Saturday, April 23, 2011

Asus throws down the gauntlet

By launching Asus Eee Pad Transformer at US$399, Asus "has put other companies on notice. Anyone releasing a tablet above $400 will now really have to justify the premium" --- Laptop Magazine.

The Transformer is part tablet, part netbook. Lets look at the tablet part first.  Every tablet today will be compared as against the Apple iPad 2. 

At US$399 the Transformer is priced US$100 lower than the iPad 2. For that price you get a 10.1-inch tablet which weighs in at 1.4 pounds, making almost as light as the 1.33 pound Apple iPad 2. At 0.5 inches tick, the Transformer is nowhere as thin as the iPad 2.

With a 1280 x 800 IPS display, 1GHz Nvidia Tegra 2, 1GB of RAM and 16GB of storage it matches up well to the hardware found in the iPad 2. The iPad 2 should provide more graphics punch, while the Transformer would have more grunt for serious multitasking and number crunching.   

The Transformer can be plug directly into portable USB hard drives and has a SD Card reader. This means that it can replace your personal computer. The Apple iPad is really an accessory to another computer relying on cloud storage or being connected to another computer in order to expand storage.

An this is where the difference lies. While the iPad is a multimedia tablet, the Transformer tries to replace your PC. For another US$149 Asus will sell you a dock that converts the Transformer into a touchscreen laptop. The dock also comes with a battery which will extend the 8 hour battery life of the tablet by another 3 hours. Unlike the awkward physical keyboards for the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Tab, the Transformer dock really converts it into a laptop.

The main advantage of the iPad 2 is the app environment. There are every few Honeycomb optimized Apps at the present time, about 62. The iPad has 1000 times that number optimized for the tablet. That alone can justify the price difference. The Apple brand also carries more prestige in ownership.

Time will tell how popular Asus entry into the tablet market it will be. But this could be the next evolutionary step for tablets, and netbooks as well. 

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