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Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

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  • Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

    Almost two months of ownership (and still no dock) later, I figure I should finally post something about my new tablet. So here we go.

    Hardware

    The Transformer ships part-charged (though I may have received a store return that was repackaged, sealed, and resold. No way of knowing). This is both positive, letting you start playing with the toy immediately, and negative due to risk of battery damage. Given how close we are to initial product launch, I'm not particularly worried about the latter.

    Speakers are exactly what you'd expect from a 500g tablet – functional, but by no means great. I've had crackling problems when playing some tracks at full volume, but they're certainly good enough to be used with YouTube videos. Forget making out the lyrics when you have any sort of background noise, though. All that said, the (mostly) optional dock includes what I suspect are better speakers. I'll let you know when I finally find where the docks are back in stock, and get my paws on one.

    Edit!The dock does *not* have speakers. (Thank you DdogG for the correction) This means that short of getting a pair of externals, you're stuck with very low audio levels, making any movie viewing without headphones a very challenging experience.

    There are 15 discrete volume steps between inaudible and full volume. There is an additional step from inaudible to muted, but at the lowest non-muted setting, I could not detect any sound even with my ear pressed to one of the tablet speakers. Distortion is not detectable to my (admittedly less than great) hearing at anything below the 11th volume step – in other words, the speakers sounded fine up to 2/3 of maximum volume.

    The back of the device is textured, which is very pleasant to the touch. I was never a fan of smooth brushed aluminium, and this reinforces my preference for textured surfaces. Plus, when you're sitting there in your underwear (come on, you know you will) and it's resting against your bare skin, the Transformer is far more pleasant in the summer heat than a smooth, sticky surface of an iPad.

    Sound controls work when the pad display is off – but don't recognize long presses. If you want to mute the speakers, you have to keep hitting the button until the sound is off. This isn't a problem except for the fact that it's inconsistent with any other device I've used in the past – and with the Transformer itself when the display is on. Even if you don't unlock the pad, the buttons suddenly start accepting long presses and treat them as a continuous adjustment command.

    Having the TF101 and a first-gen iPad available to me simultaneously is a great opportunity to compare and contrast. One aspect of iPad design I would have loved to see in the TF101 is a front-side control on the tablet. Trying to turn the TF101 in the dark is a bit more challenging than it would otherwise be. I usually have to run my hands along the edge of the tablet until I locate the side with the buttons. I've not had the same issue with the iPad, even if this is possibly just due to having twice the number of targets to aim for.

    OS-Wide Settings

    The on-screen keyboard is disappointing. First and foremost, the letter display keeps shifting between upper case and lower, which is disorienting. Touch-typing on a keyboard with no haptic feedback is problematic enough – I don't need my visual cues fluctuating, too. The keyboard also has responsiveness issues, and is proving unable to keep up with my typing speed, producing dropped letters all over the place.

    A feature that I adored on Android phones when I played around with those was the ability to not type, but slide your finger from letter to letter, and have the device insert the entire word into the text at once. This is proving far less helpful on further exposure to the feature on the TF101. I suspect this is due to the much larger screen size, and the consequent increase in distance between the individual letters. Any efficiency gains from not having to lift your fingers from the touch surface are eaten up by the longer slide time.

    Software

    Browsers
    I was not hugely impressed with the responsiveness of the native browser, nor with the speed with which it dumped previously-opened pages and required a complete reload. Firefox 4 Mobile, the first alternative I tried, offered better tab management and a better-designed UI, but was painfully slow to load, and suffered from page rendering issues, failing to load CSS on something as simple as google search results.

    My top choice of the moment is Dolphin Browser HD – with a similar UI to that of Firefox, but also including support for gesture commands, and boasting lightning-fast app loading. The only issue encountered thus far is the browser choking on large images, and never successfully loading the page. This could be due to

    Marketplace

    The Android Marketplace, terrible piece of software that it is, deserves a section of its own. This is the gateway to most of your device's capabilities – what a shame it's been so completely mishandled.

    Let's start with the small stuff: The colour choice for Android Marketplace dialogue buttons. They're the exact same shade as the dialogue box itself – white – with very thin, part-way, gray, lines identifying their borders. It's not a huge barrier when installing apps – but it *is* a barrier, right at the stage where the process should be as smooth as possible.

    A bigger issue: Looking at the details of an app takes one away from the app list. Going back to the app list takes you back to *the top of the list*. The Marketplace app doesn't do what every respectable browser has mastered; remembering your position on the page. When you're in a category with – to pick a not overly random number – 104,506 entries, this gets annoying. When you're first setting up your tablet, spending huge amounts of time inside the Android Market, this gets infuriating.

    This seems to be a Marketplace-specific design issue, not a system-wide one. The default Music app manages to remember your position in the list just fine.

    On to bigger problems yet: Frequently, tapping a category selector doesn't do anything. It just silently fails. Or waits for some unseen task to complete; there's no way to know. Much the same happens when you try to install an app, only with fewer possible excuses for the behaviour. Every once in a while, when you tap "OK" on the app install pop-up, nothing happens. No error message, no activity, nothing. Or you get the scrolling bar that indicates activity – except no activity actually takes place. Overall, it's a terrible user experience.

    I imagine by now you're very tired of reading about the Marketplace. Believe me, I'm tired of writing about it, but it keeps setting new records in atrocious design. Forget not doing what you tell it to – it manages to do the exact opposite of what you want! This newest perversion shows up when you're using the Marketplace to update multiple apps. Tap "update," get a pop-up warning you about the new app access permissions you're about to approve. Now tap "cancel." Oh, surely you didn't mean that! Your finger must have slipped and you actually meant "OK."

    No? Too bad, because that's how the Marketplace treats it.

    I've looked at a few alternative sites for the Marketplace, but haven't written anything up yet, so I may post it as a comment later. Or y'all could do it for me :)
    Last edited by Cheburash; 07-29-2011, 11:05 AM.




    Who needs a life when you can have a heavy bolter?
    --BlackMirror
    <23:03:38> "|TG|Smachin<BF Admin>" was kicked from the server by "|TG-70th| Zhohar" (UNDERAGE ban.)
    Anything over $600, and it would be pointless to try and reason with Grandma
    --Blackraven93

  • #2
    Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

    I have the dock along with the 32gb tf101.

    the dock does not have speakers. it does offer much to justify the paltry 149.00 price.

    the ability to completely charge the tf101's battery from under 5% to 100% - while online reviews say that it ups battery life from 9 to 15.5, I find it is closer to 8 without the dock.

    if the dock is used from the beginning, you will get about 15 hours. there is a better way. using the tablet alone - drain the battery, before it dies, dock the tablet - which will take 2 hours to charge - and then drain it again. this will give you a total closer to 18.... impressive by any standard.

    it also offers 2 full size usb ports - which will power a cell phone, thumb drive, a portable hard drive (yes the android tablet will see a hard drive formatted to fat32), an xbox360 or ps3 controller, keyboard, mouse, or any of several other devices. I have not tested usb headphones, printers, 3g / 4g modems, ethernet adapters, or cdrom drives - and I have no illusion that any of them will work.

    the keyboard is surprisingly easy to get used to. after spending much time on a macbook pro, the keyboard could be its only slightly smaller brother, though backlighting would be a fantastic addition. It also adds a full sized sd card slot that will hold an additional 32gb card to accompany the 32gb microsd on the tablet itself and the 32gb internal - 96gb total and the sky's the limit with a hard drive.

    the dock and tf101 are so seamless once together, you could forget the netbook is also a tablet.

    with or without the dock, the missing 3g / 4g modem is moot, thanks to BT tethering - free thanks to pdanet.

    still waiting on netflix and skype video, but everything else I have wanted to do, the transformer has delivered.

    compared to the xoom and iconia, the asus is on par or better in almost every aspect. a .8 mb difference on the front camera hardly holds a candle to the gorilla glass covered ips screen and beautiful finish. all other specs are identical across the three - unless the tf101 is better.

    any other fault found in the device - like the market - should be attributed the the immaturity of the OS... which should only improve over time.

    one final thought. Asus has stated that the dock will work with future transformers as well... yet another reason to go ahead and purchase this most necessary accessory... which is more honestly necessity than accessory.
    Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -Albert Einstein
    The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity. -Harlan Ellison

    If all else fails: "rm -rf /"

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

      I've actually had the time to briefly mess with my friend's Transformer. He also got his with the keyboard dock. Overall, feels like a sleeker and lighter cousin of my EeePC netbook.

      I can't speak for battery life or such, but the interface was smooth and no noticeable jitter or lag going from the tablet to dock to tablet modes. I only wish the interface was a bit more intuitive and was customizable by the user.
      |TG-18th| Acreo Aeneas
      TG World of Tanks Clan Executive Officer
      Former 9th & 13th

      Pronounciation: Eh-Cree-Oh Ah-Nay-Ess
      Still can't say it? Call me Acorn then. -.-





      SSDs I Own: Kingston HyperX 3K (240 GB), Samsung 840 Pro (256 GB), Samsung 840 EVO (250 GB), Samsung 840 x 2 (120 GB), Plextor M5S (120 GB), OCZ Vertex (30 GB)

      TG Primer and Rules

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

        A couple of complaints I have that I hadn't mentioned in the original post. DdogG, I'll be very curious to hear about your experiences, as I don't know anyone else who actually has the Pad on hand.

