26 May, 2012 06:22:45 AEST
Approximately AU $427.99(including postage)
[ 17 bids ]
Rockville, Maryland, United States
ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 10.1" 32GB Android 4.0 Tablet (Tablet Only) - Blue
By Dana Wollman posted Apr 22nd 2012 3:00AM
It doesn't feel like a year has passed since we reviewed the original ASUS Transformer and its innovative keyboard dock, but indeed time flies, and quite a bit has happened since then. The company has released the Prime, for starters, followed by two other high-end models. And now, the OG Transformer is going the way of the dodo, as the affordable new Transformer Pad 300 (aka the TF300) takes its place. Though this newest tablet was announced back in February, it's only just going on sale in the US this week, starting at $379 for the 16GB version, and $399 for one with 32GB of built-in storage.
In addition to the fact that this replaces a truly memorable product, the TF300 is intriguing because it represents an even better deal for consumers: it borrows some design cues from the higher-end Prime, and also steps up to a similar 8-megapixel camera. Like the Prime, too, it runs an unskinned version of Android 4.0 and packs a quad-core Tegra 3 chip -- something you don't often see in a tablet this price. In short, the main differences between this and the Prime are battery life (10 hours versus 12), and the quality of the display (the 10-inch screen here offers 350 nits of brightness instead of 600). Those all sound like reasonable trade-offs and, frankly, they are. That's our abridged review, over and done with in just two paragraphs, but meet us past the break if you're craving a little more detail.
Think of it as a watered-down Prime. Make no mistake: the TF300 shares some overarching design language with the original, so even now that there are several Transformers on the market the lineup still feels cohesive. Even so, with a starting price at $379, the company naturally chose to hold back some of the flourishes that make the Prime worth the premium. After all, ASUS needs to give you some reason to splurge on the top-shelf model, right?
For starters, that spun back is now made of plastic, not metal, so although it looks like the Prime and Zenbook line, the build quality isn't quite as impeccable. Meanwhile, the body itself has widened to .38 inches (9.7mm), up from .33 (8.4mm) on the Prime. As for weight, the TF300 tips the scales at 1.39 pounds, compared with 1.28 for the original. None of that's saying much, though: even with those dimensions, the TF300 manages to be slimmer than the new Galaxy Tab 2 10.1 and Acer Iconia Tab A200, two similarly priced tablets that measure .41 and .49 inches thick, respectively.
Display and sound
Like the Prime that came before it (and pretty much every other 10-inch tablet on the market), this guy has a pixel count of 1280 x 800. The difference, though, is that while the original Prime has a 600-nit Super IPS+ display, the TF300 has a brightness level of 350 nits and is "merely" IPS. (We know, right?!) If you're working indoors, with the tablet plugged into the keyboard dock, that drop in brightness shouldn't bother you, though if you're parked outdoors you might find the viewing angles are narrower than what you'd otherwise get on the Prime. Still, with the brightness pushed to the max (a luxury you can afford, given the robust battery life), you should have little problem glancing at your email on the go or framing shots in the camera app.
Even if you don't end up buying the dock, it's simple to follow along with a movie while the tablet's resting flat on a table (or airplane tray) in front of you. (Keep in mind, though, that the speaker's located on the back side, which means the tablet's otherwise loud, balanced audio will sound muffled if you rest the thing face-up.) Really, the main drawback seems to be that this 350-nit panel doesn't do as good a job as the 600-nit one in countering sun glare.
According to ASUS, the 22Wh juicepack inside the TF300 can last through up to 10 hours of active use. In our standard rundown test, we managed eight and a half hours of video playback before the tablet finally gave out. Altogether, that's not as impressive a showing as the Transformer Prime, whose 25Wh battery lasted 10-plus hours in the same test -- and that's despite the fact that the Prime has the overhead of a brighter display. Admittedly, of course, our video playback test is taxing, not least because we fix the brightness at 50 percent. With less intense use (read: more idle time) we eked out closer to 12 hours, and that even included some video playback.
This time around, the dock, too, has a smaller battery than what you'll get with the Prime (16.5Wh versus 22Wh), which should amount to an extra five hours of runtime. We've yet to complete a test with the full dock, but rest assured we're on it. We'll update this review once we get a final score.
Some things don't change. This Transformer, like every other we've reviewed, works with a keyboard dock that doubles as an extended battery, adding an extra five hours of runtime, in this case. The dock is also home two full-size ports -- a USB 2.0 socket and SD slot -- giving you two more ways to shuttle files between your tablet and computer. The most important thing to know, though, if you're new around these parts is that the Transformer doesn't exactly live up to its name out of the box: the dock is sold separately for $150.
For better and worse, the engineering here hasn't really changed, so if you already own a first-gen Transformer and are wondering if you should upgrade, you can probably get away with skimming this section. For newcomers, though, we'll say this: the keys are serviceable, but we don't recommend buying the tablet and dock and expecting them to add up to a laptop replacement. The keys have a flimsy, precarious feel to them, and are at the disadvantage of having been shrunk to accommodate a 10-inch screen. We've also found that the speed of word entry is limited by the tablet, so even though your hands might fly across the keyboard, you'll still notice a slight delay as letters start to appear onscreen. In terms of the typing experience, then, we'd recommend this about as much as we would a netbook: it's enormously handy for pecking out URLs, web searches and short messages, but we wouldn't suggest composing your 15-page term paper (or even 4,000-word review) on it.
Though manufacturers like Samsung and HTC are having a field day customizing Ice Cream Sandwich, ASUS is sticking to a different strategy: loading up its tablets with a stock version of Android 4.0.3, and peppering it with a few extra apps and widgets (all uninstallable, fortunately).
As for those pre-installed apps, the list includes Amazon's Kindle reader; App Backup (along with the separate App Backup & Restore); App Locker for password-protecting applications; a shortcut to get Glowball; ASUS MyCloud, My Library and MyNet; Netflix; Photoshop Express; SuperNote; Temple Run; the Zinio magazine store; and a shortcut to the games section of TegraZone (we were being dead-serious about NVIDIA's marketing clout, folks). Users also get 8GB of free lifetime ASUS WebStorage, which is a twist over the way ASUS treated the OG Transformer (in that case, customers received unlimited storage, which was only free for the first year).
In addition to industrial design, another key way in which the TF300 takes after the Prime is in image quality. Now, the basic Transformer tablet has an8-megapixel, backlit-illuminated CMOS sensor with an f.2.2 lens. That's not hugely different from the Prime's 8-megapixel sensor and f/2.4 lens, except the Prime also has an LED flash for lower-light shots. Even so, this makes for a welcome improvement over the 5-megapixel camera included on last year's model. And though megapixels aren't everything, it also has the potential to trump the 3-megapixel shooter on the Galaxy Tab 2 10.1, which also doesn't have a flash. And we're definitely comfortable saying this is a better deal than the $350 Acer Iconia Tab A200, which for a similar price has no rear camera at all, and isn't even necessarily thinner or lighter for lack of that extra hardware.
hough the TF300's price is fairly low, there thankfully isn't that big of a catch. Even as more mid-range, 10-inch Android tablets start hitting the market, the second-gen Transformer still feels like the best deal, with smooth, Tegra 3-powered gaming, good endurance and an understated design that calls to mind ASUS' other Transformer, the $500 Prime.
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