Asus Eee Pad Transformer – Unboxing and Overview

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The “first look” article I wrote earlier this year for the Asus Transformer tablet has become the most popular post on this site, and now we’ve produced a video for Bing Lee that covers the tablet and its unique keyboard dock in detail.

After spending a lot of time with this unit, the keyboard attachment makes a lot of sense for extended writing and input-heavy tasks. When separated from the keyboard/battery/dock, the Transformer tablet on its own is still a very impressive and well-designed device.

With Acer showing the way in terms of inputs and accessibility with its Iconia tablet, Asus have carved its own niche by way of innovation and adding features that we may not have thought we needed. Once you start using the Transformer with the keyboard, it definitely becomes second nature, and points to an even broader appeal with its netbook-like appearance and functionality.

The Transformer has also now been the recipient of the first Android Honeycomb update, from 3.0 to 3.1. Some of the improvements include the ability to add peripherals like mice, keyboards; resizing widgets to make your home screens even more customisable; attach digital cameras and manage content to and from them; and the ability to use VOIP and other audio streaming services. This progression takes the Honeycomb OS a step further in cementing it as a real alternative for tablet devices.

For your enjoyment, here’s our detailed run-through of the Asus Transformer:

Asus Eee Pad Transformer – First Look

We’ve had a look at quite a few different tablets over the past few months, and now we’ve managed to get hold of the new Eee Pad Transformer, which will be released in Australia in the next month or so. It’s definitely an interesting product that will appeal to users who are looking for a richly featured tablet that also like the flexibility of a physical keyboard.

Who would have imagined there'd be an Android lurking undereath this case?

This product is quite different to the Samsung Slider PC that we had a look at a few weeks back. The Asus Transformer is a 32GB Android Honeycomb tablet with a detachable keyboard. The keyboard has a dock-type feature set, including memory card slot, 2 full size USB ports with nifty magnetic covers, and an additional battery that adds a further 8 hours to the 8 hours already available on the screen portion. 16 hours of battery life is more than enough for even the most demanding power user. Beryl from Asus tells me the keyboard actually charges the tablet to ensure optimum battery life.

A netbook by any other name...

When the tablet is docked, the Transformer looks, for all intents and purposes, just like a premium netbook, although with some odd keyboard symbols that relate to the Android OS. The home and search buttons are placed next to the space bar on the left, and the menu drop down button is on the right of the space bar. The back button is on the upper left and sleep button is on the upper right. I actually became quite adept at using these shortcuts after a while; they seemed to become natural extensions of the tablet when you found the need to use a keyboard.

Using a full QWERTY keyboard with Android? It makes more sense than you think.

Having the keyboard is great when typing out blogs, emails or spreadsheets, or anything that is text heavy that may be cumbersome on a tablet without a tactile keyboard. The Transformer comes with Polaris Office preloaded, so it’s quite easy to edit and create Microsoft Office compatible docs, which is when the keyboard would be most in demand.

Onto the tablet itself. I must admit, I had a child’s pleasure in running around the office showing off the Transformer as a netbook, then waiting for my audience’s reaction as I coolly detached the tablet from the keyboard – I managed to get a few “ooohs” and “aaaahs”. Okay, so I also rehearsed the action to milk it to the maximum.

Insert Autobot transformation sounds here.

But in all seriousness, the undocking and docking action is pretty firm, and once it’s locked in the tablet’s not going anywhere. One thing Asus has done well is use a consistent design around the bezel to hide the fact that the tablet has this function, with three slots on the bottom of the tablet the only hint of the possibility.

The only time I've been happy to see my PC in 2 pieces.

As a stand-alone tablet, which will be sold in the 16GB capacity without a dock, it is pretty strong in the features department. The tablet has mini-HDMI output with 1080p output, Micro SD slot, headphone jack and multi-purpose connector for charging, USB connection and docking. It also has two cameras, 1.2MP front and 5MP on the back.

From an Android Honeycomb execution, this model appears to tick all the boxes in terms of speed and touch responsiveness, and Beryl also told me that there is an Asus Honeycomb skin that may appear on the retail model as well, to provide more functionality and a slicker look and feel. More on that when we plant our eyes on it.

Is that an embedded Flash video on a tablet browser? You betcha.

The Transformer is a great example of the shift that we’re going to see in the PC market over the coming months. The device looks like a netbook, even acts like one to a certain extent, and then reveals its strengths as a full-fledged tablet device. If you’re not sure if you want a touchscreen tablet or a netbook, but really want something portable and intuitive to use, the Transformer will be one worth considering.