        1) The construction is flimsy. As in, when I pick up the tablet by its right side (the one with the HDMI port), I can actually feel some flex in thebody. This likely accounts at least in part for the interference from the speakers due to the resonance.

        2) Random shutdowns (or freezes). I had one this morning, while the tablet was plugged in. I went to wake it up, and had to hold down the power button until it started up. I'm not sure whether it was frozen and needed a reset, or had shutdown with no instruction to do so on my part.When it finally started up, it had full charge, so it's not a battery or charger issue. This isn't the first time this happened, either, nor is it limited to just when the tablet is plugged in.

        3) The camera quality is rather pitiful. Anything but mid-range shots in excellent light comes out grainy and nowhere near what one would expect from 5MP.




        Who needs a life when you can have a heavy bolter?
        --BlackMirror
        <23:03:38> "|TG|Smachin<BF Admin>" was kicked from the server by "|TG-70th| Zhohar" (UNDERAGE ban.)
        Anything over $600, and it would be pointless to try and reason with Grandma
        --Blackraven93

        Comment


        • #5
          Nice write up gentlemen. I was hesitant about ordering this tablet but I really enjoyed playing with it at bestbuy. I ordered my Transformer, Dock, and a 32gb sd card from Newegg this morning.

          |TG-12th| Troublesome4u

          Comment


          • #6
            Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

            Does anybody know of an app similar to picasa on android. I'd like to crop and clean up pictures if possible.

            |TG-12th| Troublesome4u

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

              Originally posted by troublesome4u View Post
              Does anybody know of an app similar to picasa on android. I'd like to crop and clean up pictures if possible.
              Yeah. Check out Adobe Photoshop Express. It's a free app by Adobe that actually does most of anything you'd want to do on a tablet/phone. Surprisingly powerful.
              "Common sense is not so common." -Voltaire

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

                Originally posted by Cheburash View Post
                2) Random shutdowns (or freezes). I had one this morning, while the tablet was plugged in. I went to wake it up, and had to hold down the power button until it started up. I'm not sure whether it was frozen and needed a reset, or had shutdown with no instruction to do so on my part.When it finally started up, it had full charge, so it's not a battery or charger issue. This isn't the first time this happened, either, nor is it limited to just when the tablet is plugged in.
                Something to keep in mind with any Android powered device... Unlike Windows (or even some flavors of Linux) where if you exit a program, the associated processes are terminated and allocated memory is freed. With Android, you have to manually kill the process in order for that memory to be freed. So if you use up all the memory available with a bunch unused program processes, it may lock up and/or reboot on you.

                Correction: What I typed above isn't accurate. Most programs are supposed to kill themselves, but some don't leaving runaway processes you have to force kill.

                3) The camera quality is rather pitiful. Anything but mid-range shots in excellent light comes out grainy and nowhere near what one would expect from 5MP.
                I doubt the camera was meant to compete with any real digital camera and given that, it's really meant for mostly close shots in well-lit areas.
                Last edited by Acreo Aeneas; 07-30-2011, 01:07 AM.
                |TG-18th| Acreo Aeneas
                TG World of Tanks Clan Executive Officer
                Former 9th & 13th

                Pronounciation: Eh-Cree-Oh Ah-Nay-Ess
                Still can't say it? Call me Acorn then. -.-





                SSDs I Own: Kingston HyperX 3K (240 GB), Samsung 840 Pro (256 GB), Samsung 840 EVO (250 GB), Samsung 840 x 2 (120 GB), Plextor M5S (120 GB), OCZ Vertex (30 GB)

                TG Primer and Rules

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

                  Originally posted by Acreo Aeneas View Post
                  Something to keep in mind with any Android powered device... Unlike Windows (or even some flavors of Linux) where if you exit a program, the associated processes are terminated and allocated memory is freed. With Android, you have to manually kill the process in order for that memory to be freed. So if you use up all the memory available with a bunch unused program processes, it may lock up and/or reboot on you.
                  I haven't paid that much attention to Android products since I'm an iOS user, but if this is true that is horrible design for a modern OS. Why would they do that?
                  "Looking for brahs to come fight crime with me" - Unload



                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

                    Originally posted by VoodooIT View Post
                    I haven't paid that much attention to Android products since I'm an iOS user, but if this is true that is horrible design for a modern OS. Why would they do that?
                    Ack, looks like I was off the mark in what I typed. Apparently most programs are supposed to terminate themselves, unfortunately, not every program does, so hence why you still have to go through and force kill any leftovers. Read here: http://www.howtogeek.com/howto/28496...-task-manager/
                    |TG-18th| Acreo Aeneas
                    TG World of Tanks Clan Executive Officer
                    Former 9th & 13th

