ASUS Transformer Prime Hands-on and Unboxing

Chris Burns - Dec 1, 2011, 12:01am CST
ASUS Transformer Prime Hands-on and Unboxing

The newest Android tablet by the name of ASUS Transformer Prime is also the first place on earth you’ll be able to work with the NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core mobile processor, and today we’re going to have a peek at it’s power for the very first time. We’ve got both the tablet itself and the keyboard dock that when connected allows this lovely slate a second life as a laptop, and what we’re going to do here is give you our first impressions and a full hands-on treatment with the hardware. We’ll also have a full review up for you within the next few days, so stay tuned for that too – meanwhile, enjoy!


This tablet is made of Gorilla Glass, radial-spun aluminum, and a whole bunch of varied innards that we’ll never come in contact with. The only moving parts on the tablet are the removable covers for each of the ports, the volume bar, and the power/lock button. Unlike the original Transformer whose volume and power buttons have been prone to get a bit loose after extended usage, these are set nicely in place like a high quality product’s buttons should.

Transformer on the left, Transformer Prime on the right

The tablet is cold to the touch most of the time because of its entirely aluminum back, and the glass along the front has a nearly up to the edge coverage, making the whole tablet seem rather refined in its industrial design. The back camera boasts an impressive 8-megapixel rating and has a single LED flash, an upgrade on both accounts when you compare this device to most of the rest of the tablet selection out on the market today, including the first generation Transformer.

We won’t go too deep into the products of the camera today, but know this: it’s a vast improvement over most tablet-type camera toters your humble narrator has seen thus far. The camera interface remains mostly the same as your average Honeycomb shooter, as does most of the user interface, but ASUS has done an excellent job modifying the few bits that it has, including first of all the pop-up menu in the lower right-hand corner, it now including the all-important Super IPS button which will blast forth the brightness up to 600nits for outdoor reading.

There’s also to three modes in which you can work: power saving, balanced, and high-performance (aka normal). In our initial battery test, we stayed in Normal mode for the majority of it, and with it we’re seeing something like 10+ hours with a large bit of that being screen off time. This is by no means the scale to judge the battery life by as it wasn’t done under any kind of controlled set of rules, but it is a very basic peek at what we’re likely dealing with here. Expect a vast improvement when we flip the power saving mode on.

Initial Benchmarks

Check out our first round of benchmarks here, and note that each of the following is on the tablet without the keyboard dock attached — also head to the gallery below to see the improvement this tablet has made over the original transformer if you wish.

We’ll also be doing extended tests showing the original Transformer verses the new Prime in a later post, just so you know, as well as any other comparisons to mobile devices you’d like us to do.

Transformer Prime vs. Macbook Air

Another possibility is us comparing this tablet docked in its keyboard dock compared to the MacBook Air. One thing I’ll say right now, something I’m sure some of you out there will have a tiny heart attack reading, is that this device with its keyboard dock may well be a good alternate for those of you thinking the MacBook Air is too costly for your tastes. The Transformer Prime attached to its keyboard is both thin and light, and the whole thing is made of a nice thin but tough aluminum, so what does that sound like to you? Also the keyboard itself is really quite good, comparable to full-blown laptop keyboards from that same fruit-flavored company.


In our first two hands-on videos you’re going to see the device compared to the original Tranformer and some of the unique bits in the software on the Prime, followed by a nice close-up look at the keyboard dock. First up have a peek at the intro and mind the whale at the end, I think you’ll find the bubbles to be more than enough to entice you to go under the sea to track your batteries, if you know what i mean:

Then it’s time to head down deeper into the settings on this tablet / transforming tablet computer, noting especially how NVIDIA wasn’t about to let us take a peek at their Tegra 3 processor embedded inside without testing out a plethora of new games. The games will be shown in future hands-on videos, mind you, so let us know which ones you want to see first and I’ll be sure to fire them up.

