Asus Transformer Pad TF701T review: A productive Android tablet/keyboard combo

Asus Transformer Pad TF701T review: A productive Android tablet/keyboard combo

Summary: The 10.1-inch Android-based Transformer Pad TF701T has a decent specification, including a quad-core processor, a high-resolution screen and good battery life from its tablet and keyboard batteries. The design could use a refresh though.

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  • Editors' rating:
    8.0
  • User rating:
    8.3
  • RRP:
    £383.33

Pros

  • Excellent 10.1-inch screen
  • USB 3.0 port, plus SD and MicroSD slots
  • Tablet and keyboard batteries deliver long life

Cons

  • Top-heavy build
  • Proprietary power connector
  • No mobile broadband option

Asus came up with a winning formula when it launched its first Transformer back in March 2011, and the company remains committed to the idea of a two-piece Android device that can function as a a standalone tablet or a notebook when docked with a keyboard.

The new Transformer Pad TF701T costs more than some notebooks at £460 (inc. VAT, £383.33 ex. VAT), and to earn its keep it really needs to be able to replace your notebook for everyday computing.

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The TF701T is the latest in a lengthy line of convertible 10.1-inch Android tablets from Asus. (Image: Asus)

Design

At first glance, the Transformer Pad TF701T looks very similar to previous models, both closed and with the lid open. The differences lie primarily under the surface, with successive Transformers becoming ever more powerful (except for the entry-level TF300T). The Transformer Pad TF701T certainly boasts some excellent features and specifications.

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The tablet section of the TF701T weighs 585g. The plastic section at the top houses the 5-megapixel rear camera, and also the various wireless antennas. (Image: Asus)

The tablet section has a mostly aluminium back, which forms the lid of the keyboard-docked unit. Its patterning of concentric circles lends it a distinctive appearance in line with earlier models. A plastic bar along the long top edge, which houses the power switch and main camera, ensures that the various antennae (Bluetooth, Wi-Fi and GPS) can function unhampered. There were issues with GPS in 2012's Transformer Prime, caused, at least in part, by the use of metal throughout the tablet section chassis.

The tablet section weighs 585g, while keyboard dock, whose chassis is made from a very solid plastic, adds another 570g, making the total combined weight 1.135kg. It's not hefty in comparison to lighter notebooks, although you're only getting a 10.1-inch screen here.

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The 2,560-by-1,600-pixel (299ppi) IPS screen sits in a wide 2cm bezel that gives the tablet a dated look, especially when docked in clamshell mode. (Image: Asus)

The screen bezel is a sizeable 2cm all round, and although this can be an advantage in tablet mode, as it gives room to grip the device without accidentally tapping the screen, it looks out of step with modern design standards in notebook mode.

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The useful Splendid utility lets you adjust display settings to your preference. (Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet)

The 10.1-inch IPS screen has a resolution of 2,560 by 1,600 pixels (299ppi) and looks superb. Asus provides a utility called Splendid, which you can use to adjust hue, saturation and colour temperature to your preference. Asus seems to be bundling this utility in all its tablets now, and it's really useful.

The tablet and keyboard sections are held together by a dock mechanism that automatically locks when the tablet is set into a hinged cradle at the top of the keyboard unit. It's easily released by a sliding catch and is beautifully simple yet very secure.

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The keyboard has a number of Android-specific keys, and allows for reasonably fast typing. (Image: Asus)

The keyboard is well built, if a little cramped. The keys are light-touch with a reasonable amount of travel, and we were able to type at a good speed. Heavy-handed typists will notice a bit of give in the keyboard.

The trademark for all Transformer keyboards is a series of keys providing access to Android functions. There are seventeen of them above the number row, offering functions including media playback, volume and screen brightness controls to Bluetooth and Wi-Fi toggles, a web browser launch key and a Settings shortcut key. On the space bar row there's a key that takes you to the main home screen and another that opens the in-app menu, through which you can scroll using the quartet of cursor keys in the bottom right corner of the keyboard.

