Asus Transformer Pad (TF701T) Android tablet

Has Asus made its adored tablet even better with its latest Transformer?

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ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T
  • ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T
  • ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T
  • ASUS Transformer Pad TF701T

Pros

  • Outstanding screen
  • Good connectivity
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Keyboard needs more refining

Bottom Line

There is a lot to like about the new Asus Transformer Pad. It is powerful, has a fantastic screen and offers the additional functionality of a keyboard and trackpad. But all of this comes at a price.

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The Transformer line up by Asus attempts to make the multimedia-savvy tablet a content creation device by coupling it with a custom keyboard dock. The company's latest iteration, the Transformer Pad TF701T, offers many advantages, but can the best of a notebook and a tablet be summed up in just one device?

Design

The Transformer Pad TF701T bears some resemblance to Asus’ Zenbook range, with its spun aluminum case. But unlike its super-sleek Ultrabook siblings, it doesn’t mould the material to an attractive shape. The Transformer Pad TF701T is a case of function — and not style — dictating the design.

Most of the ports are skewed to the tablet’s right side. These include a Micro-HDMI port, an expandable microSD card slot and a 3.5mm headphone port. The power button and volume rocker can also be found on the right.

Bordering the top is a 5MP camera without flash, and on the left is a single speaker grille. However, of all these unique traits, its the three unusual slots at the very base of the tablet that rouses intrigue.

These three slots are used by the Transformer Pad’s keyboard dock. Two small, almost unnoticeable arrows will help you line the two components up, and a solid clunk, together with a clink from the base’s switch, informs you that the tablet has indeed transformed into a ‘Pad’.

The Transformer Pad TF701T isn’t the first of its kind from Asus, and you can see this from the refined docking process. There’s no swaying or loss of composure when you lift the Transformer Pad by the screen. When you shut it and pick it up, if feels completely composed. In fact, it feels more like one uniform product as opposed to two isolated components.

The only telltale sign that this wasn’t built as a notebook comes from opening it. The top heavy tablet requires two hands to pry it open. It’s a consequence of having all of the computing hardware housed in the tablet/screen.

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Keyboard dock

The docking station is more than just a keyboard and trackpad combo. Asus has fitted it with a second battery and it has the only charging port to be found on the Transformer Pad. Asus also took the opportunity to add a full-sized USB 3.0 port and an SD slot.

The Asus Transformer Pad features a proprietary charging port
The Asus Transformer Pad features a proprietary charging port

For the most part, the keyboard replicates the experience you'd get from a notebook. The Chiclet keys deliver good feedback and because they're not shallow, typing long articles — or in this case, a review — is not tough on the fingers.

The top row of keys has been assigned with the kind of operations you would use daily, such as volume, brightness, connectivity and multimedia. We prefer this over the row of function keys rarely used on most notebooks.

The Transformer Pad is no substitute for a notebook

There are a few drawbacks. Quick typists will notice the keyboard tray flexes with each keystroke. Typing, then, is characterised by an irritating chorus of tap, tap, tap, tap, tap. Type long enough and it can be like nails on a chalkboard. Additionally, the flexing of the keyboard tray is a sign of questionable build-quality. Most of the flex takes place at the centre of the keyboard, but then again, so does most of the typing.

Certain keys have been changed and others have been scaled down in an effort to tailor the keyboard to the specific needs of the Transformer Pad. We’re fond of the unlock and screenshot key, but shrinking the navigational keys took some getting used to. And while we were getting used to these tweaks, the constant mistakes we made while typing left us frustrated.

Below the keyboard is a small trackpad. Although smooth and comfortable to use, the only gesture it knows is two finger scrolling. Using the gestures common to ordinary notebooks will frustrate you yet again, such as trying to highlight text.

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At the end of the day, the Transformer Pad is no substitute for a notebook. Typing on it doesn’t come naturally and the keyboard will make the most efficient typist feel incompetent. This is not to say it isn’t a good tablet; a statement like that couldn’t be further from the truth.

High-resolution display

Asus is one of the big notebook manufacturers, and you do get a sense of the company’s experience from the design and functionality of the Transformer Pad TF701T. It’s the little things that make the experience joyful, like how the company conceals an LED light behind the power button, or when you notice the clarity of the screen.