                    Pronounciation: Eh-Cree-Oh Ah-Nay-Ess
                    Still can't say it? Call me Acorn then. -.-





                    SSDs I Own: Kingston HyperX 3K (240 GB), Samsung 840 Pro (256 GB), Samsung 840 EVO (250 GB), Samsung 840 x 2 (120 GB), Plextor M5S (120 GB), OCZ Vertex (30 GB)

                    TG Primer and Rules

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

                      Originally posted by Cheburash View Post
                      A couple of complaints I have that I hadn't mentioned in the original post. DdogG, I'll be very curious to hear about your experiences, as I don't know anyone else who actually has the Pad on hand.

                      1) The construction is flimsy. As in, when I pick up the tablet by its right side (the one with the HDMI port), I can actually feel some flex in thebody. This likely accounts at least in part for the interference from the speakers due to the resonance.
                      while there is a little flex in the body, overall - trying to twist or torque the unit meets with more resistance than I am comfortable fighting. I find it takes quite a bit of pressure to really feel movement, and for something that is as wide, tall, and thin I would expect as much if not more give. For a rounded plastic back, I think the unit holds up well.

                      Flimsy is by no means the word I would use. Certainly compared to a macbook pro or ipad made completely from aluminum, it has more give, but holding a 10.1" xoom or iconia feels cheap and plasticy. The TF101 gives me a sense of intelligent, thought out design instead of flat plastic back like the others I mentioned.

                      Originally posted by Cheburash View Post
                      2) Random shutdowns (or freezes). I had one this morning, while the tablet was plugged in. I went to wake it up, and had to hold down the power button until it started up. I'm not sure whether it was frozen and needed a reset, or had shutdown with no instruction to do so on my part.When it finally started up, it had full charge, so it's not a battery or charger issue. This isn't the first time this happened, either, nor is it limited to just when the tablet is plugged in.
                      I actually did experience that for a time. I cleaned out some apps that automatically came over from my account and my droid X, moved to the starfield live background from the ice cube one, removed most of the live widgets from the desktop (I still have pandora ,power control widget, facebook, and evernote. I also stopped using the asus clock in favor of the weather and toggle widget), and upgraded the firmware on both the tablet and the dock, and it went away. I did not really investigate the issue since it happened only a few times, and hasn't happened since.

                      On this subject, I have found that sleep mode can burn through a battery in about 50 hours if bt or wifi is left on. I think this is an os issue, and I have not researched it much either, but I have come back after a day or two knowing I left with 60% or better to find the until dead as a doornail.

                      Originally posted by Cheburash View Post
                      3) The camera quality is rather pitiful. Anything but mid-range shots in excellent light comes out grainy and nowhere near what one would expect from 5MP.
                      I have used the camera so little... it is not as good as my droid x, but in my livingroom at night with only 30 watts of fluorescent lighting, images are definitely on par with my wife's samsung fascinate... though I would never use the tablet to record video with my droid x in my pocket. I am waiting for skype to release video for it, then I will judge this more.

                      There is a known issue with 720p video recording on the tf101. it is software related and should be fixed in the next firmware.

                      but seriously, who's gonna pull out a 10.1" camera. Phones are perfect for this as they have the same form factor, whereas a tablet is like using a machete to spread butter on your toast.

                      overall, I have found the tablet amazing, and any issues I have with it are so overshadowed by what it can do that no other tablet or netbook can do, that I am ok waiting for resolution. I have not turned on my laptop in 4 days, and do not seeing using it again until Wednesday. I am actually looking to sell it and get the cheapest mba or mbp I can find that still has backlit keys (the one true downfall of the dock in my opinion - other than a set of better speakers.)
                      Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -Albert Einstein
                      The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity. -Harlan Ellison

                      If all else fails: "rm -rf /"

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

                        there are a few programs that are not well written, but you get what you pay for. android will terminate them for you after a while regardless....
                        Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -Albert Einstein
                        The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity. -Harlan Ellison

                        If all else fails: "rm -rf /"

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Re: Reviews Too Late: Asus Eee Pad Transformer (TF101) review

                          sorry for the triple post, but Asus has rolled out honeycomb 3.2.... available just a few hours ago. Hopefully this will address some of the issues.

                          http://blogs.computerworld.com/18692/android_32_upgrade
                          Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former. -Albert Einstein
                          The two most common elements in the universe are Hydrogen and stupidity. -Harlan Ellison

                          If all else fails: "rm -rf /"

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