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After weeks of rumors, the Asus has finally revealed the full specifications of the Asus Transformer Prime, which should be the most powerful tablet in the world when it launches next month. When you’ll go over the specs, you may be surprised (or at least impressed) by the amount of firepower that ASUS is bringing into the Asus Transformer Prime and ultimately you will probably like the price, at least – I do. So, what’s so cool about the Asus Transformer Prime?

Update: read our complete review of the Transformer Prime

To entice you to read the rest of this post, I’ll sum it up: Tegra 3 quad-core chip, 1280×800 Super IPS+ display, Excellent Transformable design. I don’t want to torture you any further, so here are the complete specifications, courtesy of ASUS. It can’t get more official than this:

Asus EEE Pad Transformer Prime Specifications

Display: 10.1″ Super IPS+, 1280×800, 10 touch points, Gorilla Glass
Android 3.2, upgradable to Android 4.0 (Ice Cream Sandwhich)
NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core processor (SoC)
1GB of LP DDR2 memory
32GB to 64GB of storage + Asus WebStorage
WIFI B/G/N, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR
8MP f2.4 camera in the back, 1.2MP front camera
3.5mm audio in+out connector, micro-HMDI, microsD reader
GPS, Gyroscope, Compass, G-sensor
25WH Li-Polymer battery (rated 12hrs by ASUS, 18 hours with the optional dock which includes a 22Wh battery)
263×180.8×8.3mm, 586g

Optional keyboard/dock
40-pin connector
multi-touch trackpad
22Wh battery
SD Card reader
USB 2.0 port (1)

Design

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In terms of design, the Asus Transformer Prime looks particularly good – I’m actually surprised that ASUS can afford building something like this and sell competitively. The tablet is 8.3mm thin and weighs 586g, which is a bit heavier than the Tab 10.1, but lighter than the iPad 2.

It comes in two colors: Amethyst Gray and Champagne Gold, two colors that are usually associated with high-end products – but we’ll have to see how they look in the real world. Asus mentioned that they use metal (and not plastic), but have still managed to keep the weight under control. Impressive.

As you can see above, the tablet can be securely connected (with a closing latch) to the optional keyboard dock. Once in that mode, it opens and closes like a small laptop. The overall weight is close to 1Kg in that configuration.

Display

asus transformer prime 08ASUS is using a nice 1280×800 display based on Super IPS+ technology. IPS is the technology used in iPads and iPhones(4+) displays. Besides being able to reach very pixel density, IPS is also known for having a remarkable 178 degrees view angle (useful if several people are looking at the tablet) and excellent color reproduction. This latter quality is particularly sought-after by photography enthusiast and even workstation professionals.

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ASUS says that the IPS+ allows this display to be 1.5X brighter than a normal IPS display (the last time I checked, the iPad IPS would be a “normal” one), which means that it should be easier to read when outdoors. How much better remains to be determined, but it should help nicely. The display can also switch to normal IPS mode, so there’s no downside.

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The screen responsiveness has been increased by more than 100%, and this means that the screen reacts in 50ms, instead of 110+ms, according to ASUS’ specifications. This issue has plagued Android devices from day 1, so I’m hoping that the next-gen Android tablets can get as fast as Windows Phone 7. In the meantime, we can’t wait to see how smooth this is in the real world.

To alleviate fingerprint traces, ASUS has coated the display and the chassis with a Hydro-oleophobic compound. You may not have noticed it, but a lot of progress have been made over the past couple of years on that front.

Camera

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One of the few let downs of the iPad 2 is the low-quality camera that has been integrated in the back. What a disappointment. I did rant about it in my review and to this day, this is a bitter topic. ASUS has learned a lesson from that and has decided to integrate a 8 Megapixel camera with an aperture of f2.4, which is high-end for today’s mobile cameras. If you don’t know what “aperture” means, it’s basically the size of the hole by which the light comes into the camera. It can be confusing, but the lower the number and the bigger the hole. For example, a f1.4 lens lets twice as much light come in than a f2.0 lens.

But that’s not it, ASUS is also using a back-illuminated sensor (BIS), which captures more light than conventional sensors. The combination of the large aperture lens and the BIS sensor should do wonders, but there’s a 3rd and most important element that remains unknown: software. I may not sound like it, but software processing of the sensor data is where cameras go from good to great. We can only hope that ASUS gets it right.

