Asus Transformer Prime Wi-Fi lands December 19?

The best Android tablet of 2011 -- the quad-core Asus Transformer Prime -- may roll-out just in time for Christmas after all.

Reviews of the world's first quad-core Nvidia Tegra 3 tablet, the Asus' Eee Pad Transformer Prime, are in: This is the Android to get this holiday. But before you finalize your pre-order for a Transformer Prime Wi-Fi, you should know that there is currently no clear roll-out date for the U.S. yet, which may affect your gift giving plans.

While both CNET and The Verge are reporting that the Transformer Prime will be available online on December 12 then in stores on December 19, Engadget is saying December 19 online and retail the following week (December 26), SlashGear cites this from an Asus source: "“We expect availability to start the week of 12/19 based on the pre-orders and inbound shipment schedules.” Confused? If you've already pre-ordered your Transformer Prime, it sounds like the tablet should be able to ship by the 19th but there is no guarantee so you may need a backup gift or should prepare your recipient. Those hoping to try one out in person before buying will have to wait to see which retailers will be carrying this tablet, which hasn't been announced just yet. (I've also asked my Asus contact for clarification and will update as soon as I hear back.)

Available in either Amethyst Gray or Champagne Gold (pictured above), the 32GB model starts at $499 with the 64GB going for $599. To get the most out of this tablet, you should really budget for the $150 keyboard dock too as it can give you an extra six hours of power, as well as a keyboard, touchpad, a full size USB port, a SD slot and double as cover for your slate.

What reviewers liked:

  • The aesthetics and metal construction of the Transformer Prime
  • Battery life that rivals the iPad 2 (without the dock)
  • Quality of the rear 8-megapixel camera
  • Smoothness and level of detail most noticeable in games and 1080p movie playback

What reviewers didn't like:

  • Despite its CPU prowess, the slate still stutters occasionally
  • The web browser lags

I wonder if the performance issues are due to the fact the Transformer Prime Wi-Fi ships with Honeycomb, and whether the Tegra 3 CPU will only shine with Ice Cream Sandwich? These performance issues don't seem like deal breakers for users, so I believe the Transformer Prime should make some gadget enthusiasts very happy this Christmas (or this year, if the shipment is slightly delayed). Good things are worth the wait, after all.

[Updated December 2:] According to SlashGear, the Transformer Prime will be getting a firmware update today, and its American ship date will be December 19 as I reported yesterday:

“We expect to release FOTA image update on 12/2 that updates the EC firmware to improve battery life with the dock in power saving mode along with a few minor performance tweaks.” – ASUS

“We expect availability to start the week of 12/19 based on the pre-orders and inbound shipment schedules.” – ASUS

Reviews/Previews to check out: