page will be there waiting for you under the “Other Devices” area. This is a much quicker way of sending links, going browser to browser instead of going from the browser, to sending an email, receiving the email and pressing a link that opens in a browser – everything happens within Chrome.

Chrome is known for its “Incognito” option, and it is replicated here, and the overlapping squares and “Spy vs Spy” icon on the left hand side makes sure you don’t forget which browser you are in.

Chrome on Android incognito browsing

Incognito mode opens another window with all incognito tabs gathered, with easy switching between both modes.

The last thing I will mention here is voice search, another icon on the right hand side of the omnibox that, once pressed, will display a microphone for you to verbalise your search request. It seemed to be intelligent enough to pick up the basic phrases we threw at it, but given it is a beta version I’m sure it’s a feature they are working on to be polished by the time the final version is released.

Chrome for Android Browsing Voice Search Windows

Search by speaking is now available. Voice search is a highly competitive domain and Google need to deliver a polished product.

The initial impression of the beta version of Chrome on Android is very positive, and given this is the foundation for their stock browser once users provide feedback and bugs are ironed out, the idea of always-connected, always-on takes another step forward. Web browsing is a huge part of what we do on devices, and to have an uninterrupted experience between the difference physical screens we use is a very compelling reason to move to Chrome, both from a tablet and a desktop perspective.

Have you tried out Chrome beta on an Android mobile or tablet, and what are your thoughts? Are there any other scenarios that you’d like us to test? Let us know in the comments area below.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich on a Tablet

When we first reviewed the ASUS Transformer Prime late last year, the promise of an upgrade to Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich was just that – a promise. When the Prime finally arrived, there was a fair bit of anticipation but also apprehension that the upgrade would come down the pipeline anytime soon.

However, the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich upgrade, was deployed very quickly and this was probably in no small part due to some issues the Prime was reportedly having, by many users, when in Wi-Fi mode.

And it looks like it was a big coup by Asus – The Motorola Xoom, which announced OS upgrades for its Wi-Fi version of its tablet, was pipped at the line by Asus in getting the Android 4.0 upgrade into the hands of its Prime owners. As such, it’s worth taking a look at some of the new features to be seen on the Prime that are specific to the new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich update.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Homepage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

The new Android 4.0 brings more usability and ease of use to an ever-improving tablet OS.

Firstly, tablets running Android 4.0 have taken a leaf from Apple’s book and placed a shortcut to the camera straight on the lock screen. Swipe right to unlock, swipe left to enter the camera. We’ll be posting some samples of both video and image capture off the 8MP back camera in the next couple of days so you can see the quality of the camera – and it is pretty decent, with 1080p video recording.

It looks like the 3G vs Wi-fi debate has Google’s attention, as Android 4.0 now comes with a Data Usage screen in the setting area, where you can track how much bandwidth has been consumed by week, and by which applications. This feature is a great way to monitor your mobile internet usage, especially if you are using 3G tethering.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Data Usage Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Keep track of your new Android tablet's data use by week detailing each app's contribution to the overall bandwidth usage.

Speaking of data usage, the Browser has had some changes to it as well. One of the most welcome changes is the ability to request the desktop version of the site you are in if it has automatically taken you to the m.website.com, because it was recognising Android as a mobile browser.

However, with the screen size and flash support, many sites are worth visiting in their rich desktop version. A new touch gesture based browser is also available to trial in the labs area of the browser, keep a look out for a video covering this in more detail to be uploaded soon or better yet subscribe to our YouTube channel at Ritchie’s Room TV.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Lab Browser Screen Shot on an ASUS Transformer Prime

Comprehensive browser options including desktop website version request. A mobile site just looks wrong on a 10 inch screen.

Widgets used to be treated very differently to Apps, in that they would be found in a fairly convoluted way via the home screen and there was no way to see more than a few widgets at a time. Now, the widgets live in the same place as the apps for easy management, with the new Android 4.0 recognising the different formats and placing them in separate categories.

Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich Widgets Screen Shot on the ASUS Transformer Prime

Apps and Widgets, living together in perfect harmony as part of the new Android OS.

As with the last OS update, the App store icon is placed for easy access on the top right hand corner in the apps screen, and widgets are easily size-adjusted to suit your homepage layout. The native contacts app has been renamed and upgraded to “People”, with more social networking integration. This seems a little Windows Phone-ish but is a good upgrade so you can see dynamic feed updates on your friends.

App management has always been a bit of a bug bear for Android. There are a lot of tools on the market that help with task killing, but a native app manager would always be preferable. Now, with the Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich iteration, it’s finally here.

All you need to do to shut down an app is press the recent apps icon on the bottom left hand corner, and swipe an app to the right. That will shut the application down and take it off the recent apps list.

This is way easier than any previous method and beats Apples iOS in terms of simplicity – no extended presses or physical buttons, just home page, recent apps and swipe. You’ll see an example of that in the video below.

If you’ve been using Honeycomb, then you will find the new Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich full of practical improvements. It’s not so much a departure as a welcome progression, and shows Android setting itself up as a serious contender in the Tablet OS wars that will explode later this year.

I’m sure there will be further tweaks before then, and we’ll report on them as well. In the meantime, here’s the video that shows some of those new Android 4 Ice Cream Sandwich features I mentioned above.

 

Do you think you’ll use some of these new features and which ones interest you most? We’d love to hear your thoughts below.

Transformer Prime Wi-Fi Speedtest vs iPad 2

If there’s one thing we love here at Ritchie’s Room, it’s generating and joining in a discussion. The Transformer Prime from Asus has been a lightning rod for hundreds of comments and quite rigorous discussion around various issues.

Initially it was the hype around the Prime as it was the first Android tablet to incorporate the Tegra 3 processor. Then, as demand started to rise and stock was nowhere to be seen, floods of complaints started to flow on both our site and other forums. Finally the Prime made it into the hands of users, only to have one major feature, GPS, stricken from the specifications sheet due to poor performance.

The fast upgrade to Ice Cream Sandwich seemed to temper the passions that were flaring in the initial stages, and from some of the accounts we have received, it appears to have addressed most of the issues.

One particular issue that still reared its ugly head was Wi-fi performance on the Asus tablet. Some users complained of low Wi-Fi signal strength and others of generally poor download speeds which affected browser experience.

A few days ago we decided to shoot a very basic piece for YouTube simply showing the signal strength in bars on the Prime and iPad 2, as a comparison. The signal strength was quite high on the Prime, and a tad lower on the iPad 2.

However, we received lot of comments about using a download monitor program to see what the real world differences were in Wi-Fi performance. We ended up with the Speedtest.net app and installed that on both the Prime and the iPad 2, and ran the test in the exactly the same location just seconds apart from each other. We then took both around the house, wondering in and out of rooms for a few minutes. We had some very interesting results.

Would the Speedtest App resolve the Wifi performance issue for the Transformer Prime once and for all?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

First, the speedtest in the Studio room. In the same location, seconds after one another, there was very little separating the Apple and Asus models – a few milliseconds difference for Pings, virtually the same download speed, and the Prime came out on top in upload speed by o.1Mbps or so.

After we filmed that, we walked around, getting further and further away from our filming location. In each area where we ran the tests, the results were wildly different even if the units were both side by side and didn’t move when we ran a second batch just to see a repeat of the test in that area.

To give you an idea, we moved the two tablets to a room that was three double brick walls removed from our studio, and both the Prime and iPad recorded download speeds of anything from 6Mbps all the way to 18Mbps, which is what we were getting when we were metres away from the router.

In the end we decided to leave the results of the further-distance speedtests out of the video segment because they were so wildly varying and could have been a consequence of a number of factors. In the controlled environment, the iPad 2 and Prime were neck and neck, and we repeated that test a few times with very little discrepancy to give ourselves a decent level of confidence.

However, the distance tests were fraught with fluctuations of the Wi-Fi signal that could have been affected by the environment, the wireless network or the wireless hardware built-in to the Prime and iPad 2.

All we can say is that based on the tests that we ran today, the results showed no real difference in the Wi-Fi performance between the best selling tablet in the market and the most advanced tablet in the market.

Here’s the Speedtest.net video we produced today (if you can’t see the video yet, we’re still uploading):

 

And here’s the original basic wireless signal test video that we released a few days ago:

 

Now that you’ve seen these tests, here’s a question for you: Does any of it help you make up your mind about the wireless performance of the Prime? Or is the Wi-fi performance of a tablet too hard to judge given all the other factors that might come into play?

Please feel free to comment below and we’d love to hear your opinion on this topic.

