Asus Eee Pad Transformer Review
First off the ASUS Eee Pad Transformer is clearly a tablet and is also marketed as this, however the function of MyLibrary on the device gives it an air of a reader as eBooks can be viewed on the device. The ASUS Transformer is the perfect device for users that want a range of multi-media features in addition to the ability to read books.
One of the interesting features on the device which really makes it unique is that the tablet can be mounted to a keyboard designed by ASUS to turn the tablet into what is effectively a notebook computer. The ASUS transformer is the only tablet that they have released on to the market so far and has been pitched against similar devices such as the Motorola Xoom.
The price of the product is fairly high at $399, as a reader, this is almost triple the price of other readers on the market however it has a greater range of functions than most readers, doubling up as a tablet and the ability to turn the device into a computer with the docking station (bought separately) gives the device a much higher value.
The screen on the ASUS Transformer is a 10.1" LED Backlight WXGA with a high resolutions of (1200 x 800) allowing the device to show a range of media in full vibrant color. The screen is made of scratch resistant glass which makes the device a good companion for travel with less fear of the display being damaged in transport. At 10.1 inches the screen is very large which is perfect for displaying books comfortably, particularly PDF files.
With a touch screen user interface the ASUS Transformer is not only easy to navigate but also gives the user to easily input text using an on screen virtual keyboard, working well with the larger screen as it makes the keyboard slightly larger and much easier to handle.
The device comes in two options, 16GB (priced at $399) and the 32GB (priced at $499) this is much lower than other tablets such as the iPad 2 however for reading purposes only this would be far too much in comparison to other readers on the market.
In terms of hardware the ASUS Transformer is fairly advanced featuring a 1GHz dual-core Tegra 2 processor making the tablet run extremely fast and be able to handle a high CPU, therefore the user can be using multiple functions on the device without it slowing or crashing completely.
With Wi-Fi connectivity and a built in web browser the ASUS Transformer is perfect for browsing the web and running on the Android operating system allows the tablet to stream multi-media from the web which is a nice feature and gives it a strong presence within the tablet market. The device also includes a Bluetooth connection allowing it's users to transfer files between other devices with the ability to use Bluetooth.
The ASUS Transformer also has dual cameras allowing the user to take photos and to also record high quality videos if they desire. Not only this but the fact they are dual cameras and the device can connect to a Wi-Fi connection means that the ASUS Transformer is perfect for video chat alongside the Android OS being able to support applications such as Skype.
The full Adobe Flash support allows the reader to support online applications such as games and to also stream videos and media from sites such as 'youtube.com' essential considering the device can be used as both a tablet and a netbook. Not only is there a choice in the amount of memory the device can handle there is also a microSD card slot allowing for memory expansion meaning the device will never be short of memory.
As the device supports media files there is naturally a 3.5mm headphone jack to allow the user to personally listen to the media they may be trying to view, not only this but there is the option to play audio out loud with a built in speaker on each side of the device.
The ASUS Transformer also features a range of functions rarely seen in devices which some people may even class as gimmicks, these include items such as a built-in gyroscope, and e-compass, a barometer and an accelerometer. The accelerometer is a popular feature and automatically switches the display from landscape to portrait depending on the orientation of the tablet. Other features such as the Barometer, which measures the weather in terms of atmosphere and pressure may be useful to some users yet to majority are gimmicks.
With the user interface being mainly touch screen there are only two buttons on the device. The first is the power button which quite simply turns the device on or off and the second is a volume switch allowing the user to control the volume of the audio playback.
The battery life on the product is around 8-10 hours on a single charge which is fairly strong due to the nature of the product as most of the features require constant power which will drain the battery very quickly. There are a few little tricks to save battery which include disabling Wi-Fi if it is not in use and also dimming the brightness of the screen.
