ASUS has taken the high-end Android tablet market by storm. There’s already two Transformer tablets on the market, and another premium device is coming soon. That makes four Transformers in total, all varying in specs and price. So where does the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 fit in? Let’s find out.
1. Internal hardware
The ASUS Transformer Pad TF300 is no slouch when it comes to internal hardware. With very few exceptions, the ASUS Pad 300 features top-of-the-line hardware in every category:
- 1.2GHz (in Balanced Mode) NVIDIA Tegra 3 processor
- 1GB of DDR3 RAM
- 16 or 32 GB of internal storage with microSD expansion
- 10-inch IPS 1280×800 display with 350 nits of brightness
- 8MP F2.2 rear camera
- Front-facing camera
- Bluetooth 3.0
- 22Wh battery
- 7.11/10.35/0.38″ at 1.39lbs.
Of course these are just paper specs, but they just so happen to be some of the best out there. And if you read the performance section of this review, you’ll see that they do translate well into real-world use.
2. Build quality and design
Coming in three different colors, Royal Blue (available initially), Torch Red and Iceberg White (both available in early June), the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 will appeal to a wide range of audiences.
From the front, it doesn’t stray too far from the classic black slate design we’ve all come to know and love. But I don’t see that as a bad thing.
On the back, you’ll find textured ribbing that circles the device, along with an 8MP camera and a lone speaker port.
As for what lies around the rest of the device, there’s a front-facing camera and ambient light sensor on the front, a power button on the top left (when held in landscape), a volume rocker, HDMI port and microSD card slot on the left, headphone jack on the right, and ASUS’ proprietary connector on the bottom.
The build quality of the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 is just alright. There’s very little, if any, give to the device. It feels relatively solid in your hands, and is well weighted. The buttons all feel stable, giving only a gentle click when pushed. The rear camera is flush with the back of the tablet.
Still, at the end of the day, it’s just a big plastic slab. And with polycarbonate-, aluminum- and glass-bodied gadgets coming out left and right, it’s hard not to think of the build quality and design of the Transformer Pad 300 as pretty average.
The display on the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 was somewhat of a sore spot for me. It’s certainly not terrible, but it’s not great.
The Transformer Prime TF201 has an IPS+ display. One of the ways ASUS has cut the cost on the TF300 is by dropping the “+.” Is the extra plus worth $100? Not really. But compared to a Super AMOLED display, or SLCD, the display on the ASUS Pad 300 didn’t look as vibrant as I would have liked. At full brightness, it was usable in all conditions, but again, it could have been better.
It’s not the worst display on the market, but don’t expect to be knocked back when you power the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 on for the first time.
The software is one of the best things about the ASUS Transformer Pad 300. It comes with a very bare bones build of Android 4.0.3, Ice Cream Sandwich, with some useful additions from ASUS.
Along with the NVIDIA Tegra Zone app, you’ll find a couple other apps for media and file management (like ASUS Cloud storage). That’s really about it. They’re hardly a nuisance, and well worth the trade off for getting Android 4 right out of the box.
As for other ASUS customizations, there several custom ASUS widgets, which I actually found quite handy (especially the battery and weather widgets), and a custom menu in the default settings screen.
I can’t stress enough here how much I love that ASUS has left Ice Cream Sandwich alone for the most part. Not applying ten different layers of animations and skins keeps the Transformer Pad 300 feeling snappy, and I imagine it will help ASUS hasten updates to the device in the future.
As you can imagine with a Tegra 3 and 1GB of DDR3, the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 was as fast as you could possibly need a tablet to be. It will run any app you can find in the Google Play Store with ease. There was practically no lag when launching apps, and browsing the web (using both the default browser and Chrome) was smooth as butter.
Gaming was also great on the Transformer Pad 300. The touch screen was adequately responsive and made for an all-around great gaming experience. Games that normally struggle and choke out on my Nexus S were a totally different experience on the tablet. My favorite game to play around with while using the Transformer Pad 300 was Draw Something. Paired with a capacitive stylus, it was was super fun.
To get an idea how this real-world performance plays out in benchmark form, check out the numbers below. On the left you’ll find the numbers for the Transformer Pad 300, and on the right you’ll find the numbers for the Samsung Galaxy Tab 7.7.
