Asus rolls-out quad-core Tegra 3 Transformer Prime this December

Add the Asus Eee Pad Transformer Prime to your holiday wish list now, gadget hounds. Here's why.

After Asus CEO Jonny Shih oh-so-

casually showed off the world's first quad-core tablet, the ultra-slim Eee Pad Transformer Prime, at AsiaD last month, we've been hoping Santa the Taiwanese company would deliver the slate in-time for this holiday season.

Well, Asus just made the next-gen Transformer official by announcing its North American pricing, and answered a bunch of questions we had about this drool-worthy tablet.

First of all, both Engadget and The Verge are reporting Asus will be shipping the Transformer Prime globally by early December, so go ahead and add this device to your 2011 wish list.

But don't expect the Transformer Prime with industry leading specs to come cheap. The 32 GB version starts at $499, with the 64 GB setting you back $599. (The first-gen 16 GB Transformer was only $399, which was part of its appeal.) Though the keyboard dock retails separately for $149, it's what sets this tablet apart from other Android devices: it adds 6 hours of juice, a keyboard, a touchpad, a full SD Card slot and USB port, which turns the Transformer Prime into a mighty productivity powerhouse.

Sharing the same "spun metal" finish of the Asus Zenbook, the Transformer Prime is certainly a looker but its innards are even more impressive. As the the world's first tablet to use Nvidia's quad-core Tegra 3 chip (formerly the Kal-El), the Transformer Prime is five times as fast as Tegra 2 devices but can last up to 12 hours on its 22Wh battery (18 hours with dock), putting most dual-core slates to shame. Other technical specs are as follows:

  • Display: 10.1" 1280 x 800-resolution Super IPS+ display with 178° viewing angle
  • Cameras: HD 8MP rear auto-focus camera with LED flash, large F/2.4 aperture, back illuminated CMOS sensor, touch-to-focus depth of field and low-light noise reduction; 1.2MP front camera
  • GPU: 12-core GeForce GPU and vSMP technology
  • RAM: 1 GB
  • Sensors: GPS, a gyroscope
  • 1080P HD video playback
  • Connectivity: Wi-Fi
  • Ports/Connectors: micro-SD slot, micro-HDMI connector, 3.5mm mic/audio jack

Although the Transformer Prime won't be shipping with Ice Cream Sandwich -- it will run Honeycomb (Android 3.2) -- Asus is already promising a free over-the-air update to ICS "at a later date," according to its press release. Out-of-box, the tablet will also have SuperNote for taking/drawing notes, and Polaris Office for editing/creating Word, Excel and PowerPoint files to complement its workhorse identity. But its built-in micro-SD slot also makes the Transformer Prime easy to side-load media files like photos and music, so it can be as much a content consumption as creation device.

At just 8.3mm (0.33-inch) thick and 586g (1.29-lbs without dock), the new Transformer manages to pack a lot more power and functionality into a compact package, without raising its price tag to a ridiculous level. The Transformer Prime it even comes in two colors that are neither black nor white (Amethyst Gray and Champagne Gold) and sounds like a dream; I hope I can get my hands on one to make sure it's the real deal. Sadly, Asus did not provide any details on how to lock down a Transformer Prime this year in its announcement so stay tuned.

[Source: The Verge, Engadget, Asus press release]

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