Comparing the new iPad and the ASUS Transformer Prime (TL201) is a bit like watching two mighty gladiators in full combat.
Apple definitely gets the honours for taking tablets mainstream with the first iPad. When it came out, I worked on an HP TC1100, which is a smashing tablet which becomes a laptop computer with a keyboard and stylus, but back then no one was really interested. It’s a fabulous machine which still works beautifully after six or seven years.
Although the iPad is not really a conventional computer-and-keyboard combo, it’s more beautiful, lighter and faster for daily chores. The new iPad is even more impressive. Other tablets can’t compete.
So I recently thought about getting one — my first iDevice. Thing is, just as I was about to buy it, ASUS came up with a real alternative: the Transformer Prime TF201. But which comes out tops?
The look and feel of both tablets is perfect. The ASUS is a bit lighter and skinner than the iPad, (650 versus 580 grams). The buttons on the iPad are a little higher, which makes them easier to press. The ASUS screen is a somewhat bigger 10.1 inches against the iPad’s 9.7 inches. But what a difference sharpness makes. The iPad runs away with the resolution battle with 2048×1536 pixels, while the ASUS only has 1280×800.
That’s a difference in dpi of 264 versus 150; almost twice as much. The iPad has an IPS LCD panel, dubbed as the Retina display because of its sharpness. But outdoors the ASUS is better to read because of its higher brightness, 500 against 300 cd/m2. The explanation for this lies with the Super IPS+ display, which gives more contrast and therefore a higher brightness.
There is a marked difference in processors as well. The iPad comes with the A5X dual-core processor with a new quad-core GPU for outstanding graphics (1GHz). The Transformer Prime, meanwhile, uses a quad-core NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor (1.4 GHz). I was told that the benchmarks of the ASUS were better, but I couldn’t discover any difference when pinching or sliding.
Then there are the cameras in the front and the rear. ASUS is doing a better job with its front-facing camera: a 1.3-megapixel snapper. The iPad packs a simple VGA camera. In the rear the differences are smaller, but still significant. The Asus Transformer Prime boasts a higher 8MP auto-focus camera with LED flash whereas the iPad carries a 5MP one sans flash.
Both record video at 1080p with a F2.4 aperture lens, and rock sensors with backside illumination.
There’s not much difference in connectivity either. Both do Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, only the iPad has 4G LTE connectivity.
The battery life for both is almost the same, with about 9 hours of average use.
It’s an Android’s life
The operating systems handling the devices have different priorities. Apple’s iOS is known for its simplicity and intuitiveness. The Asus Transformer Prime stands out partly because it flaunts the most current experience with Android 4.0.3, Ice Cream Sandwich. And that provides more opportunity for personalisation. So it ultimately boils down to simplicity versus personalisation.
The Apple store has more apps than Google Play, but all are under strict control. Android gives the user more freedom, especially after rooting the device.
Apple’s refusal to support Flash also has consequences for browsing. Finally, the ASUS has a micro-HDMI connection for connection to a flat screen TV, while iPad uses Apple TV. With a mini SD card, the memory of the ASUS can be enlarged with a finger snap.
GPS issues abound
There has been some discussion about GPS in the Asus. The first time it took quite long before it got a fix on my location. The next time it was much faster, although it still took 5 minutes. That is too long, and probably due to the position of the antenna in the frame.
For users of the TF201 who are not satisfied, ASUS offers a free GPS dongle, available after registration.
Connecting the Asus to a Windows computer was no problem as it immediately detected the drivers. Under Linux Ubuntu, a few tricks are needed to do the job.
ASUS has a juicy extra, namely a keyboard docking station, which turns the tablet in a laptop. If you don’t want greasy finger prints of your screen, this is your best choice. On top of this, you get extra battery power and a USB connection. But of course you have to carry more. So it’s a tough trade-off.
To TF300 or not
I had waited a long time to get the Asus, probably because Android 4.0.3 was not ready yet. Now Ice Cream Sandwich is available and ASUS has rolled out all the models. It annoyed me to read that in June ASUS will introduce the TF300 for almost half the price of the TF201 or the iPad. Ultimately, the difference boils down to a cheaper model versus the Prime.
The TF300 is the cheaper tablet and there is obviously going to be compromise. Looking at the Prime TF201 vs TF300, we can say that the Prime has the Super IPS Mode (improves outdoor reading with a brighter display) and the TF300 does not. There is no rear flash on the TF300 which the Prime TF201 does have. Of course the TF300 is made of plastic and the TF201 is made of aluminum — which isn’t a bad thing when you consider some of the GPS wireless signal issues because of aluminum design. The TF201 comes with Gorilla Glass, the TF300 does not. The TF300 get less battery life and has a slightly slower processor. The TF300 is slightly heavier and thicker than the TF201 Prime Transformer also.
It’s hard to choose a winner, but overall the ASUS Transformer Prime seems to be the better, more customisable tablet. But if you require the best display ever, then the iPad is for you.