ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime - Ultra Thin, Ultra Powerful (Updated!)


Features - Part I: Keyboard Docking Station

Prime, Transform & Roll Out 

The concept of a keyboard docking station is nothing new today. We have seen how one is able to transform a tablet to a netbook within seconds in the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer. The keyboard docking station of the Transformer wowed us with its additional two full sized USB ports, one SD card slot and decent typing experience. How does the new keyboard docking station differ? 

The new keyboard docking station is not compatible with the original Transformer due to the difference in the latch sizes.

You connect the keyboard docking station via the 30pin connector in the center (red box) and the two latches (blue boxes). The slider switch (yellow box) allows you to lock or remove the tablet from the docking station.

Sacrifices had to be made when you want functionality in a slimmer design. The new keyboard docking station may be thinner but you only have one full sized USB port (right) instead of two. Fortunately, ASUS retains the SD card reader which you will find handy when transferring files on the move.

You can charge both the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime and keyboard docking station via the 30pin connector located on its left side.

We found the keyboard docking station to be relatively easy to carry around. Weighing at 537g, it is about 50g lighter than the Transformer Prime tablet. When combined with the Transformer Prime, the entire package weighs 1.123kg which is reasonable for a light notebook.

The chiclet keyboard may look good but when put into daily use, we found the keys to be small and shallow. The tactile feedback could have been better. Nevertheless, typing on a physical keyboard is still better than touch typing on the screen. The presence of a touch screen renders the trackpad unnecessary most of the time even though it offers two finger scrolling. The trackpad suffices for basic navigation although we prefer using the touch screen.

Like its predecessor, the Transformer Prime transforms into a netbook form factor if the situation calls for it.

When the first netbook arrived on the market three years ago, consumers were raving about its portability. Fast forward to today, the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer represents the next standard in mobile computing. It provides comparable, if not better battery performance than the MSI Wind U100 netbook (right) in a slimmer and more portable form factor.

Although the keyboard docking station of the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime is thinner, the overall user experience is similar to the Transformer. The keyboard offers a wide range of function keys such as Home button, screenshot, brightness controls and volume controls. These keys save you time and effort navigating the menus or pressing the physical or onscreen buttons.

We could not say the same for the trackpad though. Its size is a little too small for meaningful navigation and one would rather use a mouse or rely on the touch screen for navigation. Moreover, you are unable to adjust the sensitivity of the trackpad (which by default, is tad too sensitive). The cursor tends to move accidentally when typing, which can be irritating for some. Fortunately, you can disable the trackpad via a shortcut on the keyboard (fourth key from the left on the top row).

If you plan to use the tablet for work or bringing it around for lectures and meetings, the optional keyboard docking station will be a necessary purchase. It not only provides a decent level of productivity, it also doubles as an external battery pack to boost the Transformer Prime's usable time. When you dock the Transformer Prime into the station, the tablet will draw power from the battery of the dock first before depleting its own. Another power saving feature is that the screen will turn off automatically when you close it in the netbook form factor. However, we encountered occasions where this feature malfunctioned. For example, we were playing a video on YouTube with the speakers turned on. When we closed the tablet in its netbook form factor, the video continued to play. We were unable to replicate the same issue if there was nothing running. Hence, as a precaution, we recommend checking that the display is turned off in case the power saving feature malfunctions and depletes the battery of the keyboard dock.

Apart from the occasional glitch, you can see that the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime is cleverly designed.

9.0
Design
9.5
Features
9.5
User-Friendliness
8.5
Performance
9
Value
8
The Good
Great design and build quality
Lightweight form factor
Excellent battery life
Good camera performance
Pleasant user experience
The Bad
Screen is a fingerprint magnet
Keyboard dock could be better