Release Details

Then note this: the ASUS Transformer Prime, otherwise known as the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer Prime, will be released $499 for the 32GB TF201 model, $599 for the 64GB model, and $149 for the new docking station in the USA. The tablet will be available in Amethyst Gray (like ours) and Champagne Gold, and per Asus: “We expect availability to start the week of 12/19 based on the pre-orders and inbound shipment schedules.” Sound like a good deal to you?

Wrap-up and Questions

At this time I’d like to ask you, the prospective user to ask any and all questions you may have of this tablet so that we can answer them in the upcoming hands-on and review posts. Anything at all, ask away, and don’t forget to mind the videos as well as the photos incase you answer appears there in some form or another. Thanks in advance, and expect the full review in just a few days right here on SlashGear in the main news feed!

Must Read Bits & Bytes

62 Responses to ASUS Transformer Prime Hands-on and Unboxing

    • The charging cable is longer than the original from what I read on another site. The tablet itself can be charge from the wall or by USB, but the keyboard dock can only be charged using the wall jack. 

  1. First off… the release date isn’t the 8th as it was initially reported? That’s going to be a disappointment!

    Here are some things I’d like to see/know:
    1)Super IPS mode in sunlight: does it actually add to readibility?
    2)How much of a fingerprint magnet are the screen and the back?
    3)Can you try on the Supernote app and see how responsive it is to a stylus?
    4)What is the charging time?
    5)Will apps that require a higher amount of processing directly switch from power saver to normal mode?

    • Other sites are reporting that online release is the 12th but in-store sales start the 19th. I pre-ordered as well so I hope that is true. Amazon still tells me Jan 6th though :-(

      • my amazon order doesn’t even have a date, all it says is after 12/25.  i paid 2nd day shipping, but amazon could be 2 weeks behind (like it did with original transformer). i might need to start looking else where

  2. Hello,  Good to hear from you.  May I get update the screen color and new layout, compared to Samsung’s?  Samsung’s presentation is much better than original transformer.

    Also, do you know whether the email (not gmail) get update to have search feature? original transformer does not have the search feature.

    For camera, the original is not good a at.  the picture does not clear.  it does not focus until you push the button.  Samsung’s has focus cursor on the screen to allow user to select the focus area and get much clear picture.  can you please post the comparision of the picture to samsung”?


  3. When you close the device, is there anything protecting the gorilla glass and the keyboard from touching each other? I worry about pressure rubbing…

    • You shoudln’t worry for two reasons :
      – the previous version, the TF101 din’t have that issue ;
      – the Gorilla Glass is meant to me resistant. So do not worry ^^

      Finally, i don’t think there is any contact, when closed, between the screen and the keyboard.

      However, if very close and dirty, the keyboard may leave some smudge.
      But the Gorilla Glass is said to be “oil and smudge and scratch resistant”. So everything is fine ?

      Source :

      • Not so fast.
        My wife has the Bionic which in turn has gorilla glass, and she treats it the same way that she treated her original iPhone, and the Bionic already has scratches on it, not many, but more than the iPhone.
        I too thought that Gorilla Glass was special, but I am not so sure anymore. It may be more resistant to actually breaking, but I would be careful with the screen nevertheless.

    • If anything like the Transformer TF101 (which I have), it has tiny rubber inserts on the edges of the keyboard (1 each side) to avoid touching.

  4. Hello…

    I do a lot work on MS Excel, Powerpoint, and Word.  How good is the software at reading and allowing editing on those MS documents if they were created on a PC based platform and then transferred over to the Asus TF Prime?  Similarly, how well do PCs read those same documents if they were created on the Prime?  Thanks, Chris!!

    • A company is working on that; “LiveOffice”. It’s still beta, but should be ready soon.

      Meanwhile, ASUS brings out with the tablet some “office” apps like note. Don^t know much about it.

      Hope you’ll find this useful. ;-)

    • I have the Transformer (v1), and it has Polaris Office, that allows you to interact with Office files, as far as I know, the Prime also has it installed.