Tegra 3 quad-core Processor

We will dive deeper into the Tegra 3 chip in a parallel post, but suffice to say that the expectations are high for this new member of the Tegra family. NVIDIA says that it has 5X the raw horsepower of Tegra 2, the chip that dominated benchmarks in the first half of the year. 5X combines the graphics boost and the processing boost, coming from nothing less than four (4) cores, paired with a 5th “companion” core.

The principle goes like this: the companion core is there to run the device when it is in sleep mode, or when it is awake and not very busy (you’re reading an email, or watching a movie that the video-decoder handles). When there is a need for more performance (executing Javascript, Flash, running games…), the companion core hands over its work to the four other cores, and goes to sleep. When things settle down again, the companion core wakes up and the others go to sleep.

The difference between the companion cores and the quad-core group is that the companion one is optimized for ultra-low power and low frequency (500Mhz max), while the others are optimized for high-performance (up to 1.4Ghz). The combination of both groups allow the tablet to use its power in the most efficient way possible. In fact, NVIDIA says that Tegra 3 consumes less energy than Tegra 2 overall.

A few developers like Madfinger have already prepared version of their games optimized for Tegra 3, and you can be sure that more will come.

Sound

Sound is one of the most difficult things to judge. We’ll have to try and compare it for ourselves, but ASUS claims that its large speakers have been optimized for “crystal clear sound”, especially for voices. this probably means that the speakers can reproduce a wide sound range, and things can get tough when using small speakers, especially for acute sounds. We will see how ASUS’ the 17x12mm speakers perform.

Battery Life

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We just talked about power consumption, so it would be fair to switch to the battery life topic. ASUS says that its tablet can run for about 12hrs, and if you use the optional keyboard dock, that would extend to 18hrs. I’ll assume that this is the best case scenario, although we have yet to define what that is.

We will have to confirm these numbers with our own test, but it is clear that ASUS wants users not to worry about the battery life, and this is one of the main reasons why I personally use a tablet – I just don’t think about that stuff when I do (to a point).

Software

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Overtime, ASUS has built up a software capability, and they intend to differentiate their product with a mix of their own software, supplemented by 3rd party apps. The tablet should ship with Asus Launcher, Vibe Music, ASUS WebStorage, MyLibrary, MyNet, MyCloud, File Manager, ASUS Sync, SuperNote, App Locker, App Backup, Tegra Zone (NVIDIA), and Polaris office.

Asus is going to push the SuperNote app because it’s something that Android doesn’t do very well out of the vox. SuperNote lets you type and hand-write, but it can treat the handwriting like notes to the computer text: as if you were taking notes on a printed piece of paper. It is also possible to draw on top of all that. The application seems neat, and we’re looking forward to testing it.

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On the Operating system front, the tablet will ship with Honeycomb (3.x), but it will eventually update to Ice Cream Sandwich. ASUS doesn’t want to comment now, but this is baked in the cake. The question is “when”, and we will have an answer in December.

Pricing (aggressive!)

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Asus is aggressive in terms of pricing: the 32GB Asus Transformer Prime will sell for $499, which is the price of the Galaxy Tab 10.1 (16GB) or the iPad 2 (16GB). This could stall the Samsung sales right there (if not now), and it’s not clear what impact it will have on the iPad. But clearly, knowing this I’m afraid that many people who are shopping for a tablet now will probably defer their purchase until the Asus Transformer Prime comes out. Think of it: 5X the processing power and 2X the storage than a Galaxy Tab 10.1 – for the same price.

As for the optional keyboard/doc, it will be priced at $149, which is not pocket change, but if you look at the $199 Motorola Lapdock, or the $70 to $100 that a Bluetooth keyboard for iPad can cost, it’s actually not bad at all – the Asus keyboard has a battery that can power the Transformer Prime for an additional 6 hours.

If you wonder, ASUS will continue selling the original EEE Pad Transformer and reduce its price by $100 to $399 (16GB) and $449 (32GB), but frankly, for $100, I would just jump to the Transformer Prime…

Conclusion

ASUS is about to release an Android tablet that looks pretty amazing, at least on paper. Looking at the specs and the pricing, it would be foolish to get a $499 10.1 tablet before this comes out, so there’s a chance that ASUS has just pulled the rug from under just about every tablet makers.

One thing though: where’s 3G / 4G LTE?

Filed in Featured >Tablets . Tags: Android, Asus, eee, honeycomb, Tablet, transformer and Transformer Prime.
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