When Good Tablets Go Bad

IMG_8136 asus transformer prime

My Asus Transformer Prime was a disappointment from day one–the Ishtar of tablets!  It died a gruesome death this weekend.

I was on the hammock reading when I shifted a little too much to the left.  Helaine said she saw the tablet hit the ground.  I was holding it, but didn’t feel it touch.

I recovered and continued reading, but around ten seconds later the screen spontaneously shattered!  Delayed action.  Surreal.

Tablets scratch an itch.  I like carrying one as I walk around the house or watch TV.  Except for heavy writing and photo/video editing applications they’re more convenient than a laptop.

nexus-7-2013It didn’t take long for me to get a replacement.  I bought a Nexus 7.  It too is made by Asus, but to Google’s specs.  Everyone sells this unit for the same price.  Staples got my business just by being close-by.

The Nexus 7 is faster than the Transformer Prime.  It didn’t take long to see that. The TP memory problems were documented here on the blog a week ago.  Having an a/b comparison showed me just how bad the problem really was.

I’ve traded the 10″ screen for a 7″ model.  It’s more convenient to hold, but text sometimes seems tiny.  That can be adjusted.  The screen itself is exceptionally high-res, crisp and bright which hides a lot of problems a smaller screen might bring.

IMG_8135nexus 7 and keyboardHelaine suggested I buy a case, which I did through Amazon.  It comes with a built-in Bluetooth keyboard.  Now my little tablet is a little laptop.

Using this $229 Android tablet with a $19.95 keyboard has to send shivers down Microsoft and Intel’s spines.  Their prime market has been marginalized.

This weekend we travel to Rachel Frank’s wedding.  This tablet/keyboard combo will be my only computer.  I expect it will be a trouble free substitute.

I’ll let you know if I’m wrong.

I Made My Asus TF201 Transformer Prime Usable

My purchase of an Asus TF201 Transformer Prime tablet was one of the most disappointing electronics buys I’ve ever made! Based on the specs it should have been amazing. In reality it was terrible.

After a few days use the table began to slow down. Websites that should have loaded in seconds took minutes! And it just kept getting worse.

I’m not a hardware guy, but the problem seemed to be caused by the type of memory used coupled with Android’s inability to properly deal with it.  As the disk cache filled, the tablet would slowly reallocate the memory.

Maybe slowly is too positive a term.  The tablet became totally unresponsive for long periods of time. That’s a frustrating 21st Century problem.

Last week I used the recently released Motochopper app to become a “superuser.” Then I installed Lagfix, which requires “root” privileges.  Now every night the tablet does some housekeeping so I start the day with a clean slate.

Is this the optimum fix? Probably not. Asus made poor hardware choices I’m paying for. 

However, it is the first fix that’s worked. And it seems to work well.

Now I’m using the tablet all the time, even to write this blog entry.  What was a painful slog has become fun. The tablet’s form factor makes it a perfect carry around the house companion.

This Asus experience has left a bad taste in my mouth.

I Love/Hate My Tablet

TF-201 Asus Transformer Prime tablet

I did a lot of research before I bought my Asus TF-201 Transformer Prime tablet. I guess I did a bad job. The tablet has not lived up to expectations. Considering its hardware and operating system that shouldn’t be the case.

The TF-201 is a 10″ tablet with 1280×800 resolution. The screen uses IPS+ technology which makes for faster response, wider viewing angle and sharper colors. No complaints there.

There are cameras front and rear. Image quality is very good. It’s a great machine for Skype or any other video chat app. Again, zero complaints.

The CPU is an NVIDIA® Tegra3™ Quad-Core with 1GB RAM. That should be enough. It is not. I don’t think it’s the CPU’s fault.

Graphics are smooth. Animations are smooth. Video playback, even at high resolution, is smooth.

The Transformer Prime’s weakness seems to be Asus’ implementation of Google’s Android operating system!

Webpages that should load immediately can taken 15-20 seconds or longer. While pages load, the browser often turns unresponsive. The only way you know the page has finished is by the appearance of an error message saying the process is taking too long!

It’s slow with the stock browser, Chrome and Firefox. Unfortunately the browser enters into the bulk of computer use.

It’s possible the answer to my problems is just a jailbreak away. I’m not sure. Often these unofficial aftermarket ROM images do the trick.

I’ve looked around. I’m not sure I know how to ‘get root’ with this machine. There are instructions scattered on the web, but often with missing steps… or what seems like missing steps.

Even if I do load a new ROM will it make a difference? Your guess is as good as mine.

I use the tablet all the time, but my sessions nearly always end in frustration. That shouldn’t be.

Impressions On The New Tablet

The screen is more prone to fingerprints than anything I’ve ever used. It’s not a real problem when you’re using the tablet, but it’s disconcerting to see when the tablet is waiting to be used.

My Asus Transformer Prime came a few days ago. There’s more learning ahead, but I understand this slab of digitalia much better than I did Thursday. It’s obvious this is the next logical step beyond laptops especially with people for whom typing is incidental.

The electronics work well. There’s no heat coming from the unit I can feel. The shape is nice and it feels exceptionally sturdy.

The screen is more prone to fingerprints than anything I’ve ever used. It’s not a real problem when you’re using the tablet, but it’s disconcerting to see when the tablet is waiting to be used.

Everyone who picks it up comments on how light it is. I wish it was a little lighter.

The screen doesn’t have the intense blacks of my Samsung Galaxy S2 which uses OLED technology. It is responsive and will differentiate between ten fingers at once!

With a quad core Nvidia CPU it’s fast though this isn’t a multitasking machine.

This tablet has a 1280×800 screen. That’s comparable to a laptop and can easily display most websites when in landscape mode.

Many sites see my browser’s signature and move me to their mobile presentation. Terrible! Not all Android screens are alike. Sending me to a mobile site is wrong.

The same goes for some Android apps I’ve tried–even a few made for tablets. I’ve already given up on the NY Times Android app in favor of their regular website. The app is supposed to be an enhanced experience. In reality you’re trading down if you use it!

HuffingtonPost has an excellent Android tablet app. Using it gives a taste of what tablets will be.

I downloaded a sample chapter from a book. It’s a pretty good paper book replacement. Will it hold up to long reading? Not sure.

The SlideIT keyboard has been installed and works pretty well. You type without lifting your fingers! Just slide from letter-to-letter and the program mostly understands what you’ve typed.

I’ve taken a few photos of Doppler with it. Like my phone it does a good job and makes you wonder who will ever purchase a point-and-shoot camera? I haven’t used the video cameras yet though I’ve downloaded Skype.

In many way using this tablet is like being the first homeowner in a new development. Everything’s going to be there, just not yet.

I’m looking forward to putting it through its paces.