    • The first Transformer can open Word docs, Powerpoint, Excel etc.  The documents that are created or edited in Polaris open fine in Word, Excel, etc.

    • Thanks, I’m really interested in getting this or one of the ultrabooks but really wanting to wait for the ultrabooks to mature so this may be a really good alternative for now.  

    • Pretty much the same.

      And it uses the same technology: IPS, Although, it has a “+” for better brightness.

  5. SO how exactly is this comparable to an Mac book air? Can you run photoshoop on it? Lightroom? No? Well then its not.

    • Dude, it’s a tablet … not a notebook !!!!

      It’s the same way with the iPad and MackBook Air comparison …

    • To be fair I’m sure once Windows 8 on arm is released the hacker community will find a way to run Photoshop on this tablet. Actually really looking forward to a possible Windows 8/Android dual boot on a tablet with an optional keyboard

      • The hacker community will not, not unless Adobe decides to develop and compile an ARM based version of Photoshop. You can’t “hack” an x86 application to run on the ARM platform.

  6. Please show pictures of the back with normal sunlight. I’ve seen this color with a hint of purple and more shine to it. Did they adjust the color in the retail version? Seems a bit darker and less glossy. Which is great actually.

  7. id love to see some web browsing demo, how the quadcore and flash compares to dual core and flash.. im excited about this tablet, no more carrying my macbook pro with extension cords to class!

    • web browsing compared to dual core should be blistering fast. there should be no lag and scrolling should be smooth as butter. good luck and this seems to be the best android tablet on the market

  8. Transformer Prime vs. Macbook Air seriously?  Why does this website have to compare everything to something apple.  Nobody cares about apple.

    • I agree although I would like to see it compared to netbooks in general. I love the idea of this tab with its solid keyboard dock and would like to replace my dying laptop with it. It’s nice to hear the trackpad works well but what about the “office” apps for it? Also, is it a full size keyboard? 

      • No its not a full size keyboard. I am typing on my Asus Eee PC 1018P now, which is extremely close to the exact size of the prime. This keyboard has taken some getting used to, and it looks exactly like the prime’s in size and layout. Heck, this netbook is even brushed aluminum too. I’ve read about the office apps a lot and there are a couple that seem to get better reviews than Asus’ polaris office, but should work for lite document use. This won’t be able to replace a windows laptop, if you use your laptop in depth. I’m going to try to replace this netbook with it though. Hope this helped.

        • definitely. I really only care about the keys. The numbers can be wherever as long as the keys are full sized. Anyway you could find how much smaller the keyboard is than a normal full size keyboard?

      • If it’s like the 1st gen Transformer, it’s not a full size keyboard.  Full querty, but numbers are along the top.

  9. How does the keyboard dock compare to the Bluetooth keyboards available for the iPad?
    I have been debating between getting the Prime or the iPad 2.
    Initially I liked the idea of the keyboard with the Prime, but then I found out that keyboards are available for the iPad as well.
    The iPad is $100 more expensive for the same memory size, but the Prime keyboard is $150 and the BT keyboards for the iPad start as low as $35, with really nice ones around $75.  So basically, the end price is going to be same for either choice.

    I’d really like to hear any general comparisons between the two tablets as well.
    FYI, I currently have an HTC Thunderbolt phone, so I am familiar with Android and I like it.  But iOS is supposed to be easy to use too, so it really comes down to features and performance for me.

    Side Note:
    I do think they are making a mistake releasing it on 12/19.  I think they are going to miss a bunch of potential sales.  Most people won’t wait that late to buy Christmas gifts.  I really thought they should have pushed for a Black Friday launch, but I thought they should be able to at least save a little Christmas revenue by getting it out on the 8th.  Waiting until the 19th is sure to have a negative impact on initial sales, it just comes down to how big that impact is.