Question and Answer Time for the Asus Transformer Prime

This time, believe the hype... The Transformer Prime from Asus is a very strong contender in the tablet market and sets new benchmarks in hardware.

What a wild couple of days! When we released the first article and video for the Asus Transformer Prime, it went ballistic and we were dealing with comments and questions from all over the world.

We believe in responding as much as we can to our readers on this website, and we wanted to do something similar for our video presentation.

So with the limited time that we had with the Prime, we took a few questions that seemed to be recurring frequently, and made two videos, calling out the user name of the viewers and answering the question.

In this way we hope to provide another level of interaction for all our visitors, who we appreciate spending time with us. Thanks again for your comments and here’s our off-the-cuff, much more informal videos for your viewing pleasure.

Feel free to ask more questions on this page as well!

This first video addresses some of the questions regarding Flash performance, pinch and zoom, using the browser, the touchscreen experience and other hardware features:

 

The second part of the Q & A details some aspects of game play, using live wallpaper and widgets, testing the screen in sunlight, trackpad performance and how to take advantage of a USB hub given there is only one USB port on the Prime:

 

This next segment shows how to download an image from email, edit it and then tweet it. Nice challenge, and I think we rose to it!

 

We were then asked to show a typical productivity activity, like writing a document, saving it and emailing it. With the keyboard, the Prime makes office tasks very easy:

 

Finally, a frequent question regarded game play. I don’t consider myself to be the most talented of gamers, and I’m sure I had this game, Riptide, on easy, but I couldn’t help some fistpumping (at 1:18) when I came in first. The main thing to notice here is the smooth graphics, instant response from the accelerometer and the water splashes that looked even more realistic in person. Casual portable gaming just took another leap forward:

 

And here is the original Transformer Prime video we released in case you missed it the first time around:

 

Once again, I’d like to thank all of our readers for spending the time to read our words, and for the effort taken to comment. The least we can do is respond in kind.

I hope you enjoyed the videos and we’re here to answer any more questions you may have.

Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime – First Look

[Update: Now that the embargo has lifted, we have released a further five videos showing various demonstrations of the Transformer Prime. We have collected them in this new article, where you can view and discuss the features we've shown. The videos were based on questions from our audience, whom we acknowledge in the segments. Enjoy!]

Welcome to the first ever Ritchie’s Room TV segment! Here we take a look at the new Transformer Prime from Asus. Read on below for lots more detail and images.

 

The Transformer Prime is easily the most hyped of all upcoming tablets. The original Transformer took the idea of the keyboard dock and integrated it so well that it became much more than simply functional; it melded design and hardware with the Honeycomb platform in an attractive and useful body.

Look strangely familiar? The Transformer Prime takes many design cues from the new Zenbook range from Asus.

The Transformer Prime is the evolutionary step, taking cues from the recent UX Zenbook series to offer an eye catching, metal finish on both the tablet and keyboard dock. There are improvements to its successful predecessor in pretty much every area, with the exception of the operating system, but an upgrade will be coming soon, we are assured.

As a stand-alone tablet away from the keyboard, the Prime is as sturdy as it is slim, thanks to the rigid metal back that offers no chance of bending or twisting. The spun metal pattern immediately invokes the UX21/31 look and feel, and sits very comfortably beside its two larger cousins.

The spun metal casing is a classy touch, positioning the Transformer Prime at the premium end of the tablet market.

The front layer of Gorilla glass provides another layer of protection, without sacrificing image quality or resulting in increased thickness. We tried banging pretty hard on the glass, and although we didn’t go so far as to try scraping a key across the screen, the display feels like it could take a fair bit of punishment.

As it’s been reported widely, the tablet component is thinner (8.3mm) and lighter (586g) than the iPad 2, and in the hand it feels very easy to handle, both in landscape and portrait positions. With Samsung out of contention in many regions, the Prime will be the one of the most likely direct contenders to the iPad 2. In Australia, pricing indications are that the Prime with keyboard will be around $100 more than the equivalent-capacity iPad 2 and will arrive in 32GB and 64GB versions.

Thinner, faster, lighter... the iPad 2 has a real competitor in the Transformer Prime from a hardware perspective.

With slim form factors inevitably comes some compromises, and in this case the outputs on the Prime aren’t as comprehensive as other models in the market. However, given the Samsung 10.1 had only its proprietary connection that necessitated various adapter purchases, any additional ports are more than welcome. In this case, a micro HDMI port and Micro SD slot are fitted alongside the volume controls.

