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Review: Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101

Melissa J. Perenson | May 9, 2011
The Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 Tablet doesn't stand on its own. But when paired with its matching keyboard dock, the Transformer morphs into a tablet that strikes an admirable balance between productivity and entertainment.

The Transformer comes preloaded with useful software. Some apps are unique to Asus: Asus's MyNet DLNA media sharing app; MyCloud for accessing Asus's Webstorage (2GB free for one year; unlimited storage for $5 monthly) or for connecting remotely to your desktop via the Splashtop-powered MyDesktop; MyLibrary for accessing newspaper, .Epub, and PDF book content. Also on board: Infraware's Polaris Office 3.0 for viewing and editing (and saving as Office 2003 files) Microsoft Office documents, spreadsheets, and presentations; Layar; Fuze Meeting; and a file manager (which, like ones I've seen on other tablets, confusingly interprets the internal memory as a mounted SD Card). To get Adobe Flash 10.2, you'll have to download it on your own.

For the desktop, Asus provides downloadable utilities to complete the Transformer: PC Sync and Asus Webstorage.

The Keyboard Docking Station: How It Works

The Transformer gets its name, of course, from its companion piece, the $149 Mobile Docking Station. And Asus got this critical part of the equation right. The Mobile Docking Station transforms the Transformer into a netbooklike clamshell that weighs just under 3 pounds when combined (the docking station itself weighs 1.41 pounds). The bottom surface is composed of textured brown plastic, matching the design of the Transformer tablet itself. The two parts fit together seamlessly and easily, unlike keyboards that are of separate sizes and designs from the tablet (as is true of Bluetooth keyboards for the iPad 2); and the solution is far more integrated and elegant than even the best designed iPad cases I've seen that include a keyboard. The two pieces are of matching size, and when you attach the tablet to the hinged dock, the dock flips across the front of the tablet, just as if the combination were any other clamshell laptop. I didn't have any trouble aligning the tablet and snapping it into position; a slider lock beneath the tablet conveniently locks it into place.

When assembled as one, the Transformer and the Mobile Docking Station look smart and act clever: The touchscreen is fully operational while plugged in, save for access to the on-screen keyboard; but in addition, some key buttons--including Android back/exit and home buttons, and media playback and volume buttons--are integrated into the keyboard. The island-style keys on the 92 percent of full-size keyboard are distinct and easy to press, and they made accurate touch-typing a breeze. For its part, the silky touchpad supports easy mouse control in the Android environment.

The docking station has two USB 2.0 ports, each tucked behind a flap door, and one SDHC card slot. The ports flaps give the dock a smooth look along the edges, and they felt sturdily made, but they strike me as being an annoying impediment nonetheless.

 

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