    • One thing you miss when you draw the comparison between the Primes keyboard and the iPad BT keyboards is the battery extension you get with the prime. Though I have to say, 150 for a keyboard and a battery is the same kind of stupid exccessively overpricing accessories that we usually only see from Apple.

      Dont talk release schedules; Europe isn’t even getting the TP in 2011 at all! Just cancelled my preorder… Probably, given previous experiences with Nvidia, they have trouble yielding sufficient numbers of T3 thus delaying all their customers…

      I cant think of any company stupid enough to WANT to miss the holiday sales; Unfortunately it almost seems like the old story continues; The second-gen Android tabs will hit the market bit by bit until around march, by when Apple will disgrace them all again with the iPad3…

    • As an owner of the first generation Transformer, I can attest that there are several advantages to the way ASUS has built the dockable keyboard, compared to the attachment Bluetooth keyboards you get with iPad 2, Xoom, Playbook, Galaxy Tab 10.1 etc…

      -internal battery.  I can’t tell you how useful this is.  I tend to use my tablet as a netbook much of the time, and for the first half of the week, because it functions off the keyboard battery, my tablet stays at 100% charge.  Most of the time, my tablet gets charged once a week, and that gets me through about 6 days of use, with about 3 hours/day.  The Transformer Prime’s battery life is supposed to be even better.  The important point is that any time the two are docked, the keyboard is recharging the tablet… any time you’ve had them docked together for an hour or two, your tablet is charged.

      -full integration.  The lock mechanism is solid.  Docked, the two pieces are pretty much identical to having a full laptop/netbook.  This is really useful for transport.  I don’t have to worry about screen protectors etc. as I just dock it, fold it up, and the keyboard protects the screen.  Then, when it’s time to use the tablet, I just disconnect the keyboard and go ahead and use the tablet.

      -docks+ports.  2 USB ports plus an SD card slot.  Sometimes if I know I’ll be in meetings, I actually bring my wireless mouse, plug the receiver into the USB port on the keyboard, and it functions perfectly.  It’s recognized every mouse I’ve tried.  The keyboard also gives you access to portable HDDs for mass storage, as well as the ability to connect directly to a digital camera such as an SLR.  When I’m on site at a client’s location, I can connect my SLR, pull the photos off in seconds, and then blast them back out by e-mail, upload them to a server, etc. etc.

      -Android shortcut keys…the keyboard has buttons for turning off the mouse and triggering a bunch of different Android functions.

      The bluetooth docks I’ve seen for most other tablets don’t give those abilities.

      The Transformer Prime looks even better than the original…more solidly built, lighter, prettier, longer lasting, lighter…..I kind of regret having the first gen product now :)

      I think my only reservation is that I haven’t found as many good games and such as I have on my iPhone…..but hopefully that will change.  But then, I use my tablet mainly for work.

  10. so if you do not get the keyboard, does it come with rubber plugs for those big open notches?

  11. I really need to know if it will be possible to plug in a microSD card from my camera and directly access it and upload photos from it to, say, an FTP site or cloud storage of some kind without first having to copy all of the contents to the device itself. If you can verify this for me it would really help me out. This is the main reason for my Transformer Prime pre-order over an iPad or other tablet – iPad cannot do this, it requires you to first copy the files over and given that they don’t allow additional storage obviously you can run out of space quickly. So please answer this one if possible. Thanks!

    • if you can do it thru an android phone that you should have, then you can do the same in transformer prime.
      the microSD card you put into an android device will behave the same as the built-in storage.  from my experience, using SD card in android is just like using SD card in Windows.

      • I remember doing this with my Android G-1 and a Samsung NV 20 via micro sd  to sd adapter, editing photos  (Photoshop mobile) on the phone and emailing them via gmail. That was almost 4 years ago. I don’t know whether the Asus has a powered USB port but they can also be rigged up via portable Duracell chargers that have USB ports to power card readers ,some designed     for mico sd and sd cards(Dynex) that are the size of a thumb drives. Samsung now also makes cameras that take micro sd cards only. Another great thing about micro sd cards is to store and play movies from them. Micro sd cards now come  all the way up to  32GB class 10. I regard  any tablet that doesn’t take micro sd or some form of functioning expandable memory as incapacitated

  12. i have apps in my first gen transformer which i would like to keep using in the prime. will these be available for download into the my prime when i go to the android market account? or will i have to buy these apps again?   