Slimmer than most, but the Transformer Prime retains a good level of on board ports.

The Super IPS+ screen is an absolute winner. When it comes to tablets, particularly the premium models, visual display needs to be absolutely spot-on, and here the Prime does not disappoint. Wide viewing angles allow sharing to an almost side-on position, and the IPS+ feature boosts the brightness to counteract outdoor lighting to make the Prime readable in almost any condition. By the same token, there is total control to limit the intensity of the light when you’re using the Prime on your bedside or darker environments.

The Super IPS+ screen is great in any bright or dim environment.

This is the best performance I’ve seen in HD video playback as well, no doubt thanks to the upgraded processor. The Tegra 3 is the first quad core chip to power a tablet, and the Prime is the first release to boast the inclusion. 720p and 1080p video files that had previous jittered a little (or a lot) on previous models we’ve tested ran very smoothly.

Video playback is superb. This really illustrates the benefits of a widescreen tablet.

The associated sound coming from the Prime is unexpectedly loud and clear. I say unexpected because the grill could easily be missed as another design feature, but the speaker is as effective as anything I’ve experienced so far on tablets. In fact, I found that by holding the tablet in a way that cups the grill actually enhances the audio quality even more.

This deceptively small grill punches out an impressive level of clear audio.

The upgraded memory is also certain to be a contributor to an overall improved Android experience with the Prime. If you’ve ever used one on of the task killer apps on Android, you’d know that there are a lot of processes happening at any one time, so the extra memory will definitely be a boon to multitasking and open app support.

Another upgrade is the back camera, boosted to 8 megapixels and featuring an f2.4 aperture, plus an LED flash. This sounds suspiciously similar to the iPhone 4S camera, and it might actually encourage more photo-taking with this unit. I wonder, how many people use their tablet as a serious or even casual camera? With improved hardware, there might come increased usage.

The Transformer Prime may find increased use in webchat and photo shoots with better camera specs.

From a software point of view, it’s the familiar Honeycomb 3.2 that we’ve come to know and frequently discuss. I’m sure there were a fair few people holding their breath in wild hope that Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich as it is commonly known, would be released in tablet form with the Prime. Sadly, it was not to be, but everything points to an upgrade, possibly before Xmas. We’ll keep you updated on that point.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts... the Transformer Prime.

What would the Transformer Prime be without the second component, the keyboard dock, that gives it the coolest name in consumer electronics? The keyboard has been slimmed down and there is a UX-inspired tapering of the front of the keyboard, to remind us that we’re in Zen-like company. It almost looks like a netbook-sized Ultrabook.

Like the keyboard before it (which is not cross compatible with the Transformer Prime), the new keyboard places some commonly used Android commands as shortcuts on the keyboard, like back, search and home. If you use the keyboard enough, you’ll find yourself using these quite often while the keyboard is connected. Like a premium netbook, the island keys are well placed for regular and long session use.

Like the previous keyboard, Android shortcut keys become second nature after a few hours of use.

The keyboard also follows the tradition of supplementing the main unit’s battery life with its own battery, giving the total package up to 18 hours battery life. As per the original Transformer, the keyboard can feed a charge to the Prime tablet, keeping the tablet running for the good part of an entire day, or a long international flight.

The bottom corner of the display shows the keyboard battery transferring to the main tablet unit.

The keyboard also adds a couple more inputs not available on the main unit: a full size SD card slot and USB port. I think at least one more USB port could have been added, considering the support for USB devices that Honeycomb, and by extension Ice Cream Sandwich, has now integrated into the platform, making it easier to connect more storage devices and other accessories.

No USB port on the tablet but USB-connected hardware can be accessed via the keyboard dock.

To complete this overview, I have to say that as a single unit, the keyboard and tablet combined still feels reasonably light. At just over 1.1kg combined, it can very easily sneak into a large handbag or a small backpack with no issues. With the inclusion of Polaris Office, and the use of Google Docs, this could very well be the mobile productivity device of choice. The Transformer Prime has made a pleasing progression from the debut model.

More than meets the eye... With the Keyboard dock in place, the Transformer Prime is an Android tablet in disguise.

Without the keyboard, the Transformer Prime is the Android tablet we’ve all been waiting for, in form factor and performance. The keyboard adds another dimension of usability because of its tight integration with the Prime tablet and well-thought key layout.

