Still Not Ready for Prime Time?
Jul 25, 2012 (Updated Jul 25, 2012)
Review by Guy Techie
Rated a Very Helpful Review
Pros:Inexpensive, nVidia Tegra 3 Quad-Core, expandable storage, HDMI, keyboard dock option
Cons:Very little tablet-specific apps, can be sluggish at times.
The Bottom Line: This is a great Android tablet bar none. It's got the specs as the heavy hitters at an affordable price. The experience is nowhere near the iPad.
The Asus Transformer Pad TF300T is positioned as a low-end entry level Android tablet. However, the specs are not what you expect for the price. It has a 10.1 inch LCD display with a native resolution of 1280x800, 16 GB of storage (32 GB available), a micro SD slot, HDMI out, WIFI, Bluetooth, and even GPS. But the most amazing thing is that at the MSRP of $379.99, you still get a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 SoC. That means you get a mean gaming GPU as well as that infamous quad-core Coretex A9 with the idling fifth core. It also runs a nearly up-to-date Android Ice Cream Sandwich v4.0.3 (latest ICS being 4.0.4), while Asus promises a Jelly Bean (v4.1) upgrade for all of their Transformer line of Android tablets.
Recommend this product?
If it all sounds familiar, that's because it's bigger brother, the Asus Transformer Prime TF201, has mostly the same specs. The differences is that the TF300T display is not as bright, the CPU is clocked at 1.2 GHz (vs 1.4 GHz), and it is made of plastic instead of aluminum. Not bad of a trade off to save $100.
A Tour Around
Like most Android tablets, the TF300T is designed mostly to use in the landscape orientation. Keep this in mind when I say at the top, you'll find the sleep/wake button. The left side is adorned with the volume rocker, a mini HDMI output, a pin-hole microphone, and a micro SD slot. On the right, you have a lone headphone jack. Finally, on the bottom, you get a proprietary connector that looks very much like Apple's 30-pin dock connector. It is used to charge, connect to a computer, or dock onto an optional keyboard dock accessory.
The front has the nice 10.1 inch IPS LCD which can give off 300 nits of brightness (vs the TF201's 600 nits). It's half as bright but you won't notice unless you use it outdoors. You can still see what's on the screen in extreme angles, but there is still some color shift. There is also a front facing camera that is off-center to the right by half an inch.
At the rear, the Asus concentric ring design language makes it's DNA known here. The concentric ring design is also found on the Asus Transformer Prime and their ultrabooks. The back feels pretty good as you run your fingers across the texture. It makes the plastic feel much more solid than if it was just glossy or matte. It also provides a good amount of grip and deters fingerprints. The dark blue is also subtle enough to be mistaken for black with a quick glance. It's a good color choice for those who's bored of the usual black and white. The rear is also home to a camera with an 8 MP backside illuminated sensor. It's the same as the one found on the more expensive Prime, except there is no LED flash. Again, a compromise that allows for the entry level price.
I have used both Apple and Android products for a while now, so I am familiar with both. I've used them on phones, media players, and tablets. When I first bought the original Asus EeePad Transformer (TF101) which came with Android 3.0 (Honeycomb), I wasn't very impressed. There weren't many tablet-specific apps. They were just phone apps blown up to fill the large screen. Honeycomb also wasn't very smooth or quick. It seem to lag behind and can get annoying to use.
Fast forward to the newer TF300T which has better specs and an Android upgrade to ICS, and the experience is mostly the same! I was hoping a year would give the Android tablet experience some time to mature. Unfortunately, that is still not the case. ICS is better in many respects to Honeycomb. It's a bit faster and smoother, but can still stutter more than I'd like. Apple's own iPad can also experience these slow downs at times, but it's still a normalcy with ICS.
The apps situation hasn't changed. Pulse News Reader remains one of few tablet-specific apps designed for the larger screen. However, this is also one of the apps that doesn't scroll very smoothly (perhaps due to the many images). The Apple iPad struggles on this app at times, but for the most part it delivers a much smoother and quicker transition than ICS.
As for Asus's flourishes, there isn't much. That's a good thing. The Android OS remains mostly true to Google's vision. The notification area has been beefed up with quick toggles for WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and even brightness controls. Thankfully, you can revert back to Google's notification style as well.
