The ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime is the best of the heap of the current generation of Android tablets, as long as you don't mind the absence of 3G connectivity. Not only does it run the latest version of Android -- 4.0, dubbed 'Ice Cream Sandwich' -- this 10.1-inch tablet has a slim body, a useful keyboard accessory and a processor equipped with four cores.
The 'Transformer' part of the name refers to the bundled keyboard dock that can turn the tablet into a laptop-like device. Not only do you get another method of text input, it also extends the battery life of the tablet when its attached.
Without the dock the Transformer Prime weighs 586g, which is lighter than the second-generation iPad. Its body is a remarkably thin 8.33mm.
The Eee Pad Transformer Prime's touchscreen has a resolution of 1280x800 pixels. It displays clear, crisp images and text and it is also bright (brighter than most tablets on the market in my opinion). I was also very impressed with its viewing angles.
The tablet itself has a micro-HDMI output and a microSD card slot for storage expansion. Attaching the dock not only adds a keyboard but also an SD card slot, a touchpad, a full USB port and an extra battery, which Asus says delivers an extra six hours of use.
The keyboard is easier to use for text input than a touchscreen, but the keys are a little small; they're still better than the keys on many netbooks. I was also impressed by the extra shortcut buttons, which offer access to functions such as enabling and disabling wireless networking and the touchpad.
An unfortunate design feature is the balance of the tablet when the keyboard is attached: I had trouble using the Eee Pad Transformer Prime on my lap without it toppling over when the dock was attached. I didn't encounter any problems using it on a desk, however.
The tablet shipped with version 3.2 of Android (Honeycomb), but an upgrade to 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwich) is available. Asus includes a number of Android apps, including a file manager, an app with 8GB of free Cloud storage (for a year), a MyLibrary books app, and a MyNet app for streaming multimedia content via DLNA. A range of widgets is also included.
Ice Cream Sandwich offers a number of improvements over Android 3.2. Performance is significantly improved the Web browser is much smoother; one bonus is that pages no longer default to mobile versions.
Ice Cream Sandwich hasn't resolved all of Android's tablet issues: Flash video performance remains hit and miss, and we still encountered slight lag at times. Pages still don't scroll as smoothly as they do on the iPad 2.
There also remains the issue of apps. There are still fewer Android apps designed to take advantage of tablets. Google Maps, Gmail and YouTube all have tablet-ready versions that work excellently, and there are a few popular apps like Angry Birds, Pulse News Reader and Evernote that took advantage of the Transformer Prime's display. However, the iPad is still ahead in this respect.
Unfortunately there is no 3G version of the tablet, so you are stuck with connecting to your local wireless network. I encountered terrible GPS performance, with the tablet often taking over 20 seconds to lock on to a signal. On the other hand, I was impressed by the 8.1-megapixel rear camera.
Battery performance was excellent, lasting just under 11 hours when using the 'balanced' power profile, and about 16.5 hours when the keyboard dock was used. You can also choose power saving or performance modes.
In Australia the Eee Pad Transformer Prime retails for $799 for the 32GB model and $899 for the 64GB model.
Conclusion: If you want an Android tablet and don't mind the lack of 3G, then the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime is the best model out there, thanks to the keyboard dock and excellent performance.
Review by Ross Catanzariti