Ever since Apple launched the original Ipad, tablets have been considered a luxury rather than a necessity. Main reason for this is the fact that no matter how attractive tablets are they aren't able to prove themselves a worthy substitute to laptops and even notebooks. Lack of a physical keyboard was undeniably the major reason for it. While tablets were becoming a craze in the market, still there wasn't any revolutionary device that would turn the tide in favor of tablets. This fact, however changed when ASUS launched the ASUS Transformer almost a year ago. It was magnificent device- a tablet which when attached with a keyboard dock(sold separately) works(and looks exactly like a) notebook. At the MWC ASUS announced that a new Transformer pad(a.k.a TF300) will hit the markets in Q2 of 2012. Finally with the launch of TF300 in US we got the opportunity of reviewing what it offers.
THE TABLET: Don't think that only capability of TF300 is pairing up with a dock and give you a 'Physical Keyboard'. It is a tablet first and it is a fantastic one. A 10.1 inch full sized tablet with Android 4.0 OS inside it. Since it is a budget-friendly tablet don't be surprised reading that it is made of plastic completely which makes it feel cheap(and it isn't ashamed of that) but ASUS never really wanted to make it feel like lets say, IPAD 3. The rear camera is 8MP auto focus one with a 1.3 MP camera at the front. Assuming that you are holding the tablet in landscape mode, you will find power/lock key at the upper landscape edge making it easy to access the key unlike many other tablets. On the upper left hand side are micro HDMI port and volume rocker keys are just below the port. The bottom side if you are wondering is home to three connectors which includes the 49 pin charging slot that of course works with the includes AC charger.
The device inside is home to the usual radio and sensors including Bluetooth 3.0, a gyroscope, eCompass, AGPS, an ambient light sensor and a G-sensor with either 16 or 32 GB storage depending on the option you choose.
The tablet perfectly fulfills your connectivity needs with WI-FI which fortunately doesn't cause any issues like the new IPAD 3.
DISPLAY AND SOUND: Just like the Transformer prime and other 10.1 inch tablets in the market TF300 has a pixel count of 1280x800. But since it is a medium-ranged tablet, it has a brightness level of 350 nits(merely IPS) while prime had 600 nits brightness level and IPS+ display. This drawback is not a big issue since you will notice this difference only in bright sunlight.(The screen is pretty much visible in bright outdoors too)
What must be remembered is that the speakers are located at the back side of the tablet so if you keep the tablet face-up the audio sounds muffled. The easiest way to avoid this holding the tablet in the hand. The audio in most cases sounds very good but investing in a good pair of headsets is necessary for true music lovers.
PERFORMANCE AND GRAPHICS: TF300 packs 1GB of RAM and A QUAD-CORE Tegra 3 processor which clocks in at 1.2 GHZ. What interesting is that ASUS has programmed 3 different power modes-power saving,balanced and performance. What changing power modes does is that it changes the clocking speed of the processor to suit your needs. For example, in performance power mode the processor is overclocked to 1.3 GHZ and in power saving mode it is lowered down to 600 MHZ. This feature allows users to get the maximum out of the tablet or drastically increase the battery life of the tablet.
NVIDIA Tegra processors are best known for delivering outstanding graphics and Tegra Processor that too quad core is just what hard core gamers desire. The processor handles any graphic heavy game you throw at it without any lags and a good responsive screen makes sure you enjoy your gaming experience. But nothing in the world is perfect. Similarly neither Tegra 3 processor nor Android 4.0(ICS) is flawless. However bigger disappointment is the fact that Android OS is even after all these updates has quite a few drawbacks. you might notice that while launching apps there is a slight delay which to be clear is a mistake of ICS and not the Tegra processor.
CAMERA: Expect nothing but above average performance of the camera on TF300. The flash-less camera does a poor job in the dark(as expected) but fails to impress even in the daylight. Colors don't appear outstanding and sometimes camera fails to capture minor details. Tablets are never meant to take pro-quality images but still results are disappointing. Take a look below.
Capturing videos is probably much better than taking snaps. You can record videos at 1080p full HD resolution.Here there is a chance that you might be satisfied especially since the details in audio that TF300 captures is somewhat remarkable
BATTERY LIFE: ASUS claims that TF300 would last 10 hours of usage on a single charge with its 22Wh juicepack. However his might not be the case if you crank up the brightness to 100%(which i think you should) as in this case only 8 and a half hours of usage is obtained before the battery gives up. One of the ways in which battery life can be increased is by attaching the dock which has in-built battery(more on this below) but you would not want to spend $150 for the dock merely for increased battery life for sure. TF300's battery life is not quite equal to Transformer prime but it beats other competitors in its category easily.
SOFTWARE: ICS(android 4.0) is not completely free of errors as pointed above but still does a good job. An array of pre-loaded apps coupled with the ever-increasing lot of apps at Google play(a.k.a android market) tries to improve the scores of the software but to great avail. But it can be expected that Android will improve over time
DOCK: (Before I start reviewing this dock I find it necessary to make it clear that the dock is not included with the tablet and has to be purchased separately for $150.) The dock hasn't changed much since the world saw the original transformer. The dock is sweet and simple-chicklet design, plain yet beautiful looks small mouse pad and most importantly the ability to increase the battery life the tablet by a whooping 5 hours! Also it is home to two ports USB 2.0 and a SD slot. But sadly, I cannot recommend you to type long articles or your semester paper on this one since you might be not be that comfortable using it initially. That doesn't imply that it is completely useless but it implies that it won't make you throw your notebook if you purchase it.What's enjoyable is the fact that you can combine typing and using the touchscreen of the tablet at the same time.(believe me,it's fun)
WRAP UP: With a price tag of $350 for 16 GB version and $400 for 32 GB variant along with $150 for the dock it is a good deal to make. But to reduce the pricing ASUS has compromised on a few things which made transformer prime flawless tablet. The marks ASUS will get is mostly for the innovation and the low price point. Since the tablet beats its rivals comprehensively, it can be said that even without the dock it is worth buying.
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