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The screen really is something special. It has a very high 2560x1600-pixel resolution crammed into just 10.1 inches. As a result, the Asus Transformer Pad TF701T has a 300 pixel-per-inch (ppi) density, putting it in the exclusive company of Samsung’s Galaxy 10.1 and the Google Nexus 10.

The high-resolution display makes the Transformer Pad ideal for watching movies. The shiny finish of the screen does reflect a lot of light — especially in our fluorescent-lit offices — but it displays colours with punch and your content can be viewed from wide angles as it uses an IPS panel.

Jelly Bean

If you’re interested in a Transformer Pad TF701T, don’t expect a stock version of Android. It runs Android 4.2 Jelly Bean, and much like Asus’ other devices, the software is masked by a detailed custom overlay.

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There is a range of proprietary applications that grants you control over the Transformer Pad’s display, speakers and battery life; apps designed for note taking and list compiling, and productivity applications, such as floating widgets and dictionaries.

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Another application that has been changed is the gallery, which displays photos from local storage and cloud services in one well laid out interface.

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The changes are not just limited to applications though. Asus has designed an array of custom widgets and the company has also changed the colour scheme in most parts of the Android operating system. Check out our review of the MeMO Pad 8 for a more detailed breakdown of some of the software additions.

Hardware specs

The Transformer Pad TF701T is the company’s premium tablet, and you can tell simply by glancing over the spec list. It features a quad-core Tegra 4 CPU clocked at 1.9GHz, 2GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage. Asus offers 5GB of free cloud storage, but if that’s not enough the Transformer Pad will take a microSD card, and the full-sized USB port found on the keyboard dock offers compatibility with hard drives and thumb drives.

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It’s not the keyboard that gives the Transformer Pad its ‘X’ factor. Swiping through the crystal-clear home screen and getting intensive tasks done with no fuss — that’s where its charm comes from, the premium display and powerful hardware.

Good looking photos

Not many people will find themselves reaching over their compact cameras and smartphones to grab a tablet when it comes to snapping photos. However, if you find yourself looking to capture a fleeting moment fast, the Transformer Pad will do just fine. It has a rear 5MP camera that can record videos in Full HD (1080p), and a 1MP front-facing camera that is capable of HD (720p) recording.

The Transformer Pad is ideal for video-conferencing

The centre placement of the rear camera means your fingers will rarely obstruct the lens, and because the camera interface has the level of detail you would expect from a smartphone, the Pad’s camera can be tuned to suit most lighting conditions.

Odds are you will get more use from the front camera as it can be used to make Skype calls. The HD camera, microphones and speakers make the Transformer Pad an ideal tablet if video-conferencing is a high priority on your list.

Twice the battery

Considering the Asus Transformer Pad TF701T has a market-leading screen and powerful innards, you would expect it to suffer from limp battery life, but it doesn’t. To test the battery life, we amped the brightness to max, jumped on a Wi-Fi network, disabled the ‘smart saving’ battery setting and looped a video. We then looped the video for just over eight hours before the tablet shut down. Then something interesting happened.

The Transformer Pad’s keyboard dock features a second battery. If your tablet dies and you dock it, the keyboard will power the tablet. If you dock it and close the lid, the keyboard will transfer its charge to the tablet. We did the latter and managed to squeeze an additional six hours of Full HD video playback. Even if you use the Transformer Pad as a standalone device, its battery life if impressive. But if you couple it with the keyboard, you’ll have a backup battery on hand.

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There is one downside, however. The Asus Transformer Pad has to be charged from the keyboard. This means you’ll have to take it along as a charger, in addition to taking the conventional charger so that you can charge both devices when they both rrun out of juice.

Final thought

There is a lot to like about the new Asus Transformer Pad TF701T. It's powerful, has a fantastic screen, and offers the additional functionality of a keyboard and trackpad. But all of this comes at a price. When it is made available in late February from Harvey Norman, the Transformer Pad TF701T will have a recommended retail price of $799. That’s $100 more than a 32GB Wi-Fi only version of Apple’s iPad Air, and we're not sure it's good enough to cost more than the iPad Air — even with its keyboard dock.

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Read more on these topics: Pad, 4.2, Android, asus, transformer, AIR, jelly bean, keyboard, iPad, Apple, Tablet

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