Beneath the keyboard is a small touchpad that supports gestures such as two-finger scrolling and pinch zooming. Left and right buttons are embedded into the bottom of the touchpad. Android isn't designed for mousing, however, and we tended to tap the screen rather than use the touchpad. Doing so reveals an issue that bedevilled earlier Transformer models and remains a problem here: the fairly even weighting of the tablet and keyboard sections means even the slightest prod at the screen causes the whole device to topple backwards. We knocked it off the edge of our desk on more than one occasion before learning to balance prods with a steadying hand on the wrist-rest area. To be fair, this is a design problem inherent to keyboard-docking tablets.

Features

The Transformer Pad TF701T runs Android 4.2 and is based around a quad-core Nvidia Tegra 4 SoC running at 1.9GHz, supported by 2GB of RAM. We found it an exceptional performer in everyday use, even accessing data from USB sticks and drives quickly.

Our review unit had 32GB of internal storage, of which 25GB was free for user access. You also get a fairly paltry 5GB of Asus Webstorage, but with so many other cloud storage offers around this is not really a problem.

Asus has designed the tablet to operate independently of the keyboard dock, and the placement of ports and slots reflects this. The on/off switch is on the tablet section, along with the volume rocker. The tablet also houses a MicroSD card slot and a Micro-HDMI connector, as well as a 3.5mm audio in/out combo port.

The keyboard section has an full-size SD card slot and USB 3.0 port, the latter accommodating not only peripherals such as an external mouse and keyboard but also storage such as USB sticks. Insert a stick and you get an alert on the notifications bar, which in turn lets you open up a file browser. We successfully streamed audio and video from a USB drive and worked with externally stored documents too.

The power connector — annoyingly, a proprietary one — is on the long edge of the tablet that's hidden inside the dock when connected to the keyboard. This is sensible, as there's a secondary power connector on the keyboard section itself. None of the slots are covered and this rather detracts from the TF701T's generally premium feel.

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Asus claims 13 hours' life for the 31Wh tablet battery and 4 hours for the 16Wh keyboard battery. A Power Saver utility is also available. (Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet)

There's a battery in the keyboard dock as well as in the tablet, delivering 4 hours and 13 hours of battery life respectively, according to Asus. In most circumstances this ought to be more than enough for a day's use, and if you find yourself in trouble there's a power-saving mode you can call on. You could even expect to function for a weekend without needing to carry the proprietary-to-USB charge cable.

Asus has skinned Android with a light touch. At the more gimmicky end, a quick-launch utility pops up if you tap and hold the Home key which lets you run a variety of apps simply by sliding your finger towards their icons.

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A range of resizeable floating applets are available at the touch of a key. (Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet)

There's also a button at the bottom left of the screen that, when tapped, brings up a tray of resizeable applets you can run on top of whatever you're currently doing. It's a shame there's no note-taker in this suite, but it's a neat idea.

More useful, perhaps, are the additional full-blown Android apps. These include SuperNote, which can accommodate typed and drawn notes, supports handwriting recognition and will synchronise to cloud accounts. It's good enough for report writing or other formal documents, and notes can include embedded photos, sound recordings and video. Polaris Office is also available for more sophisticated tasks.

Conclusion

The Transformer Pad TF701T brings Asus's convertible Android tablet range up to date in terms of specification, while leaving much of the original look-and-feel intact. The keyboard is comfortable to use if you can cope with its small size; support for external storage via USB, SD and MicroSD is welcome; and the dual battery system is clever and user-friendly.

Having said all that, the Transformer design is starting to feel a little tired, and Asus has done nothing to counter the longstanding problem of a top-heavy, easily-tipped tablet section. Many people probably could work with the Transformer Pad TF701T in place of a notebook, and its extra long battery life is a plus point, but it's debatable whether many will actively choose it over a notebook — or even Microsoft's similarly priced Windows RT 8.1-based Surface 2/Type Cover 2 combo, which comes with a bundled copy of Microsoft Office.

