Transformer Prime as laptop replacement: Pros and cons

Transformer Prime as laptop replacement: Pros and cons

Summary: The Transformer Prime is the best Android tablet available today, and paired with the unique laptop dock can be used for many things formerly done on a laptop.

SHARE:

The unique laptop dock available for the Transformer Prime tablet makes it the best physical laptop replacement in the tablet world. It turns the Prime into a laptop, so that's not surprising. I've been using it heavily for over a week for most things I use a laptop to do, and have some pros and cons for those considering this option.

See related:

Pros:

Battery life: I can't say enough about having 18 - 20 hours on a charge with the Transformer Prime in the laptop dock. This is so liberating that I am never concerned about the kit lasting all day. It is wonderful.

Keyboard: ASUS has put a lot of work in making the keyboard work without compromise, and it shows the more I use it. I am a fast touch typist and I can really get going fast with the laptop dock. That's important for a writer, and a great feature. The top row of special function keys plays a big role in my usage of the Transformer Prime and laptop dock, giving instant access to things like turning Bluetooth on/off, volume control, and screen brightness control. The Home key and Back key allow performing most Android functions without lifting my hands off the keys, a nice benefit. The four arrow keys on the keyboard make precise positioning of the cursor so much easier than using touch on the screen.

Trackpad: I didn't think the trackpad would be something that would factor heavily in my usage, but ASUS has implemented it wonderfully. Whether it is using the trackpad to move the cursor around the Home screens or scrolling down web pages with two-finger trackpad control, the inclusion of a trackpad is a great feature of the laptop configuration.

SD slot: My camera is an older model with a full SD card for memory, and having a full slot on the laptop dock has come in handy. It is so efficient to pop the SD card in the dock and copy photos over to the tablet for additional work.

Portability: The ability to drop the Transformer Prime and laptop dock into very small bags makes it a no-brainer to take the combo just about everywhere I go. It weighs about two pounds, and is barely thicker together than just the tablet alone.

Cons:

Trackpad: Yes, one of the best features of the laptop dock can also drive me crazy at times. Accidentally touching the pad while typing can shoot the cursor all over the place, totally disrupting my workflow and forcing me to bring it back where it should be. This is not unique to the Transformer Prime dock, this is a problem on some laptops, too. Fortunately ASUS has provided a key to toggle the trackpad on and off, so as long as I remember to turn it off when typing all is OK.

Clumsy tablet removal: The tablet is easy to pop into the laptop dock, but that's not the case for removing it. It's a somewhat awkward two-hand process to flip the release lever and lift the tablet away from the dock. I like to use the Transformer Prime as a tablet most of the time, only using the dock when I want to do some serious writing. The combination is meant to be transported in laptop mode, so I find I have to frequently dock/undock it unnecessarily. It has gotten easier over time, but still not a fully natural process.

Conclusion:

The Transformer Prime is easily the best Android tablet I have used to date. It is extremely powerful and offers great utility for everything normally done with a tablet. Paired with the laptop dock that utility is extended far beyond that available from any tablet in the Android space. While expensive to purchase the tablet and dock strictly to replace a laptop, as there are cheap laptops for that purpose, it is a great alternative for tablet users who want to get additional functionality out of a slate.

Topics: Laptops, Hardware, Mobility, Tablets

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Talkback

62 comments
Log in or register to join the discussion
  • Applications?

    James you have covered the physical aspect of using it as a laptop replacement but haven't really touched on the more important aspect of software and applications, how does it fare in this respect?
    Jaipo
    • There are several for these tasks...

      Quill if you would rather handwrite notes.

      Kingsoft Office for Word, Excel and PPT documents.

      Various Email, Chat, Phone, and Video Conference Apps.

      Chrome Web Browser.

      Many Remote Desktop Apps.

      There are plenty of options to work from the tablet and while not as full featured as a desktop software package, it is still very well done!
      slickjim
  • Android apps are fine

    There are apps to do anything you need so they aren't an issue. Google Chrome is the best mobile web browser on any platform, too.
    JamesKendrick
    • Dude, you're fooling yourself.

