Wednesday, August 29, 2012

ASUS Transformer - A Year Later

Last summer I purchased an ASUS Transformer tablet (TF101 to be exact) and posted some initial thoughts about it. Here it is over a year later and I thought I would follow up to let you know how it went.
TF101 with Keyboard Attachment
Summary: best electronic purchase I have ever made.

Usage 

My tablet usage evolved into three categories over the year.

First, I used it primarily to check email for both personal and work accounts as well as reading blogs in my blog reader. As an appliance for emailing, it is brilliant even though it lacks a 3G internet connection. At home and work I have access to wifi so I'm set. When I travel, I get free wifi so I can still stay connected. I pretty much use the tablet like this daily.

Secondly, I use it for gaming in times when I am away from the computer. On the couch I take it off the keyboard and watch TV while playing something like Minecraft Pocket Edition (excellent value purchase BTW), or something heavier like Battles of Wesnoth (another excellent purchase). For easier gaming, there are tons of quick and free games like Angry Birds and the like.

Lastly, I occasionally use it for work purposes like taking notes. This is a rare occurrence as I'm not usually required to take notes in many meetings, but when I do it works like a charm; small so its easy to move and setup but full keyboard for typing. Also very handy having the 5mp camera for taking pictures of whiteboards to email around. Evernote, an app that autosyncs the notes you make between every machine you have the app installed on, including PC and phones, is a life saver here.

Things I could do but never (or rarely) had the need to:
- Watch movies : once while the Twins were in a class a couple weeks I used it to watch X-Men first class while waiting for them. Worked great, I just never need to wait somewhere where a movie would work for me. Its worth noting that the tablet has a mini-HDMI port if you want to feed the screen output to a monitor or TV.

- Blog : I tried blogging on it a couple times but I didn't feel the groove. I like to look things up and browse for images and such when blogging, and a tablet is not the best for that kind of blogging. And I never felt the need for small blog posts from the tablet.
- Twitter : the Twitter apps work great, I'm just too busy reading blogs and playing Minecraft to bother with the twitter feeds.
- Kindle : there is a free Amazon Kindle app and it can work in conjunction with my regular Kindle. However, I do prefer the actual Kindle's e-ink screen for reading.

Quality

This tablet and the keyboard accessory are built with excellent quality. After a year of use and abuse (including some time in the hands of my four year olds) they still have no scratches on the gorilla glass surface, and only a couple spots where the casing is slightly loose (which admittedly showed up on the first week). I've dropped it at least twice, and remove and place the tablet in the keyboard dock daily, and yet the connection between the two still is as solid as it first was, to the point where I can hold the keyboard and turn the whole thing upside down with no fear the tablet will fall out.

Battery life I never have worry about and the keyboard itself feels like new.

OS and Apps

There have been some hiccups along the way with the Android OS. The Honeycomb version was pretty solid but some of the early apps were flakey, especially web browsers. I used Dolphin browser for a long time and recently switched to Chrome after I upgraded to Ice Cream Sandwich version of the OS.

The initial period of ICS OS was painful with mysterious system shutdowns and some performance problems, but a subsequent update addressed all of those and for the past summer the tablet has been more solid than ever, with no crashes or issues. Chrome as the browser has been perfect as well.

For other apps, its kind of hit or miss about the quality but overall the selection for good tablet apps has increased over the year, and I've gotten some gems that I love and other games my wife (Jewel Star) and kids love (Minecraft, Angry Birds Space, Air Attack HD, etc).  Fortunately a lot of devs put out free versions to try games before you have to lay out money for the full version, and games you do pay for often get a lot of free updates. Minecraft Pocket Edition, for example, has grown from a little creative sandbox to include a full survival mode as well and tons of crafting options to be practically a second game for free.

For productivity, Evernote is perfect for taking notes and sharing them across all devices, and there are various MS Office like apps to use but I never have need of them.

Summary

The ASUS Transformer has been one of the best electronic purchases I have ever made and I have gotten my money's worth out of it. When I purchase a tablet in the future, I will definitely be looking for an ASUS Transformer product.

3 comments:

  1. yeah, I've got my Transformer Prime and just love that thing. have you rooted yours yet? Rooting allows so much by way of functionality and then you can load in custom roms.

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  2. My TF101 ended up as an expensive paperweight after I upgraded to ICS. It was just unusable. I have since rooted it and am running a custom ICS ROM that isn't as buggy as the stock ASUS one (Yes, I've even tried the very latest ASUS one)

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  3. I can attest to ASUS' longevity as a brand. Still have a bunch computer components made by them that are still kicking, even after hard abuse by some hard gaming and overclocking. Waiting on the Win8 tablets this month.

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