Windows 8 has been indulging itself in some heavy conscription for the past year since its debut at Taipei Computex. Scouring the computing countryside for potential developers, Microsoft have had little work to do in convincing manufacturers to optimize their new tablets for Windows 8.
Much to the wrath of many PC users, old Bill Gates’ newest carnation of his OS looks a lot like the Xbox 360 Dashboard and the interface for Windows phones. It seems to have been optimised for touch screen utilisation, and thus Tablet PCs.
Toshiba’s upcoming crack at a Windows 8 Tablet is being heralded as the missing link between computers and tablets, mainly because of its detachable keyboard.
But wait a second, what about the Asus Eee Transformer? No doubt some of you have never heard of it. By no means did it slip under the radar, but it’s largely undervalued in terms of its contributions to leaps forward in Tablet technology. Plus, it was and still is fantastic.
In a world utterly dominated by Apple’s iOS monopoly, the Android OS has been a constant breath of fresh Google air. The Asus Eee Transformer shipped with Android 3.0 code name ‘Honeycomb.’ But, as we know, this doesn’t matter.
Google are far more liberal with their software, it is entirely open source and to the hair-tingling delight of programmers the world over, fully available to tinker with. At the risk of sending some of you into a frenzy of unadulterated delight, I will say only two words when mentioning one of the crowning features of the Asus Eee Transformer.
The Asus Eee Transformer Features
Adobe Flash (!)
Let’s get technical for a second and I’ll walk you through the specs of the Asus Eee Transformer. Its 10.1in IPS screen operates at a 1280 x 800 resolution. Beneath this crisp display you will find an NVIDIA Tegra II Processor, with 1Ghz per core and 1GB of RAM. It is worth noting that the equivalent iPad has only half of the RAM of the Asus.
Depending upon the model you buy, you will find a 16GB Hard Drive inside or it’s 32GB older brother. As is becoming standard, the Tablet features two cameras. The forward facing camera is 1.2 mega pixel for video conferencing and portraits, but its rear facing counterpart is 5 mega pixel; giving you the ability to take high quality photo and video.
The buttons, screen and jacks are very uniform and would be familiar to any Tablet PC users. However, the Asus shines when it comes to the way they have textured the back of their device. It is becoming standard fare now to opt for the shiniest and smoothest possible surface to coat your Tablet in, but Asus have thrown that idea to the wind and adopted their own approach. The rear of the Eee Transformer is made of a durable matt plastic covered in dark grey. The point isn’t the aesthetic though; it’s the utilitarian design and texture. The plastic is evenly pockmarked, almost dimpled, like a golf ball. This affords the Tablet an amazing grip and ensures that you won’t let it slip from your fingers, even if they are wet. What’s more, this texture makes it almost impossible to leave grimy fingerprints, a big problem for the glitzier naysayers.
The Asus Eee Transformer’s pièce de résistance is the ‘keyboard.’
Tablet PCs have slotted into the vacant position between Smartphones and Laptops, they are supposed to bridge the gap and eventually negate the use of computers forever. But no self-respecting businessman will be taking minutes on an unresponsive touchscreen keyboard, typing on a physical device rather than an interface is much faster and much more accurate. So Asus have developed an attachment for their already fantastic Tablet; I would be underestimating the attachment if I were to call it simply a keyboard. It is also a dock, a battery pack, a port expander, a screen protector. The list goes on.
First of all, it is a keyboard. The Asus docks in to the top of the device and takes on the appearance on a notebook, folding mechanism and all. It is almost a full size QWERTY carnation with a single button track pad mouse. Just as Macs use the ‘cmd’ and ‘options’ keys and PCs use the ‘Windows’ key, the Transformer has custom keys designed specifically to interact with the Android interface. F1 through F12 are replaced with Wifi buttons, Play, Pause, Skip, Volume, Launch Camera etc. The Android keys replace Windows/Mac keys and become Home, Menu Search whilst the ‘Esc’ becomes a handy ‘Back.’ Once you have the Asus docked into the keyboard device, a cursor appears on screen giving you the option to utilise that track pad alongside your touchscreen.
Now, like I said, this device is not just a keyboard. The Transformer alone can boast 9.5 hours of battery life from a full charge; but just by docking it you can boost that number to a remarkable 16 hours of Tablet hijinks. This can be crucial if you’re amidst your favourite TV show and there’s an unexpected cliff hanger because your juice runs out. As long as you have the dock handy, you can keep on trucking.
The device includes the standard Microphone Headphone socket, but also the rarer Micro SD card slot (aff); giving you a boost to your Tablet’s memory. But even rarer is the mini HDMI Port (aff) meaning you won’t have to navigate the minefields of adapters and compatible cables to hook up your Asus to your TV. Adding the dock increases the functionality even further by offering two USB ports for your peripherals (for even more memory) and now a full size SD card slot (for even more and more memory!) Added to all of these expandable storage ideas, Asus are offering 1 year of Unlimited Web Storage (?!)
So, with everybody jumping on the bandwagon of upcoming Windows 8 Tablets being the magical step and offering their own attempts at keyboard docks, I’d imagine that the price of the Asus Eee Transformer will dive bomb. The facts remain; it is a fantastic Tablet at already great value offering a lot more than its competitors. If that price is going to drop, or even if it isn’t, why wouldn’t you buy one?