Specifications

General
Weight 1.135 kg
Dimensions (W x H x D) 263x18.9x180.8 mm
OS & software
Software included Android 4.2
Processor & memory
Clock speed 1.9 GHz
Processor model Nvidia Tegra 4
RAM 2048 MB
Storage
Internal 32000 MB
Display
Display technology TFT touch-screen (active matrix)
Display size 10.1 in
Native resolution 2560x1600 pixels
Connections
Ports 1 x USB 3.0, 1 x Micro-HDMI, 3.5mm audio in/out combo, proprietary charge connector (on tablet and keyboard)
Slots MicroSD, SD/MMC
Wireless
Wi-Fi 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n
Short range Bluetooth 3.0+HS
GPS technology
Antenna built in
GPS receiver GPS plus GLONASS support
Input devices
Keyboard Yes
Other touchpad
Touchscreen Yes
Camera
2nd camera front
Main camera rear
2nd camera resolution 1.2 megapixels
Main camera resolution 5 megapixels
Power
Battery type Li-polymer
Claimed battery life 17 h
Number of batteries 2
Miscellaneous
Accessories AC adapter, proprietary-to-USB charge cable
Expand

Prices

Price
Price GBP 383.33

Topics: Tablets, Android, Mobility, Reviews

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5 comments
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          • Depends on your use case

            I am not a gamer nor do a lot of social activities online but tend to use my tablet for "productivity" like activities for work and home. I like my Surface RT over another other tablet I have. It has the best browser of any of them with full Flash support so sites like Hulu just work. Full Office is great and RDP is the best remoting I have used, TeamVeiwer coming in a distant second (and on all mobile OSs).

            I use Android as my phone OS and anyone into gaming I would suggest iOS or Android, and of course if there is those apps you gotta have the choose that platform but for just productivity and web browsing, RT is only beat by a Baytrail full Windows tablet.
            Rann Xeroxx
  • I have the TF701T

    8.0

    I have a full-on desktop with three large screens at my home office. What I need is something for mobile use. My 10" nettop is getting way too long in the tooth so it was time for a change. I've been watching the tablet market for a while now but have not been impressed with the Windows tablets. They are getting better but they are still bulky, hot, have short batteries, poor screens, and limited apps (though obviously more Windows applications). My needs are actually pretty straightforward: Office (or compatible) software to view and edit docs on the road, strong GMail support, and then general apps for entertainment.

    The TF701T pretty much fit the bill for me, especially with the keyboard dock. This is Asus' fifth Android Transformer and they are finally almost getting it all right. In fact, all the options out there have drawbacks, but for me, the TF701T has the fewest drawbacks and most advantages. So far it's been almost two weeks and I am very pleased with it.

    The reviewer is exactly right, the negatives are most definitely the custom charging port and lack of LTE or even SIM card support. I'd also add that I would have liked stereo front facing speakers. My Galaxy Note 3 has USB 3.0 charging, so that would have been nice to share but it's still pretty early for that standard.

    Lastly, it isn't cheap to get this Android tablet. I have the 64 GB version and two additional 64 GB SD cards installed so the cost is really about $750. I could easily have spent that on a number of Windows tablets, many of which are half the price. For $200 more I could have gotten the highest end iPad with 128 GB storage. But I didn't. I did my homework and am very happy with my purchase.
    ConfuciusTse
  • Nice Laptop

    8.0

    I am also use this Laptop, it's work very fine and smooth.
    devicepoint
  • Good design

    9.0

    My wife have one. With standard charging via USB it would be perfect. The design may look "dated", but is VERY functional. There are details to change, but I hope they don't try to fix what isn't broken. If I had a pure Android available, I would use one too. A bit pricey, but worth it.
    marcond
  • a

    a
    ConfuciusTse