CFBench Native – 19247 / 12927
CFBench Java – 5762 / 3126
CFBench Overall – 11156 / 7046
Smartbench 2012 Productivity – 3340 / 3057
Samrtbench 2012 Gaming Index – 2275 / 1625
Antutu total – 9373 / 6416
Antutu Floating Point CPU – 2363 / 1518
Antutu 3D Graphics – 1175 / 1230
GL Benchmark 2.1.4 – Egypt Offscreen – 62 / 48
GL Benchmark 2.1.4 – Pro Offscreen – 81 / 67
Quadrant – 3722 / 3480
Browesermark – 112870 / 78971
Sunspider 0.9.1 (lower is better) – 1784.2 / 1978.9
Moonbat on Chrome (With web worker set to 1) – 1757.6 / NA
Moonbat on Chrome (With web worker set to 4) – 3155.4 / NA
The cameras on the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 are really pretty “meh.” Meaning they aren’t great, but they aren’t terrible.
In good lighting, like outdoors or in a lightbox, the 8MP rear camera was fantastic. Both photos and videos were very impressive. In low lighting conditions, however, the camera struggled to focus at times and failed to pick up details. The same can be said about the front-facing camera.
Because of this, the Transformer Pad 300′s cameras get a general rating of average. They perform much like you’d expect a tablet’s cameras to perform. They get the job done, but they could be much better. Here’s some sample images from both cameras, along with two sample videos in good and bad lighting from the rear camera.
According to ASUS, the battery on the Transformer Pad 300 will last around 8 and a half to 10 hours when put through moderate to heavy use. I found this to be fairly accurate. Checking emails, Facebooking, Twittering, gaming and watching videos gave me a good solid day’s worth of battery life. And that’s without the keyboard dock (more on that in a bit).
Realistically, the battery should last you at least an entire work day if you put it under normal use. Keep the display as low as you can tolerate it, put off watching movies until later, and keep gaming to a minimum, and I’m sure it would last even longer.
Factor in ASUS’ built-in power management profiles and the added battery life you can get out of the keyboard dock, and you have a tablet that can go the distance when needed.
8. Keyboard dock
If you’re considering a Transformer series tablet, chances are you’re considering a keyboard dock. That’s what ASUS is known for, and for good reason, too.
The keyboard dock that works with the Transformer TF300 is totally new. So unfortunately, it won’t work with older Transformers. But that’s about the only bad thing I can say about the dock.
Not only does it provide several extra hours of battery life (a good five or more), it boasts a ton of useful features that will turn you into a productivity powerhouse. If you need to transfer files, you can use the built-in USB port or SD card slot on the side of the keyboard.
For tapping out emails or other long-winded blocks of text, the keyboard works surprisingly well. The keys don’t feel too mushy, and the trackpad is fairly accurate with nice and clicky buttons that offer a satisfying amount of feedback when pressed.
There’s also a slew of custom buttons on the keyboard dock that are specifically made to control the Transformer Pad 300. If you didn’t want to, you’d never really have to use the touchscreen once the Transformer Pad is in its dock.
For an extra $150, the keyboard dock for the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 is well worth it.
Thanks to the Bluetooth 3.0 chip and HDMI port found on the Transformer Pad 300, it doesn’t get a bad rating when it comes to connectivity. But not having access to 3G or 4G networks takes it down a notch.
In this day and age, a tablet like the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 deserves some sort of connectivity options outside of WiFi. For an extra $50, I can imagine most people would love the ability to put in a sim card and use the Transformer Pad 300 on the road. And who knows, maybe some day, a carrier will pick it up and that will happen. But for now, if you want to connect to the Internet with the Transformer Pad 300, you’ll have to rely on WiFi.
The price of the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 is another area where the tablet shines. For $379 dollars, you can buy the Transformer Pad with 16GB of internal storage, no strings attached. For an extra $20, you can double the storage to 32GB. Combined with the $149 keyboard dock, you can have a fully functioning laptop, Android tablet hybrid with a NVIDIA Tegra 3, 1GB of DDR3 and Ice Cream Sandwich for $550.
Compared to something like a MacBook Air or an Ultrabook, that’s almost half the price. Of course there’s going to be some major performance differences, but if you don’t need a top-of-the-line laptop and want something ultra portable to carry around, the price of the Transformer Pad 300 and the keyboard dock combined makes the combo well worth checking out.
ASUS has proved several times over now that there is definitely a market for high-end Android tablets. With the exception of a slate or two out of Samsung, ASUS rules this sector of the market. As such, I had high hopes for the ASUS Transformer Pad TF300.
It’s incredibly similar to its sibling the Transformer Prime, with only a minor downgrade here or there. Fortunately, the price of the Transformer Pad 300 is set to reflect those changes. At $379 for the 16GB model and $400 for the 32GB model, the ASUS Transformer Pad 300 offers a premium tablet experience for less money than extremely similar tablets on the market. It looks like ASUS has another winner on their hands.
You can buy the Royal Blue ASUS Transformer Pad 300 starting this Monday online and in stores by the week of April 30. Look for the red and white Transformer Pad 300s to launch this summer.