ASUS Transformer – 7 month review

ASUS TransformerI’ve had my ASUS Transformer for about 7 months now, and I figured it’s about time I wrote a review, especially since the next Transformer model, Transformer Prime, has just hit the US market. This is a great time to pick up the first model at a large discount off ebay, craigslist, or amazon. I can honestly say, in the 7 months I’ve owned the tablet, I have not once regretted my decision to purchase it.

I bought both the tablet and keyboard dock within the first week they were available in the States. This was difficult to do since they sold out almost immediately as geeks were so excited to get their hands on the tablet. It took me hours of online searching and email/sms product alerts followed by speeding through checkout pages before I was able to grab one. When I purchased mine, the $400 (plus $150 for the dock) price tag was pretty attractive to me, especially since I wouldn’t have to pay tax purchasing online.

Performance: I’ve been highly impressed by the Transformer’s hardware. The 1 GHz CPU and 1GB of RAM can handle anything I’ve needed to do on the tablet. It can handle switching tasks from a game of Jelly Defense to editing a Document to watching YouTube without much problem.

Weight: It’s about 2.2 lbs without the dock, which I initially thought was a bit too heavy. Granted, I tend to prefer devices on the heavier side because I think they feel more solid and substantial in your hand (sorry Samsung: your Galaxy phone line feels weak and cheap to me). In the first week of using the Transformer, my hands would often get tired after holding it in any given position for longer than a few minutes. However, after a week it was no longer a problem, as I got used to the weight distribution. Now I have no problem with its weight.

Build Quality: The Transformer has a solid build quality and feels firm in my hands. There is little to no give in the device when pressed, twisted, or squeezed, and I like this. The capacitive touch-screen is very responsive and supports multitouch. Additionally, after 7 months of daily use, the screen has no noticeable scratches (I don’t have a screen protector or case besides the foldable dock, which I only keep attached and closed when I travel).

Power button and volume rockerPorts/Buttons: The only buttons on the tablet are a power button and volume rocker. Honestly, what other buttons do you need? ASUS probably could have saved a few bucks by dropping the volume rocker, but I’m glad they included it—I use it all the time. The buttons are on the left edge of the tablet, towards the top. On the right edge are 3 ports: microSD card slot, mini-HDMI port, and 3.5mm combination microphone/headphone jack. I have a 16GB microSD card that I leave in all the time because I was worried the built-in 16GB of space wouldn’t be enough. However, my cloud-storage apps (Dropbox FTW) and LAN storage take care of my storage needs. Also, the amount of times I’ve used the HDMI port has surprised me. Going from a 10” screen to a 55” TV is something I tend to do often, and I’m glad ASUS has included this ability.

Keyboard dock: Initially the keyboard dock was the main reason I wanted this tablet. In 7 months, though, I have not used the dock nearly as much as I thought I would. I attribute this to the following 2 reasons: (1) Most of the work I do involves programming and .NET development, neither of which I can accomplish easily on a tablet running Android. (2) I use the Dvorak keyboard layout, and the dock is the standard Qwerty layout. I haven’t found a way to remap the dock keys. Though I can type on a Qwerty keyboard without too much trouble, I find myself waiting until I’m on my laptop to do typing-intensive tasks.

One thing I do find myself using the dock for is to recharge the tablet when its battery is low and I’m in the middle of using it. However, I only need to do this because the power cord is way too short! Its short length makes it nearly impossible to charge the tablet and use it at the same time. Of course using an extension cord or sitting directly next to the outlet can solve this problem, but it shouldn’t be a problem in the first place.

Transformer and attached keyboard dock, closed

I also use the dock for protection when I travel. Leaving it in the closed position in my bag provides great protection for my screen without me having to use a screen protector. In the end, though, I think the dock is just a $150 battery and screen protector. If circumstances were different (I typed on Qwerty and didn’t do development), I’d probably find the dock much more useful.

Summary: If you can find a good deal on the Transformer in the next few months, pick it up. I’m sure as people start replacing them with the next model, you can find them for $300 or so, which is a great price for this tablet. You can probably skip the dock, though. It’s nice to have, but unless you can do your work on Android, you’ll find yourself using it as a battery pack.

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