All of Asus's customizations are found in the Settings area under "Asus customized settings". You can adjust the performance level (which affects battery life), use the recent apps soft button to take screenshots (touch and hold), and lock the system bar so you won't accidentally hit the back, home, or notification area while playing a full screen game. This is were you can configure the notification style (Asus's custom look with the quick toggles or Google's own). It is also where you can configure how the keyboard dock charges the tablet (the keyboard dock has it's own battery) as well as how the touchpad on the keyboard works (mouse-like or gesture/finger-like).
Of course, there are Asus-specific apps, but they all seem to make sense. I love their File Manager, for example. They have neat shortcuts to your camera's photos folder, stored photos, music, and downloads. It's also a visually appealing design. Like all pack-in file managers, it does not allow you to browse outside of the internal storage and external storage (no root access, which makes sense). They also include 8GB of free online storage via their own Asus WebStorage app. AppLocker allows you to protect certain apps from launching by protecting it with a password. This solves a problem where you share your tablet with others in your household, but you don't want them to access apps with sensitive info such as banking (Mint, Chase, Citibank, etc), email, calendar, etc. While still allowing access to things like Angry Birds, web browser, music, and the like.
Vibe is a internet radio and music/video streaming app that lets you discover new content. It's akin to Pandora, Slacker, and somewhat like YoutTube on the video aspects. I personally do not use this.
MyCloud is Asus's 3-in-one app that lets you access your WebStorage (which is also a separate app by itself), Vibe (again, a separate app as well), and MyDesktop. MyDesktop is not a separate app,but it allows you to remotely access your desktop computer. It works with both Mac and Windows, and will require you to download and install a client program before using it. It's akin to LogMeIn or 2X Remote Desktop.
Then there is MyNet, which is a DLNA media streamer. It allows you to view media from a DLNA server, or allows your DLNA device (TV, XBOX, etc) to view media off your Transformer Pad.
There are many others such as Super Note (note taking app), Zino (magazine reader), Press Reader (RSS feed reader), Netflix, Polaris Office (Office Suite), Tegra Zone (App Store for Tegra specific apps and games), and Glowball (Tegra specific game).
There is one thing I have to say about sound, and that it's great! The built-in speaker is loud and clear, and with the plastic back, it allows for some reverberations that helps with bass response. It's easily the best sounding tablet, beating even the iPad.
With headphones, it sounds just as good, as I was not able to detect any holes in the frequency range. It does depend on your set of headphones, of course. Using the aux input of my car, it's slightly louder than many phones I've used. Clarity is excellent.
While other reviews say the Prime last longer (12 hrs), the TF300T only lasts for 10. Still not a bad trade off for a budget tablet. It still lasts longer than an iPad. Unlike the other reviews which tests by playing a video or surfing the web straight through, I use mine like a normal person. Leaving it off for hours at a time, picking it up when I need it. Mine lasts over 3 days before asking for a charge!
With the keyboard dock, it lasts much longer (though it charges it in a strange way). More about the dock on another review. But suffice to say, the battery life of the Transformer Pad TF300T is amazing! And this is coming from an iPad user.
It takes a while to charge, even with it's bundled 2A charger. Unlike phones, it has a larger battery, much like the iPad. It takes about 4-5 hours to fully charge, not unlike the iPad 2. It's still quicker than the 8 hours or so to charge the new iPad (3rd gen).
If you're already hard set on an Android tablet, and don't need a 1080p display (the new Prime TF700 will have this new HD display), there's very little reason to go with the Transformer Prime over this Transformer Pad. Unless you simply need the feel of aluminium in your hands, an LED flash, the extra 0.2 GHz in CPU speed, and the super bright display, $100 saved is $100 earned. You can put it towards the $150 keyboard dock which adds a full size SD card slot, USB, and an extra battery built-in for even longer stints away from the outlet.
If you're not hard set on Android, I'd still recommend an Apple iPad for your tablet needs. I find that surfing the web is smoother and faster on the iPad. It's more enjoyable. Android's browser still feel unrefined. Even with Chrome (you can download from the Google Play Store), it just chugs along. The apps are also more enjoyable on the iPad, mostly because of the smooth and quick fluid response, but also because the graphics and UI are made for the larger screen. Many apps I use on Android still think it's a phone, so the UI is just stretched out to fill the screen.
But alas, you cannot root and flash different ROMs on an iPad. If you're one of those people, the Asus Transformer Pad TF300T is for you. Check out XDA Developers as there are many hacks, mods, and ROMs for this device. It is very well supported by the community.
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