Photo: Steve Kovach, Business Insider
I’ve been hanging on to the Asus Transformer Prime for the last month for a reason.Even though the tablet launched a few weeks ago, the real news was that Asus was going to push out a major update to the new version of Google’s Android called Ice Cream Sandwich.
So I waited.
Luckily, I didn’t have to wait long.
Asus is the first major brand to bring Ice Cream Sandwich to its tablet and it really does make a difference.
When I reviewed the Transformer Prime last month, my biggest gripe was the software. Google’s tablet operating system from last year, called Honeycomb, still suffers from bugs, horrible app selection, and poor overall design.
This new update from Asus fixes a lot of that.
Click here for photos of what it looks like >
The first thing I noticed was how much faster and smoother Android runs on the Transformer Prime now. Yes, the tablet has incredible hardware that’s more powerful than the current iPad 2, but the old Honeycomb still made the experience feel sluggish.
Ice Cream Sandwich fixes that for the Transformer Prime.
With Ice Cream Sandwich, everything on the Transformer Prime is faster now. Animations are smooth. Multitasking is easier. 3D games look stunning. It’s just good.
For example, Android gives you several home screens to store your favourite apps and widgets. Swiping through those is noticeably faster and smoother than the iPad 2. It just goes to show that it doesn’t matter how powerful a tablet is. If it has bloated software, then the experience is ruined.
Asus also fixed many of the problems I had with the web browser. Before, scrolling and zooming was jerky and unresponsive. Now it feels a lot smoother with Google’s updated browser for Android. It’s still not perfect (I prefer the alternative browser Dolphin), but it definitely does the job.
I also like that Asus made very few alterations to Android in this update. Since Android is open sourced, manufacturers tend to add a ton of modifications (or skins) that can slow things down. A lot of them are just plain ugly. Asus did add a few things like a control panel for controlling stuff like screen brightness, Wi-Fi, and Bluetooth. But for the most part, Asus lets Google’s original design shine through. That’s a good thing.
Now for the downside. While Google’s app selection in the Android Market is growing at a rapid pace, it’s still lacking many of the high-quality tablet-sized apps that the iPad has. Developers have been slow to make apps for Android tablets because people are snapping up iPads instead. There’s very little traction on any non-iPad tablet other than the Kindle Fire. (By the way, the Kindle Fire has its own Android app store that isn’t affiliated with Google at all.)
There have also been a few bugs reported with the Ice Cream Sandwich update from Asus. I didn’t have any problems, but the upgrade isn’t going through for some. Plus, there are reports of issues with the Transformer Prime’s GPS. (Asus says its working on it.)
Are Android tablets perfect now that Ice Cream Sandwich is creeping its way onto them? No. There are a ton of nice improvements, which I listed above. But Android still has a long way to go before it can match the iPad in tablets. iOS still has that perfect polish that makes it more usable overall.
Still, if you’re looking for an alternative to the iPad, the Transformer Prime is the best choice. By a longshot.
If you want to know more about the Transformer Prime, don’t miss the full review.
You should also check out the Android Ice Cream Sandwich review.