Along with the Motorola Xoom 2, Samsung 7.7 and other unconfirmed models from major brands, the Prime represents the next generation of Android tablets, adding their own flourishes and customisation to the platform. This new generation looks far removed from the first releases of Honeycomb tablets, and with a growing app library, accessory support and software overhaul just around the corner, the tablet market is primed (sorry!) for big things in 2012.

Are you waiting in anticipation for the release of this new Android tablet?

As always, feel free to leave your comments and questions below.

Tablet Update: New Models Expected Before Xmas

With all the interest in the latest iPhone and Ultrabooks dominating the gadget news landscape in the last few weeks, one area that has been rather quiet is the tablet category. The release of the first generation of Android tablets has achieved limited success in the market, and while they may have offered additional features to compete with the dominating iPad 2, it hasn’t yet been enough to compel a large proportion of tablet users across to the Google platform.

By comparison, the combined efforts of Samsung, HTC and Motorola have made Android a force to be reckoned with in the Smartphone market. The introduction of Android 4.0, or Ice Cream Sandwich, as it is known, may be the catalyst for a shift to the Android platform in large touch screen devices, as 4.0 is designed to be a cross-device platform. This means that Android users can finally experience similar compatibility to both their Smartphone and tablets the way Apple users do now with their iPhone and iPad.

Software and operating systems aside, Android manufacturers have found it a challenge to meet the visual appeal of the iPad 2. One of the defining characteristics of many Android tablets has been the inclusion of multiple ports – HDMI, USB and SD Card Slot – which has hampered the ability of these devices to offer models with similar dimensions, limiting the style propositions that can be achieved.

That may be about to change, with the major tablet manufacturers taking the same design aesthetics that they have with Ultrabooks in terms of slimness and weight while retaining some of the key attributes that they believe offer a credible alternative to Apple’s incumbent.

This will be the first holiday season with Android tablets in existence and with the New Year only a few weeks away, we can expect a few key launches that should reinvigorate the greater tablet market. Here are a few products we will be keeping an eye on and plan to get some hands on time with to share with our readers.

Model: Xoom 2 by Motorola

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Why it’s important: Google’s acquisition of Motorola may not have affected the current output of Motorola Mobility, but eyes will be firmly fixed on the sophomore release of what was the very first Honeycomb tablet earlier this year. Slimmer, lighter and available in two sizes – 10.1 and 8.9 inches – Motorola intend to take the fight to Apple with more powerful processors, tough Gorilla Glass by Corning and a new pre-loaded app called MotoCast, which enables easy streaming of content from connected PCs and Macs.

Will Motorola’s new owners show parental favouritism by deploying Ice Cream Sandwich before all others on the Xoom 2? We are certainly keen to see the first iteration of Android 4.0 on a tablet, and we’re betting that the Xoom 2 will be one of the first to have it.

Model: Galaxy Tab 7.7 by Samsung

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Why it’s important: Samsung’s 10.1 never had the opportunity to display its potential in many countries around the world, and Apple’s public legal action has actually fuelled the fire for interest in Samsung’s tablets, with many customers going so far as buying them from smaller online retailers willing to import them in.

Samsung have a slew of information already available on a public microsite, and the Galaxy Tab 7.7 sounds like a real contender. Featuring a Super AMOLED screen, 1280 x 800 resolution, weighing only 335 grams and measuring an impressively thin 7.9mm, this model may actually see the light of day – and we hear before the end of this calendar year.

Model: Eee Pad Transformer Prime by Asus

Slimmer, lighter, faster, and still the coolest tablet name in the market... the Asus Transformer Prime.

Why it’s important: The original Transformer with detachable keyboard succeeded in melding the touchscreen functionality of a tablet with the day-to-day needs of a netbook or notebook user. The innovative features included a separate battery in the keyboard compartment and Android-specific shortcut keys.

The highly anticipated Transformer Prime will be the first major tablet release to include the Tegra 3 quad core processor, slimming its screen component down to sub-iPad 2 levels of thinness. Improved battery life, Ultrabook-style design, brighter IPS Plus screen, and improved weight means this model will be on a bunch of Xmas wish-lists. We can’t wait to see this in the flesh either.

Expect a lot more detail on each of the above models in the coming weeks, which should reinvigorate an important category of the IT industry.

Are you biting your fingernails waiting for any particular tablet to come to the market?