The TF300 runs on a 1.2 GHz Nvidia Tegra 3 processor (compared with 1.3 GHz for the Prime) and 1 GB of RAM. There's no getting around the fact that this tablet is made entirely from plastic, but thankfully the finish is still good. Like the Transformer Pad Prime, this tablet's main photo and video camera has 8 Megapixels, but there's no LED flash. There's 32 GB of onboard storage and it's nice to see that the capacitive touchscreen still uses an IPS panel with a resolution of 1280 x 800 pixels.
As well as the proprietary port for connecting accessories, charging the tablet and hooking up the dock, the TF300 has a micro-HDMI port, a microSD card slot and a 3.5 mm headphones jack.
The Transformer Pad keyboard/battery dock brings extra connections, with a USB 2.0 port, an SD/SDHC card reader and a proprietary input port.
The 32 GB Transformer Pad TF300 sells for around £400 for the tablet plus dock. It's available in Royal Blue and Iceberg White, with a Torch Red model to follow this summer.
DESIGN & HANDLING
Welcome to the wonderful world of plastic. When you're used to using a Transformer Pad Prime, switching to the TF300 comes as something of a shock, as there's not a trace of sleek aluminium anywhere on this entry-level tablet.
The TF300 is thicker than the Prime, and feels more similar in design to the original EeePad Transformer. However, it has the same concentric circle pattern on the back casing as seen in the Prime.
Although it's light and easy to handle, we think this tablet has one design flaw—the speaker. This is placed vertically on the left-hand side of the tablet's rear face, which basically means it sits directly under the fingers of your right hand when you're using the tablet out of its dock. Sometimes we have to wonder whether anyone actually tries these products out one last time before launching into mass production ...
With the keyboard dock hooked up, the TF300 morphs into a luxury netbook with a very seamless design. All that's missing is a little indent at the front to help you open it up more easily (in netbook mode).
Unlike the Transformer Pad Prime, there's a slight balance issue when you have the netbook opened widely. In spite of its extra battery, the keyboard dock has a lighter build and doesn't always seem sturdy enough to support the tablet at extreme angles.
Like its other tablets, Asus has loaded the TF300 with an IPS screen. In theory, we'd expect to see decent contrast, good viewing angles and slightly crazy colours. In practice, we measured the average contrast at 1100:1, which places the TF300 among the best of the bunch, and a maximum brightness of 340 cd/m².
The colours are standard stuff for an Asus IPS screen, with an average Delta E of 6.8 (this should be as low as possible, with anything under 3 considered accurate) but reds, yellows and greys are particularly well rendered.
Colour temperature remains fairly consistent over the spectrum. It averages at 8171 K, which means there's no noticeable cold overtone.
We measured a rather high ghosting time of 28 ms, which is the kind of reading we typically see in low-grade tablet screens. However, Asus makes up for that by inserting a black frame into the image after every three frames, which tricks the eye into seeing a smoother onscreen image.
Finally, although this tablet screen is quite prone to reflections, it can be used with similar levels of comfort both indoors and outdoors.
INTERFACE & NAVIGATION
This Asus tablet handles Android well—like its higher-end counterparts, in fact. We'd therefore recommend you take a look at our Transformer Pad Prime review for more information. Basically, though, the TF300 runs on Android 4.0.3 Ice Cream Sandwich with a few exclusive Asus apps thrown in for good measure. There's an intelligent note-taking app, SuperNotes, that can be used to jot by hand, type with the keyboard or add voice memos. You can even add photos and videos. Other apps include MyCloud and MyNet for sharing and storing files, MyLibrairy for buying and storing ebooks and magazines. An iTunes-style Asus@Vibe app is also on hand for music.
Ultimately, the most important thing to bear in mind is how smooth and seamless the whole system is. Apart from a slight bug that restarted our tablet when we first began using it, we didn't have any real problems with the TF300. There are just a few slight slow-downs here and there, often when closing a resource-guzzling game.
Multitasking is smooth and fluid, and flicking between Android homescreens is lightning fast, even when you add 'live wallpaper' that requires more power to run (Skyrim or Mass Effect 3, available on Google Play or via Tegrazone).
Web browsing is perfectly comparable to the Transformer Pad Prime, with pages that are relatively easy to read in landscape mode but becoming trickier to decipher in portrait mode. In portrait, you'll need to zoom in to see things properly, but the zoom is accurate and relatively smooth. Pages load as quickly and browsing controls (scrolling, tap-to-zoom-in, pinch-to-zoom-out, etc.) are easily as fast as in the excellent Sony Tablet S Android tablet.
For music and video, the Transformer Pad TF300 unfortunately doesn't have its own Asus media player like Samsung or Archos tablets. You'll therefore have to look for a third-part app in Google Play (MXplayer, DICE Player, moboPlayer, etc.) to be sure of 100% support for your multimedia files. Thanks to the Tegra 3 processor, this tablet can handle HD video up to high-profile 1080p with just a few tiny glitches in the highest quality files.
Like with the Prime, the TF300 does a decent job of gaming. We'd highly recommend you check out Nvidia's Tegrazone, which is packed with Android games optimised to run with the Tegra 3 processor (ShadowGun THD, Dark Meadow...). Compared with other Android tablets—with the exception of the Acer Iconia Tab A510, which sells at a similar price—the TF300 is by far the best Android tablet for gaming at this price point.
The photo and video camera was as pleasantly surprising as in the Transformer Prime. The 8-Megapixel sensor gives a neutral and reasonably detailed image with very little chromatic aberration.
Although we sometimes struggle to see the point of a camera in a touchscreen tablet, if your camera's broken or your smartphone isn't to hand for that unmissable moment, you can count on the TF300 to do a decent job of capturing the action.
Asus announced a 10-hour battery life for the Transformer Pad TF300 in tablet mode or 14 hours with the keyboard dock connected. In reality, you can shave around one hour off each of those figures, but that's still pretty good.
For video playback with Wi-Fi on, the TF300 tablet holds out for 8 hrs 41 mins (8 hrs 30 mins on average for mixed use with e-mails, web browsing, games and videos). For gaming, however, it's more like 6 hrs 30 mins to 7 hrs, sometimes dropping to just under 6 hrs with a power-packed Tegrazone game.
With the keyboard dock connected, for mixed use or video playback (gaming isn't so easy in this mode), battery life is upped to 12 hrs 20 mins on average. Charging the tablet alone can often take over 3 hrs, while with the keyboard connected it takes nearer 4 hrs 30 mins.