    • when you sign in to your email and market account they will show up and you can download them again for free. Or you can download an app called titanium backup and do a full backup of your transformer then when you get the prime download that app sign in and you can restore all or just the apps you want. Hope i answered your question.

  13. Please report some more about the audio. I thought they had fixed that issue and Engadget seemed to have no problem with the sound.

    Please also do a comparative browser load, surfing and scrolling test next to an iPad on a few websites and post the results. An actual video like many do on YTube would be better than just a text version of the results.

    The battery dock was supposed to have its own battery level indicator. Please assess/review.
    Also check the sleep mode WITH the battery docked and see if that affects battery drain like the bug with the first transfomer.

  14. Although some people are miffed at the comparison I do feel like this tablet docking station combo is a suitable mac book airesque substitute. Of course this equally pertains to ultrabooks as well.

    Any why not? this thickness, weight and build quality are comparable.  What do you use ultra portables netbooks/ultrabooks for anyway? Editing documents, polaris suite; webbrowsing? check. downloading porn and boot legged comics? check. It also can read mass storage devices and it has full usb ports as well as video out putting options.

    the most important difference for me is the purported 18 hours of battery life – hey to get three hours I go to power saving mode and dim the screen nearly to zero on my lap top, the 40% discount compared to ultra/airbooks and the ability to double as a tablet so I can watch youtube on my bed.

  15. Looks nice but I wonder if I can play some MMORPG for PC such as Conquer Online, Eudemon Online, Dragon Oath and some games from Perfect World  and the likes. 

  16. Which is more durable, the upcoming prime or its predecessor? 

     With thinness comes fragility, and as a constant traveler (the backpack on a train with live chickens kind, not the briefcase in an airplane where my laptop will be safe kind) I’m wondering whether or not I might be better off just getting the plain transformer.  Is the aluminum/glass casing strong enough to withstand accidental drops and the possible stresses of being in a backpack next to a pair of hiking boots?

  17. Probably a general tablet question but what’s roughly the cost and procedure for replacing batteries when they no longer charge? Is the keyboard battery user replaceable?

  18. How do the speakers compare to the last one?  Same with wifi.  What is the real world surfing/video battery life?  How top heavy is the device while in use?  Do you need to avoid using the touchscreen?  How does the action on the keys compare to the older model?  How badly does the back pick up finger prints?  Does if have 5 ghz wifi?  What is the overall performance; do you notice a performance boost with Teg 3?  Just 1 usb port on the dock?  Charge cable length?   How does it feel in the hand?

      Thank you for any and all questions answered.

  19. How do the speakers compare to the last one?  Same with wifi.  What is the real world surfing/video battery life?  How top heavy is the device while in use?  Do you need to avoid using the touchscreen?  How does the action on the keys compare to the older model?  How badly does the back pick up finger prints?  Does if have 5 ghz wifi?  What is the overall performance; do you notice a performance boost with Teg 3?  Just 1 usb port on the dock?  Charge cable length?   How does it feel in the hand?

      Thank you for any and all questions answered.

  20. How do the speakers compare to the last one?  Same with wifi.  What is the real world surfing/video battery life?  How top heavy is the device while in use?  Do you need to avoid using the touchscreen?  How does the action on the keys compare to the older model?  How badly does the back pick up finger prints?  Does if have 5 ghz wifi?  What is the overall performance; do you notice a performance boost with Teg 3?  Just 1 usb port on the dock?  Charge cable length?   How does it feel in the hand?

      Thank you for any and all questions answered.

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