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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 dock handled the various SD Cards and flash drives I plugged in, and the USB port can accommodate input devices such as an external mouse. However, Android 3.01 seemed to get confused easily when I repeatedly attached and detached USB drives--especially if I unplugged the drive without properly unmounting the media first.

When I plugged in a USB drive, the Android OS took a few moments to mount the media. Upon recognizing the item, the OS displayed a USB drive icon in the status bar tray at the right. You tap the icon to pop up a tab confirming that external storage has been recognized. At the tab's right are two, more subtle, features: a folder icon that takes you directly to the USB drive's contents via the included file manager; and an obtusely designed icon for unmounting the drive without having to dig into the Settings/Storage menu.

That the folder icon jumps you directly into the file manager is a good thing; otherwise, you have to hunt around in the file manager for the USB drive (which is buried under the Removable directory within the root directory). Finding the USB drives manually was an inefficient experience, given Android's plethora of files and folders. And yet, as rough as that part of the presentation was, the Transformer deserves props for allowing users to access and manipulate files on the tablet.

Here's a real-world productivity example. I could pop in a USB flash drive, open a Word .docx in the Polaris Office 3.0 software, edit the document, and then save it with a new name directly to the directory of my choice on the flash drive or in the tablet. Having resaved the document to the tablet, I opened the Gmail app and attached the newly edited file to an outbound e-mail message. The operation was nifty, convenient, and not doable in the same way with any other tablet shipping today.

A few times when I pulled the tablet out of its nest, it popped up one of Android's infamous "Force Close" errors. On other occasions, the mouse pointer stopped working and I had to unplug and reattach the tablet to get it to resume. And now and then I had to try multiple times to succeed in using the mouse pointer to select something. Another oddity: Using page up and down on a Web page sometimes caused it to navigate among HTML fields, instead of scrolling the whole page as I expected.

Still, these strike me as software glitches that Asus could fix in future firmware updates. For a first salvo, the experience was smoother than I expected, and the innovative design is a huge step beyond other dock setups I've seen. I loved being able to tap away fast e-mail messages, navigate the tablet while it stood upright, and even alternate between keyboard, touchscreen, and touchpad navigation.

 

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