The Asus eee Pad Transformer is sleek, bronzed and impressive to look at. It arrived at the start of the warm weather at the start of June and the metal finish was welcomingly cool to the touch. It feels like quality. There are no USB ports on the tablet itself, but there’s a mini hdmi out, audio and the proprietry connector to atbtach the docking keyboard. The keyboard not only adds the obvious keyboard function but an additional six hours battery life to the already generous nine that the tablet alone boasts along with a pair of elegantly hidden USB sockets providing you can find them.
All the tabletty jiggery pokery is a given and it performs it as well as you’d expect for over four hundred quid. It’s more than capable of the usual tablet staples of browsing the web while sat on the sofa, but with the addition of the dock the expectations are much higher. With a proper keyboard, you can easily type in the url of your favourite site, reply to emails or even type out longer documents such as this post. It also serves a physical purpose as a netbook format is just more practical, sorry Jobs, but i think you called that one wrong.
The question remains if this device is actually a suitable replacement for a typical windows netbook. Outwardly, it’s the perfect evolution. I said that I wouldn’t replace my loyal little sammy netbook until something came along that was diddier and provided about double the battery life. This does just that. Storage wise, with only 16gb as compared to 160gb, I’m downgrading, but without a bloated windows install, 16gb is much larger than we’re led to believe by the pc manufacturers. An additional 16gb micro sd card costs around £1 per gig to double the storage. The screen is crisper, but being so glossy is impossible to read in bright daylight (a problem not just with this device though). It also had in built GPS, making the portable use of mapping a more attractive prospect. The hardware is certainly a winner.
If you’re going to be using this on the move in the wilds, then the weight of the whole device is 1.28kg – 680g for the tablet alone – not bad when you consider that there’s two batteries in there. The first bit of fun with the tab is to assemble it. As always with things that click into one another, unless you’re terminally cack handed, there’s the fear that you’ll press to hard and damage it or not press hard enough and the whole thing dismantles while in use. Take a few minutes to suss this bit out, it’s worth it! this needs to go at the start somewhere…
So the big question is, will this device replace my netbook? I need it to do at minimum the following:
- Read and compose emails and insert a decent sig.
- Create simple text documents.
- Resize images ready to upload to site (ideally)
- Edit the website content, including images but not any overly technical stuff.
The down side with this tab soon becomes apparent, it’s in the software. Very few decent apps are available, though this will certainly change, and this makes tasks more difficult. The built in email client does not allow me to enter a decent sig, so fails on that count. While I’m able to type this out on the built in Polaris Office, it’s a frustrating process to do anything other than type. You’d expect to be able to select text with the pointer for ease, but it’s fiddly via the screen. I’m yet to find anything to resize the images, though I expect if i find a batch editor that it will be asking a lot of the device to resize multipe images. I also find that it’s not quite as straightforward to share files from my PC, with a lengthy workaround needed that isn’t anywhere near as convenient as it was on the windows.
Finally, the WordPress app is awful. On a phone, it’s brilliant, but just isn’t up to the standard expected on a netbook. You can edit the post and insert images, but it’s certainly not wysiwyg as you can’t see the result. Return to edit the post afterwards and it opens in html, so not of much use for anything more than very simple blog posts. Unfortunately the WordPress admin screen just doesn’t want to let me edit either. I’m not sure if this is some sort of electronic comment on my writing skills. And while I can do almost everything in the admin of this site bar, I’m unable to edit the posts, which is frustrating to say the least.
Outdoors, it’s very effective if you want an electronic map. The screen provides enough map and is about the equivalent of a folder OS map, would be great if you could view the map in exact scale. MMViewer and Viewranger have been tested on here in the field and you can see the shots below. The view on the screen was very impressive, and brings the possibility of practical electronic maps even closer.
One issue with wild camping, you probably have no signal – and you need to use a wifi or tether your tab to your phone and use that’s signal. We were unable to get it to tether via bluetooth to our android phone which is a serious problem making it less useful outside the urban environment. A 3g version will follow, which may be worth waiting for as it’s unclear whether you’ll be able to upgrade via USB as there’s certainly no way of getting into this thing easily. iPlayer does’t work either, and you’re unable to download content which is a serious omission on the bbc’s part. You can view it online though and Dolphin HD browser is the best way of doing this.
All in all, an impressive piece of kit, but the hardware is much more advanced than the software available to run on it. Polaris office is nothing special, not even a spellchecker, and anyone needing to do anything more than simple edit should download a better office app (along with an email client) Bugs in Bluetooth connection are a major problem (reported generally for android online). While there’s still a learning curve on my part, this device should still have better connectivity to my network and the tethering should work. I’d get a cheap android tab for £60 for browsing and keep your money until there’s a few more apps available and the platform’s matured, which it certainly will.