The reason the ASUS Transformer has been classed as a 'reader' in some cases is due to its built-in reading app which ASUS have called MyLibrary. The app on a whole is decent and gives the user a range of features that would usually be seen on an e-reading device. The supported formats on the app are EPUB, TXT and PDF, the app also supports Adobe DRM files. This means that a number of books can be viewed that have been purchased from various eBook stores alongside the ability to buy books from the vibe store which has a good range of titles.
The ASUS Transformer supports EPUB files strongly using the MyLibrary app and offers a range of common features such as text-to-speech, animated page turns, a translator which can cater to 8 different languages, bookmarking tools, 2 pages shown in landscape orientation, notes and the ability to highlight sections of text. The benefit of the functions on the tablet work well together for example text can be copied out of the book and searched on the internet, say for an analysis.
Like many other readers the MyLibrary app allows the user to change the size of the font with the option of 7 different font sizes to choose from however there is no choice of typeface or font preference. As the device is not specifically reading some of the more fine-tuned features found on e-readers such as margin and line height adjustments have been left out of the app, however there is always the possibility of new features being introduced with software updates.
The actual MyLibrary app doesn't have very good support for PDF's as only the options fit to width or height and zooming in or out are available which would be enough however the ASUS Transformer doesn't focus on the PDF files very well and therefore can seem blurry to the user. As the device is a tablet there are other options to view the PDF files.
One of these is the Polaris Office software that is already installed with the ASUS Transformer allowing the user to bookmark PDF's and also searches them for keywords. There are also standard features of the programme such as sending the PDF to other people, zooming in and out (with a lot more focus than is seen on the MyLibrary app) and also a pinch zoom. There is the ability to edit PDF's in the Polaris Office software, although this has had some negative feedback. If this isn't advanced enough for the user's needs however there are a range of apps that can be purchased which support the PDF's better and have a wide variety of features.
There is also an app known as PressReader which supports files such as newspapers and magazines, this app can also subscribe to regular newspaper or magazines and receive them automatically as would be done on an e-reader.
The great benefit of the ASUS Transformer is that users can get a great tablet and also have the use of a reader on the tablet. This justifies the price of the ASUS Transformer as it is in effect three devices in one (this is including the use as a netbook with the docking station) and therefore the device is one of the best on the market.
Books and Apps for the Device
In terms of books, they can be downloaded from a range of places due to the ASUS Transformer having the ability to download and run apps. There is a range of e-reader manufacturers who offer platforms for devices such as this, for example the Kobo offers a platform for Android devices meaning that users can easily download this app and use books from their store. Other reading sites offer this service too, Nook being one of them who have over 2 million titles in their online store.
Apps are one of the biggest benefits of having a tablet such as the ASUS Transformer as it allows the tablet to host a range of features that would not normally be available. As the Transformer runs on the Android operating system the Android market is the best place to download apps, there are many online, with a majority being free or having 'light' versions which can be downloaded to trial the app before buying the full version.
The main accessory which can be bought for the ASUS Transformer is the docking station that has been discussed throughout the article. The docking station is a full QWERTY keyboard (as is found on a laptop) and simply connects to the tablet in order to transform the device into a mini laptop which is originally where the name Transformer came from.
The docking station is fairly expensive priced at $149 however add this to the price of the device and it equals the same sought of cost that somebody would pay for a netbook. Although some people may argue why not just buy a netbook, the ASUS Transformer can be transported solely as a tablet and then connected to be a laptop at home. Not only this but some features on the tablet such as a barometer would not be available on a laptop.
The docking station not only has a QWERTY keyboard, but also features a touchpad to allow the user to easily navigate around the tablet alongside an audio jack, USB ports and a built in SD card slot to expand the memory of the device even further. With a battery built in the docking station also helps to increase battery life to about 16 hours, around 7-8 hours longer than the device holds by itself.
Other accessories include cases to protect and personalise the device and also chargers so that the tablet can be charged from a mains outlet. These accessories can be found on a range of online marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon.