For information about the specs and performances of the tablets itself, please see or full review of the EeePad Transformer tablet without keyboard. The keyboard only changes the product's design, handling, connections and battery life, all of which is outlined below.
The Asus EeePad Transformer and keyboard dock are sold as a bundle for around £450 (or you can pick up the tablet alone for approximately £380 and the keyboard dock for around £100). The Transformer is a new approach to the touchscreen tablet. In fact, we'd say it's verging on pioneering, as it could send shockwaves through the world of both touchscreen tablets and netbook computers.
The dock has the same proprietary connection as the tablet, so once the tablet's hooked up, you can plug in the keyboard dock to charge both parts at once. This port can also be used to connect the Transformer to a computer to sync content.
The keyboard dock features an MMC/SD/SDHC memory card slot, making the EeePad Transformer and the Acer Iconia Tab A500 the only tablets to come with this very handy connection at present.
That's not all though, as the keyboard has two USB 2.0 ports, which make up for the tablet's lack of mini, micro or standard USB connectivity. Plus, the keyboard is loaded with the same battery as the tablet, which effectively doubles the product's overall battery life (see inset).
Design & Handling
A hinged connection bar flips out of the top of the keyboard, into which you slot the tablet. The tablet is held firmly and securely in position and you'll hear a little click when it's correctly attached. There's a little latch on the left of the open Eee(Net)Pad that releases the tablet when you want to take it out again.
One minor but slightly irritating thing we noticed is that the hinge is a little too stiff. So with the tablet connected, you can't open the netbook-style product with just one hand. We found that you need to take hold of both parts and pull them apart to open the Transformer up. Another downside is that the tablet and keyboard combo is quite heavy, weighing over 1.3 kg, and it's quite thick too.
The keyboard itself is very good. All of the keys are responsive and are well-placed for natural typing. Asus clearly hasn't cut corners with its new concept either, as the keyboard features a whole load of shortcuts designed for use with the tablet, such as direct access to Google, to the tablet's homescreen, to the app menu, and keys for turning the touchscreen controls or touchpad on and off.
The product feels perfectly natural to use with a keyboard even if, in theory, the tablet-oriented Honeycomb OS isn't really designed for netbook-type operation. So where Acer missed a trick with its W500 Windows 7 tablet with keyboard, Asus has got things spot-on with a device that lends itself easily to both types of use.
The keyboard has a nice touchpad that's big and supple but also pleasingly accurate. You can use it to navigate on the screen and to flick between the different Android homescreens with a simple two-fingered swipe. The only thing is that this 'swipe' works in the opposite direction to a 'swipe' on the tablet's touchscreen. On the screen, sweeping your finger to the right brings up the homescreen page to the left—as if you were turning the page of a book—while the same gesture on the touchpad moves things in the same direction as your finger. It's quite strange, but it's just something you end up getting used to.
For web browsing, the Transformer handles just like any other netbook, but the keyboard ups the tablet's multimedia capabilities with connections for accessing content stored on external devices such as SD cards or hard drives. You'll need to make sure that Android 3.1 supports the file formats though, or you'll need to download a third-party media player application from Android Market. However, it's pretty handy to be able to slot in an SD card and see your latest holiday snaps appear straight away in the Android Gallery (transfer time depends on file size and quantity).
The weight of the tablet and keyboard combo could be problematic, but the idea is certainly spot-on. Asus clearly wanted to stand out from the crowd with a genuinely different product and the firm has succeeded not only in doing that but also in doing it well. The hybrid tablet could have a very bright future ahead of it!
- General screen quality and colour fidelity
- Full onscreen keyboard! / Good web browsing
- High-quality finish but harsh, angular edges
- Polaris Office for work docs and My Cloud for VPN
- Very well-designed dock / Monster battery life
- Honeycomb feels as empty as ever and puts a bit of a damper on things
- Viewing angles aren't as good as expected for an IPS screen
- Propitiatory port / not many connections / poor-quality camera
- A bit slow with heavyweight games and the OS sometimes lags
- You need to buy the keyboard dock to really make this tablet worthwhile
The keyboard dock works perfectly naturally with Honeycomb and, in many ways, it's the missing link between the world of netbooks and touchscreen tablets. With its keyboard, the Asus EeePad Transformer is a top-notch product, even if it is a bit heavy compared with regular netbooks. It has plenty of connections, a monster battery life and loads of potential! Asus has succeeded in making its concept work and we wouldn't be surprised to see the tablet market start to segment as a result.