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ASUS Transformer Prime fiasco, and why I returned it.

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There have been many in-depth reviews of this first ever quad-core Android tablet, commercially available world-wide. In my review, I want to tell you my tale of using this potentially BEST tablet currently available on the market, my frustrations with it, why I returned it, and what this all means for ASUS.

Transformer Prime roots

In 2011, when Honeycomb (Android 3.x) came out, ASUS has made a great name for itself with its original Transformer (TF101), by building a quality tablet, with great specs (dual core Tegra 2, 1gb of ram, 16-32 gb of built-in memory, etc). But there were other VERY similar tablets at a comparable price from Motorola, Acer, Samsung, etc. What made OG Transformer really stand out of the crowd, and ensured great slaes for ASUS, was competitive pricing ($399), and availability of the AWESOME keyboard dock station, with a well-working touch-pad, multitude of ports and memory expansion slots, and an additional battery, that could extend the life of the tablet up-to an 16 hours.

OG Transformer Pad (TF101):

OG Transformer Pad was great and sold well. There were no comparable tablets and still aren’t. Samsung tried to have an external keyboard for its Galaxy Tab 10.1, but it was not fully integrated and sales were abismal at best (for the keyboard – not the Tab itself). The optional keyboard dock drove the sales of the Transformer, and was the real money-maker for ASUS (the tablet itself was sold for at near cost of manufacturing / support).

ASUS decided to capitalize on it’s success, and made a deal with NVIDIA to be the first manufacturer to make a tablet with Tegra 3 Quad-core ARM Cortex-9 CPU, and NVIDIA, also added a 5th helper core to Tegra 3, which would run non CPU-intensive tasks, while main cores would sleep, conserving energy. Prime was also supposed to be the first tablet running Android Ice Cream Sandwich (4.x).

ASUS Transformer Prime (TF201):

image of ASUS Transformer Prime TF201


Get the 4

However, in rushing to be the first to the market, ASUS has made critical design mistakes with Prime, and also released the Prime, running Android 3.2 – not ICS, which I suppose was not ready at the time, or they ASUS still integrating its bloatware.

Why Transformer Prime failed to be the best Android tablet:

Here is a list of main hardware and software problems / flaws with the Prime:

Hardware Problems:

– GPS not working aout-of the box, and no software patches were able to fix it.
– On earlier models, WiFi was also, either not working or working poorly.
– No option to have 3G connectivity – and this is in the age when 50% of all phones are smartphone with 3G and 4G (LTE). This is more of a design and marketing mistake – not a flaw per se.
– Promised 8 hours of battery life (16 with keyboard dock) turned out to be more like 4 / 8 hours in real-life use. Of course I could lower screen brightness to 0% and disable EVERYTHING – but then what is the point of having a tablet?
– You cannot charge the prime from a normal USB connector – you MUST use supplied power adapter, into which you plug the supplied USB cable. This is VERY inconvenient, as I often do not want to carry the bulky adapter, but can often find USB ports from which I can charge the tablet.

GPS and WiFi issues are mainly related to an aluminum body of the Prime. This is strange, because iPad is also made of aluminum, but does not have either of these issues ( so much for luring customers away from Apple and iPads :( ).

ASUS later released a GPS Dongle (a special piece that you could plug into the Prime’s data port) to boost GPS signal – but they were late to make it available and took even longer to send them out. Also process of ordering one, was a serious pain in the A$$. I did not receive mine until end of April, while Prime came out in Oct/Nov of 2011 – that is freaking 6 months!

WiFi issues never got resolved for most early adopters.

Software problems: These are my personal findings, and they are supported my a multitude of same/similar complaints from other Prime users on XDA Developers Forum.

– Prime is HORRIBLY slow in Browser, Android Market/Play Store, games, and many other apps.
– Tablet can randomly reboot while you are using it.
– Tablet will often shut down while in “sleep” mode, either connected to dock or not.
– Upon first boot, the software update will be downloaded, and will be prompting you to install it. This will make your Prime unrootable, and if you ever want to root it and get rid of ASUS crapware or install custom ROM, you will have to use ASUS Unlock Tool, which will void your warranty.

Software bugs and crapware / bloatware made Prime very slow – slower than my dual-core Galaxy Note tablet-phone running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, which does not have GPU hardware acceleration, which is a standard feature on Prime with ICS.

With all of the above problems / issues, most users were VERY unhappy with the Transformer Prime (which ASUS priced at a $499 – $100 more than OG Transformer) and many were returned. Those that did not return it, are still dealing with the hardware and software issues, and/or were forced to unlock their devices (loosing the warranty), to install a custom rom, in order to make the Prime somewhat usable.

I was one of those who returned the prime! I was glad to get rid of it, and very disappointed with ASUS. However, ASUS realized that Prime is DOA (dead on arrival), and has made a new version called Transformer Pad 300 – this runs the same Tegra 3, but clocked at a lower 1.2 GHZ (versus 1.5 GHz on prime), and has a not as good regular IPS screen (versus IPS+, which is way brighter, and much better in direct sunlight). However, Pad 300 is much thicker than Prime, and is more of a substitute for the OG Transformer, priced at $379 for a 16Gb version and $399 for 32Gb version.

Market consequences for ASUS and other Android Tablets, after Prime fiasco:

Transformer Prime made a bad name not just for itself and ASUS – it made ALL Android tablets look bad and overprice, compared to iPad, which is now a de facto standard for tablets, and against which Android is trying to compete.

Surprisingly enough, ASUS was chosen by Google to build the Nexus Tablet – a $200 7″ Android device with Tegra 3, made to promote Android tablets, and to compete with VERY successful Amazon Kindle Fire, and upcoming 7″ iPad. Still, most prime users have a bitter taste, and will most likely never buy another ASUS product.

I’m not one of them – I’ve been using ASUS products (such as motherboards) back in the times of Pentium 3 / AMD Athlon and had great success with them – I believe the fiasco of prime is due to ASUS trying to be the first to market, and that they’ve learned from their mistakes.

At the same time, if there were alternatives to Transformer that integrated a keyboard dock – I would most likely go with that. But there aren’t any – so I got a Tab 300, because I need a light-weight mini netbook that can turn into tablet, by removing the keyboard, and that would last 10+ hours. I will post my full review of TF300 soon, as well as rooting guide. But I do not represent the majority of tablet buyers – I have specific needs.

Transformer Prime fiasco did more disservice to the entire Android Tablet market – not just ASUS. Prime was supposed to be and iPad 2 killer, and a direct competitor to iPad 3. However, most people who returned the Prime (or even those who kept it) will very likely never get another Android tablet, and will disert to iPad camp. I find it sad, because if Prime did not have hardware problems and software glitches (which are not hard to fix – but ASUS is not fixing them).

Written by admin

May 25th, 2012 at 12:19 pm