Hype on this tablet? Definitely.

Does the actual tablet live up to the hype?

Hardware

The tablet itself is trying really hard to mimic the iPad 2, and it deserves to win in design here because they packed in better hardware than the iPad 2 and manage to edge them out in sheer size. Material wise, the Prime feels like a high end tablet. Its got the right weight and it sure looks top of the line. It packs in a 8 megalpixel camera that actually takes pretty decent pictures. Front facing 1.2 megapixel camera for video calls.

The overall tablet feels really good. But the tablet is a fingerprint magnet. You will definitely need some sort of screen protector. I normally do not use screen protectors but am really considering to getting one because of all the smudges on the tablet.

ASUS claims they put in an IPS+ display in the Prime. I’ve never used a tablet before but I have seen all types of screens on phones. If ASUS was suppose to WOW me with the display in this tablet, they did not do the job. The resolution, while better than the iPad 2 (1200×800 vs 1024×768), does not feel all that impressive. The colors are fine in my book but they did not memorize me like when Apple came out with their Retina Display for the iPhone 4. Some owners on the forums claim that the color representation flat out does not compare to other tablets. I guess you will just have to judge the screen for yourself.

There are only 3 buttons on the tablet – power button and two buttons for volume up and down. These button feel really solid and not cheap – a good thing. Though I really wished they incorporated a button on the screen for you to turn on the screen. The bad thing about Android tablets is that they do not have a physical button that you can press to turn on the screen, like the iPads. You need to press the power button to actually turn on the screen. This is a big hassle because the power button is located on the top left of the tablet and basically if you had the tablet on the a table, you would need to always pick up the tablet to turn on the screen. Might be something minor but its a hassle to me.

I have noticed that the brush metal back plate of the tablet is somewhat easy to scratch. I don’t have a whole lot of scratches, but just from a week of use, there have been a few scratches. No big deal but if you want your tablet unharmed you better get some sort of case for it. The screen is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass – so it should not scratch that easily. But eventually it will scratch – just ask my ATRIX 4G.

The only real new piece of technology is the CPU – Nvidia Tegra 3. It is a quad core CPU but from using the tablet you would not be able to tell because the same lags and hiccups are still found on this tablet like any other Android tablet out there. I believe this is because Android 3.2 aka Honeycomb is simply not a very good OS and that Android 4.0 aka Ice Cream Sandwich will fix some of the issues, namely lag and slowness. So far, the only tablet is that smooth is the iPad 2 from my experiences. Unfortunately, we would need to wait for Android 4.0 to actually know if its Honeycomb but most likely it is. ASUS have stated that the new OS will be ready in January. Lets all hope they keep their promise.

Other than Tegra 3, the tablet feels like any other Android tablet. Not a bad thing but certainly not a good thing.

Software

What can I say? Android 3.2 is just not up to par with the iPad 2. It is not smooth, it lags a bit, and sometimes it just flat out crashes. This could be an issue with both ASUS and Android 3.2 because I feel that ASUS did not do a good enough optimizing the OS or that Honeycomb flat out sucks.

The biggest complaint that I have is that web browsing is slow and laggy all the time. The stock browser just can not do the job. Navigation wise it is OK but in terms of smoothness and quality, it is ways behind. I find that the iPad 2’s web browsing experience to be a lot better. You can download Opera Browser as it is so far the smoothness Browser that I have experienced.

Navigation through the tablet is somewhat a breeze if you know what you are doing. The learning curve is a bit high for people that have not owned an Android device before. It might rub you the wrong way at first, but once you get use to it you can change things on the fly no problem.

Apps is probably the most important part of any device these days. And unfortunately, the Apps do not cut it for the Prime or for any other Android tablet out there. Because of OS fragmentation, in what I believe is due to the fact that Android is open sourced, there are too many devices out that are running different versions of Android OS. Most are running Android 2.3 Gingerbread, some are still on 2.2 Froyo and for tablets, it is 3.2 Honeycomb. This presents a major problem all on its own. Developers have to accommodate all versions of Android and unfortunately, Android tablets are not popular even though they are the only real alternative to Apple’s iPad 2. And because of this, many Apps on the Android Market are not found on tablet or even if they are found they do not work quite as well as they should because they are not optimized for the tablet version of Android.

Expect that you can do all the essentials – email, browsing, gaming, social network, etc. on the Prime, just do not expect it to be better or even on par with the iPad 2. Is the software broken? No, you can still use it on a day to day basis. Apple’s iPad 2 set the bar really high, and right now, Android 3.2 does not even compare with iOS.

Conclusion

Behind all the smoke and hype, the Prime is just another Android tablet that is running an OS that is much in need of an overhaul. The answer to that is Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich, but you will have to wait until January to see the results, if any. Prime is however, running the latest and greatest from Nvidia, the Tegra 3 which is a quad core processor that should be able to handle anything we give it. Unfortunately either ASUS has hindered the OS or Android 3.2 Honeycomb just was not the OS is handle this. Either way, its a negative and should anger some consumers/end users. Android is the best getaway from Apple but all they have done is put out inferior products on the market. The market has technically 2 Apple tablets and from sales records alone kill all the hype that is about Android tablets, which have more than 10. Numbers do not lie. And the Prime just was not the answer.

I can not really blame this ASUS tablet as I do not think the majority at fault is with them. They have excellent hardware in the Transformer Prime – the latest CPU processor from Nvidia, better camera compared to the iPad 2, sleeker design overall compared to the iPad 2, but software wise, Android is not ready to compete with Apple.

It took Google a good 3 years to actually make a dent into iPhone sales. I suspect it will take a lot longer for them to make a dent in their tablet sales. It all breaks down in the software, Android needs to be optimized and it needs to be more user friendly. Apps have to work great on both Android phones and Android tablets. OS Fragmentation is really the issue and it still has not been addressed, yet it has have been recognized as a major problem for Google for quite some time now.

And a dent is only a dent. Android have a really tough uphill battle. But they have their supporters, basically all major phone manufacturers are behind them, but unless they kill OS fragmentation once and for all, the same issues will happen to newer and newer Android tablets.

Can I recommend this tablet? I simply won’t. The iPad 2 is just that much better. I am not bashing Google or Android, I am just telling it like it is. The camera on the iPad 2 suck, the resolution is very out dated. But functionality wise, it can not be beat. User experience is important and this is something Google need to address as well.

PS

If you want to wait for next generation tablets since the Prime is obviously not, iPad 3 is rumored to have better camera, retina display at 2048 × 1536.

Samsung is rumored to have their next generation tablets ready as well. This tablet will be 11.6 inches and have a display of 2560 x 1600. This is actually a notch better than my Dell 27″ monitor (2560 x 1440)

These tablets have a rumored release date in February.

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