Starting with the Eee Pad Transformer TF101 back in early 2011, Asus’ Transformer Pad has been one of tablet-dom’s stalwart brands, almost as long-running as Samsung’s Galaxy Tabs and Apple’s category-defining iPads. It gets the “Transformer” in its name because attaching Asus’ proprietary keyboard-dock accessories turns these stand-alone tablets into de facto Android laptops.
Over the past few years, we’ve seen a few iterations of the Transformer Pad, starting with the all-polished-aluminum Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201, which came with top-of-the-line everything and sold for $499.99 (MSRP), plus another $150 for the keyboard dock. It was a hot item in early 2012. Shortly after that model came the less-expensive Transformer Pad TF300 (At debut, it was $399.99 MSRP for the tablet, $150 for the keyboard.) For the most part, aside from their elegant polished-metal casings, the Transformer Prime and the Transformer Pad TF300 were, in terms of overall feature sets and performance, rather closely matched.
That was a good thing, because these Transformers were well-built, fast, and attractive tablets in their time. Their only big shortcoming: Once you outfitted the TF300 with its keyboard dock, it sold for more than $500 street price, or, if you opted for the Transformer Prime and its dock, more than $600. In fact, the Transformer Prime decked out with its keyboard dock and 64GB of onboard storage could have set you back upward of a cool $700. We know today (and, really, have known for some time now) that most buyers just won’t pay that much for a 10.1-inch Android tablet.
However, Asus is betting that today’s tablet buyers might shell out less than half that—say, $299—for a full-size Transformer Padwith the keyboard dock in the box. Provided that both the keyboard and the tablet are quality hardware, and that everything works right, we agree. And that was the case with the subject of our review here today, the Transformer Pad TF103C.
On the surface, before we started putting this slate through its paces, it seemed like a tremendous deal. We’re happy to report that our impressions held up to scrutiny. For $299, you get a pretty decent slate and a full Android-optimized keyboard, an impressive combo for the price.
Granted, this entry-level tablet is not identical in build quality to the high-end Transformer Pads of a few years ago. However, considering the tablet’s price, its Intel Atom processor performed well in our hands-on trials, as well as on most of our benchmark tests. The screen, while not spectacular, looked good, and the sound was better than passable, too.
Some of the early Transformer Pads were expense-no-object machines—the best of the best, as Android tablets came. The Transformer Pad TF103C, while it looks quite similar, does show some of its budget roots once you look closely, a trade-off for the lower price and the inclusion of the dock. But, frankly, considering the $299 price, it’s a trade-off well worth making if you can’t shell out the full $500 to play the full-size iPad game.
Read the entire review at Computer Shopper.
Just as you wouldn’t expect a Toyota Camry to outclass or outperform a Lexus ES350, you wouldn’t expect a company’s midrange tablet to outclass or outperform its high-end one. And yet, that’s exactly what happened with the $399.99 Asus Transformer Pad TF300, an Android tablet with a 10.1-inch screen. Compared with the company’s flagship model, the $499.99 Eee Pad Transformer Prime (which is, without question, drop-dead gorgeous and has one of the best-looking screens we’ve seen), the Transformer Pad TF300 is, in terms of performance and connectivity options, an all-around better device.
Before we go any further, though, we should note that we also liked the Transformer Prime—so much so, in fact, that we gave it our Editors’ Choice award. However, despite the fact that the Transformer Pad TF300 has a slightly slower processor (more on that in the Performance section), it scored better on most of our benchmark tests. On the surface, this doesn’t seem to make sense, but processor speed isn’t the only performance-impacting factor. Specific operating system and firmware tweaks, as well as different types of memory chips and other circuitry, can also make a slate run better. For example, Asus used DDR2 for the system memory in the Prime, but stepped up to DDR3 memory for this model. Little changes like these can make significant differences in performance.
As of late April 2012, these two slates are the only ones we’ve seen built around the Nvidia Tegra 3 processor. In addition to performing better on several of our tests, the Transformer Pad TF300 also provides support for 3G and 4G cellular Internet connectivity. The Transformer Prime supports only Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. That said, as of this writing, 3G and 4G service for this tablet were not available in the United States, and we can’t say when it will be. (Asus would not discuss its ongoing negotiations with cell-service providers.)
The Transformer Pad TF300 comes in two versions and three colors. You can buy a 16GB model for $379.99 and a 32GB version, the one we review here, for $399.99. (Paying $20 more for twice the storage seems like a no-brainer to us.) As shown in the image below, you can take your pick of red, white, or blue chassis—eventually. Only the blue model will hit the stores in spring 2012; you’ll have to wait until June to get a red or white one.
See the full review at Computer Shopper.