      This is a laptop. Period. Yes, you can pull the tablet out and use it but so what? You need to type something extensive you're going to be using the keyboard anyway!

      This is a laptop with occasional tablet ability.

      Jeez.
      wolf_z
      • No it is not...

        It is a tablet with optional keyboard dock! If it were a laptop it would come with the keyboard.
        slickjim
      • If it is a laptop...

        How do I get multiple windows next to each other, so that I can read my notes, whilst writing a document?

        Next to a decent keyboard, being able to see multiple windows next to each other is the most important thing for me, when working.
        wright_is
      • Very valid point

        With the keyboard attached, you are no longer in the tablet frame of mind. You have both physically and mentally made the switch to laptop.

        It's very much like the PC tablets which have been on the market for a decade. Though the tablet/touch function was a big selling point, anytime one was using the thing as a laptop, you tended to forget you were using a touch device.

        We must remember to never think of a keyboard as a huge leap forward. If anything, it's a step backwards, and is only a temporary solution until a better solution is developed. A computer's keyboard is simply a variation of a typewriter which goes back 150 years! It's good for what it does, but is it really the best alternative we have? I say to use some vision.
        camcost
      • It does come with the keyboard, at least in The UK

        @ Peter Perry: It does come with the keyboard, at least in The UK. You cold buy the Transformer without it but the Prime you cannot.
        bradavon
      • his is a laptop. Period.

        I don't know of any laptop with a 16 hour battery life. Most laptops are lucky to have a 3 hour working time without having to be plugged in for recharge. I'll take the Prime.
        Teedoffon1
    • Browsers

      Not to get too side-tracked, but I feel that for now on Android, Dolphin is the superior browser. I've tried FF, Chrome and built-in Android browser, and Dolphin just has so much more going for it: speed, preferences, gestures. Of course Chrome for Android is in beta, and will only get better.
      matthewstoops
      • I too have those 3

        on my asus. After the ICS update I actually find the stock browser to be the best. Looking forward to more improvements with Chrome but for right now it's still a bit too stuttery for me. the Stock browser is very smooth. Dolphin I haven't given it alot of attention as of late, but your post gives me something to look forward to in playing around and testing.
        jonandkelly
    • That's not optimized for tablets though, is it?

      That's not optimized for tablets though, is it? Like plenty of Android apps. Facebook for instance looks dreadful.
      bradavon
      • Plenty of apps optimized for tablets

        I really wish Google would address this by having a better tablet section in the market. They actually have alot more tablet optimized apps then what is being reported on. A ton more.

        Just cherry picking Facebook doesn't mean a heck of alot. Didn't the iPad JUST get a Facebook apps only a couple of months ago? So was the iPad worthless up until that point?
        jonandkelly
      • ...

        What kind of idiot is using Facebook on any of their devices? Its such a huge security risk you have to be Facebook on your device lol
        Fletchguy
    • ICS Browser+

      I have been using ICS Browser+ as my web browser. I am finding it to be more fluid than the others and I can use the standard browser keyboard shortcuts.
      wmadan
  • TF101

    I an nearing a year with my TF101, and find myself using it more with each passing day. With the update to Ice Cream Sandwich it is smoother than ever. It doesn't quite match the Prime for battery life, but I have no complaints. The keyboard is trick, and I've taken to always having it along, just in case.
    Chris Blessing
  • Great if you can get one!!!

    The specs seem great - but getting your hands on one is very, very difficult - waited 2 months for the tablet - and another 2 months for the keyboard - just got one from Amazon. It is not useful if you can't get one!!!
    ICU Doc NY
    • Expand your search

      Try Best Buy or FrysElectronics.
      They both have store fronts and will also ship via Internet orders.
      rhonin
    • ....

      You can get the prime anywhere. I know out here by Chicago any store you walk into has them and they are on hand at dozens of online stores. Sorry you had to use Amazon since their prices are sooo damn high.I got my prime with keyboard on ebay new unopened for $398 delivered lol
      Fletchguy
      • Maybe in Chicago, but not in L.A.

        especially the $499 model and keyboard dock
        mrxxxman