Asus Has A New, Super-Powerful Tablet That Won't Bust Your Wallet (And It's Pretty Good)

asus transformer pasd

Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider

The Transformer Prime from Asus is my favourite Android tablet at the moment.No contest.

It’s likely Asus knows it has a winner on its hands — despite reports of poor sales — which is is why we have a new, budget-friendly version of the Prime.

The Transformer Pad is the newest tablet from Asus, and it has many of the same benefits as its more powerful older brother: a zippy NVIDIA processor, the latest and greatest version of Android (called Ice Cream Sandwich), and an optional keyboard dock that turns the tablet into a netbook.

The downside: the lower cost means lower quality materials. Unlike the heavy-duty metallic Transformer Prime, the Transformer Pad has a cheap-feeling plastic body. That’s kind of a bummer. Part of what made the Transformer Prime so great was it’s fantastic build quality.

But if you can get past the plastic, the Transformer Pad isn’t a bad choice for an Android tablet, especially at $379 for the 16 GB model.┬áKeep reading for the full photo review.

The Transformer Pad is a 10-inch Android tablet.

The casing is made from cheap-feeling plastic.

On this side you can see the volume controls and an HDMI port. The HDMI port lets you play videos on your big screen TV.

There's also a SD card slot so you can add extra storage. (The base model comes with 16 GB of storage built in).

The speaker on the bottom left is louder than most tablets. That's good if you watch a lot of video without headphones.

There's also a front-facing camera for video chatting.

The Transformer Pad runs the latest version of Android, called Ice Cream Sandwich. Here's what the lock screen looks like.

As with all Android tablets, you can customise the home screen with apps and widgets.

This control panel lets you switch on Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and aeroplane mode. You can also view notifications.

The new Google Play store lets you download apps, books, and movies from Google.

The Transformer Pad comes with a lot of Asus-branded software. It's not attractive though. Here's a look at the Polaris Office app that lets you read and edit documents.

The books app stores your e-books.

Asus gives you free access to its cloud storage service. It lets you sync files and documents between your tablet and computer.

The Asus file manager app is pretty ugly too.

You can tap the icon in the top right of your screen to view all the apps on your tablet.

The newest version of Android has updated apps for Google services like Gmail and Calendar. Here's the new Google Calendar app.

Unfortunately, developers have been slow to make tablet-friendly versions of their apps for Android. The Twitter app is just a stretched out version of the smartphone app.

You can get the new version of Google's Chrome browser on the Transformer Pad. It's the best browser available for Android.

Tap the multitasking button in the task bar to view all your open apps. You can tap to open one or swipe across to close it for good.

Android Ice Cream Sandwich also lets you store multiple apps in folders.

The Transformer Pad is just a hair thicker than the newest iPad.

You can see that Asus borrowed heavily from Apple's iPad design.

Here's a look at the Transformer Pad's screen next to the new iPad's. The iPad has much better resolution.

You can buy the laptop dock separately for $149. It turns your tablet into an Android-powered netbook.

Here's the charger port for the Keyboard dock. The dock has its own battery and can extend the tablet's battery life to up to 15 hours.

The laptop dock also has a full-sized SD card port.

And there's a USB port for connecting your camera, printer, or mouse.

The laptop dock has a full-sized keyboard. It's very comfortable to type on.

The keyboard also has some Android-specific keys like the lock button on the top right. This wakes your tablet up from sleep mode.

There's also a home button and search key.

When you dock your tablet to the keyboard, you'll get a mouse cursor just like any other netbook. The controls are very responsive.

The profile is slim, but the total package is a bit heavier than thin laptops like the MacBook Air.

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