It’s already a year since the original Asus Transformer launched, with its revolutionary keyboard dock and since then the quad-core revolution has arrived.
The new Transformer Pad 300, or TF300, offers improved specs, Android 4 ICS, and all for $379. This is the specced-down version of the Transformer Prime, aimed at the $400 price bracket, and probably trying to tempt some of the budget buyers away from mediocre $200 tablets for all the extra a little more outlay will buy.
Battery life has ‘suffered’ in the drive to cut costs vis-a-vis the full-on Prime – the TF300 gives 10 hours service instead of 12, and the 10.1-inch display of the TF300 renders 350 nits of brightness rather than the stunning 600 of the Prime. For $379 a few finishing touches found on the Prime have not made the transition, so the spun-design backplate is now made of plastic instead of metal, and the chassis has thickened out a little to 9.7mm, compared to the ultra-copact Prime’s 8.4mm. It’s also ever so slightly heavier at 1.39 pounds. It’s still svelter than the new galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and Acer Iconia A200, which are similarly-priced tablets.
At the moment buyers will be limited to a dark blue version, but red and white versions are due in June. An 8MP auto-focusi camera sits on the rear, while a 1.2MP sensor does for video calls on the front. MicroHDMI socket and microSD slot help syncing options, and of course there are the obligatory audio jacks. On the bottom edge is a 40-pin charging slot. the Transformer TF300 offers WiFi-n and Bluetooth 3.0 functionality as well as all the requisite sensors – gyroscope, e-compass, aGPS, G-sensor, ambient light sensor.
The native resolution is 1280 x 800 pixels, though it’s an IPS display rather than the Super IPS+ found on the Prime. Faintly dimmer, slightly narrower viewing angles, nothing to stress about. With ten hours battery juice at your beck and call, you can always crank the brightness to the max. As with the Transformer Prime, the TF300 packs in that all-important NVidia Tegra 3 CPU and a solid 1GB RAM, albeit at a slightly slower clock speed of 1.2GHz (1.3GHz on the Prime). Obviously the TF300 is no match for its bells-and-whistles big brother, but it trounces its price-point peers with ease in almost every benchmark. Especially in graphics-intensive tests. However, the old Android creaks and lags pop up here and there – some apps take half a second to spring to life, and the display seems to occasionally ignore a tap…resizing web pages was not instantaneous, yet swiping up and down and such like is not a problem.
The rear-mounted speaker delivers crisp and full audio to enhance any gaming adventures.
Image capture with the 8MP LED-flash auto-focus camera is excellent, though dim conditions can lead to less-than-ideal color fidelity. Asus promises the 22Wh battery slab will give 10 hours of moderate use and in tests 8:30 of video playback is unobjectionable.
The optional dock also contains a scaled-down power pack – 16.5Wh compared with 22Wh on the Prime, but it will add 50% to battery life in any case, and also offers a full-sized USB-2 port and SD card slot. What it doesn’t offer is a full-sized keyboard, so doesn’t quite transform the TF300 into a virtual notebook. The keys feel insubstantial and are slightly shrunken compared to laptop keyboards. It’s more on a par with a netbook for text input – OK in very short bursts…like occasional website urls, and not much else. Yet the diminutive multitouch trackpad on the dock performs well and is a joy to use. No pinch-to-zoom functionality, though, which is a bit odd considering it’s partnering a tablet.
Amazon Kindle reader, App Backup, App Locker, My Library Locker; ASUS MyCloud, My Library and MyNet; Netflix; SuperNote; the TF300 is choc-full of pre-installed software.
The $20 premium for doubling storage from 16GB to 32GB is a winning tactic, and we would advise anyone looking for a good Android tablet to grab the Transformer TF300, and skip the dock unless you really, really need it. TF300 comes in red, white and black.
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