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Asus Transformer Prime Tablet, the first tablet I’d consider buying!

With the recent release of Apple’s newest iPad, and the Asus Prime tablet due to receive a big firmware update as well as recent developments in a court case trying to ban its sale, now seems a good time to talk about the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime, Asus’ current Android 4.0 tablet.

Asus Transformer Prime

Beautiful.

As somebody who’s never owned a tablet computer, this article will reflect the voice of a potential tablet adopter (me!). Why do I want a tablet? Do I need one? Let’s find out.

What sort of consumer am I?

I own:

  • A powerful desktop computer, used primarily for video gaming
  • A rather powerful laptop, used for normal web browsing, video gaming, & misc tasks
  • A media server, used for storage & running media-center software on a TV
  • A powerful Android smartphone with a 4.3″ display, used for bed-browsing, IMs, etc

Most of my computer-time is spent on my laptop, sat on my couch. I always have my Instant Messenger running, and I do a lot of web browsing (as well as plenty of misc things like image/audio editing, writing, etc). When I’m in bed I use my Android phone for the same two things, only on a smaller less convenient scale (as you’d expect).

Do I need a tablet computer?

Does a tablet computer fit into my current electronics ecosystem? Is there a gap that needs filling? The answer is no, I have all my bases covered. I don’t need a tablet computer. You could argue that I don’t need a laptop either, as I can do everything I do on the laptop on the desktop computer.

Or…..as laptops are becoming more powerful, and the types of PC games I play leaning away from high-end FPS (I have a gaming console for that) and more towards less power-heavy RTS/RPGs, perhaps you could argue that I don’t need my desktop, as I can do everything I do on the desktop on my laptop, and it’s more portable! But that’s a discussion for another day.

So the question isn’t really “Do I need a tablet computer”, because let’s face it most people don’t. Tablets don’t do anything that other computers you own can’t already do. The only thing that makes them stand out is their size, weight, and the way they interface with their user.

Finger-Nose touch thingy....weird

I don't think this is how you're supposed to interface with a touch-screen

If I had this tablet computer, what would I use it for?

Since getting my Android phone, I’ve used it a lot for web browsing and Instant Messaging while away from my laptop. It’s not as convenient as the laptop though, as it doesn’t have a large physical keyboard, or a large screen that would make for a much better web browsing experience.

So in comes the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime (I know, it’a a stupidly long name, what does “eee” mean anyway?). It comes with the tablet-native version of Android 3.2 Honeycomb, but can be upgraded to their latest all-devices version, 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

The Prime has everything you should expect from a current tablet. A large 10.1″ 720p capable screen, a powerful processor, plenty of memory and storage, and all the frillies like WiFi, front & rear cameras, headphone/mic port, HDMI-out, Micro-SD slot, a sweet 12 hour battery life, and more.

For someone like me who’s put off by mobile devices that don’t offer extensibility (such as Apple products not having Micro-SD slots), Asus has ticked all the right boxes.

What makes this tablet stand out? The keyboard & trackpad dock! Yes, suddenly your tablet is a netbook! Still not capable of replacing your laptop just as laptops can’t yet take the power crown from desktops, but for everyday web browsing, E-Mail, Instant Messaging and even some office tools with software like Polaris Office it’s pretty sweet.

Asus Transformer Prime with Dock

My tablet's a netbook now? Intriguing...

So let’s answer that question. If I had this tablet computer, what would I use it for? I’d probably use my laptop an awful lot less, and spend most of my web browsing, writing & chatting time on the Prime, as well having it replace my phone for those tasks when I’m in bed.

So, tablets are useful after all!

Yay! There is a home for a tablet (well this specific one, that dock is the clincher) in my electronics ecosystem. Now let’s see how much the Prime is going for!

Sad face is sad

Nothing quite says disappointed like sad troll face

At time of writing, the Transformer Prime (with dock) is going for £615 ($978) on Amazon.co.uk. That’s an awful lot of money. In fact, it’s an unjustifiable amount, for what it is. Having the Prime would make my life a little more convenient, but not £615 more convenient.

That’s only a few pounds less than I paid for my laptop, which is far more feature and content rich.

How can anybody on a budget (which is most of us) justify such a big spend, for so small a return?

Firstly I should address the point “There are cheaper tablets out there, if cost is a barrier, why not go for those?”. It’s a good point, but those tablets are naturally less powerful, have smaller screens, fewer hardware features, etc. They also don’t have the keyboard dock, and that’s a damn important feature.

Let’s compare the cost of the Prime to some things we all spend money on annually.

  • Mobile Phone Contract: £360
  • Electricity Bill: £600
  • Water Bill: £480
  • Gas Bill: £468

If you’re on a budget, can you really justify spending the same amount you spend on electricity for an entire year, on a single purchase of an item you don’t really need? I certainly can’t.

In closing…

With the advent of tablets like the Prime, that focus on modern native mobile applications and integrating a removable keyboard/trackpad, we are seeing tablets start to push hard into netbook territory, and it’s only a matter of time before they start nibbling at the low-end laptop user base as well.

But, as with any cutting edge technology, it’s going to be a few years before most of us can afford and justify buying a tablet-netbook, so in the mean time let’s sit back and watch some Transformers Prime!

More: Firmware update? Court case?

Yup, Asus have announced a big firmware update due to hit today, that includes some pretty nifty features like hooking up to an ethernet connection via the USB port (using a USB-to-Ethernet adapter) and facial-recognition screen-unlocking.

As for the court case, well….. This is a little weird. Transformer Prime is the name of Asus’ tablet. Transformers Prime is the name of a popular childrens television series based on the Transformers franchise. Hasbro, owners of the Transformers trademark, have taken Asus to court (quite legitimately for once, I think you’ll agree).

The strange part is, Hasbro didn’t succeed in stopping the tablet from going on sale. Okay, so the court case continues, but that’s a strange start. All Asus need to do is change the name from Transformer Prime to say, Transformer….Awesome? So I’m sure it will all be cleared up. Really, I don’t understand why Asus didn’t just say “Oh man, there’s a TV show with that name? Shiiiiiiit. Okay guys, we’ll change the name right now”.

Peace out.

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