We've been waiting for the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime TF201 for a while, and we've finally got one.
After so many years of Apple iPad dominance, the Eee Pad Transformer Prime might finally be the Android tablet to rule them all.
Packed with the brand new quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 processor, a Super In-Plane Switching (IPS) 10.1-inch display that solves a common screen-glare problem on most tablets, and a thin and light design, the Transformer Prime is a better tablet than the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 and gives Apple something serious to think about.
We're working on a super in-depth Eee Pad Transformer Prime review for you for next week, but in the meantime here's a little something to whet your appetite…
The Eee Pad Transformer Prime is the thinnest and lightest tablet on the market today.
At 8.3mm thick, it has a svelte design that is a vast improvement over the beefier Asus Eee Pad Transformer TF101 which we loved when it came out last year. In comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1 is 8.6mm thick, and the Apple iPad 2 is 8.8mm thick.
At 585 grams, Prime is also lighter than the iPad 2 (at 603 grams), but a hair heavier than the Samsung 10.1 (at 566 grams) - the Motorola Xoom 2, which we're also reviewing for you next week, weighs in at 599g.
The design of the Prime matches the Samsung and iPad with a thick black strip around the front edge. On the back, there's a brushed metal case for extra protection.
But this tablet is all about the Tegra 3 processor, the first of its kind. We'll cover quite a bit of ground in the full review after we test the latest games made for this processor, but safe to say this tablet comes as close to a real PC gaming experience as you will get, and even rivals some console games.
Okay, we're not talking Battleifield 3 quality. But our initial take is that Tegra 3 adds exceptional visual flare with convincing water effects, smoke, complex polygon shape son game characters, and lighting tricks.
The Tegra 3 also helped tremendously with browsing, especially when it came to site rich with Flash content. It's a bit startling to have Flahs-heavy websites appear almost instantly on the screen, without the typical loading times of other tablets.
Of course the Tegra 3 also helps with every other app, cranking up the speed thanks to the quad-core design for everyday apps like Gmail, Google Music, Polaris Office, and even the Camera app.
The Transformer Prime is the first tablet we've tested that plays legitimate HD 1080p videos smoothly, without any stuttering.
Other tablets claim to support 1080p video, and in some cases will play the movie stream without any stuttering, but the frame rate is not that convincing. Here, for both Hollywood movies and videos we recorded with the 8MP rear cam, HD finally works.
Left to right: Transformer Prime, iPad 2, Galaxy Tab 10.1
Otherwise, besides the fast processor, clear and highly visible display, and a super-lightweight and thin design, the Transformer matches up with or exceeds the specs of other tablets.
There are 32GB of internal storage (a 64GB version is also available), Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, a micro-HDMI port (for connecting to an HDTV display) and a microSD port (for adding SD cards up to 32GB each).
The Transformer Prime is rated at 9 hours of battery life for everyday use, compared to 7.6 hours for the original Transformer. Asus claims 12 hours of battery life for playing HD videos.
And then there is the Transformer dock, which has been re-designed to match the new Prime. A full keyboard, one USB port, mouse pad, and dock system turn the Transformer Prime into a full-fledged notebook. (That said, we're not ready to call for the lynching of any Intel Core procs yet.)
We'll have much more to say in our full review, but suffice is to say: the Transformer Prime is the best Android 3.2 tablet we've yet seen.
There is still an open question about whether it beats the iPad 2. We need to test out more games, more movies, and try doing some movie editing and recording first.
But with all of these features, you might wonder if the price can stay competitive. Asus told us the Prime, which will go on sale in the US the week of Dec 19, will retail for $499.
The 64GB version will sell for $599; the dock costs $149. That's in line with both the iPad 2 and the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.
The Prime will come out in January in the UK at a bundle price with the keyboard dock for £499 - more expensive than last year's TF101 (current exchange rates are spoiling all the fun!). So that's just one 32GB SKU - no 64GB option for now.
As you can imagine, we're working hard on the full Asus Eee Pad Tramsformer Prime TF201 review, so tune in again next week for our definitive verdict!